Settled by Romanian pioneers, Zichron Yaakov has survived destitution, disease, and rocky soil to evolve into one of Israel’s most colorful pedestrian malls
We have all heard stories about the hardships that early settlers had to face when they arrived in the Land of Israel in the late 19thcentury. But do we really understand what they went through?
The earliest pioneers to settle Zichron Yaakov came from Romania. Mainly traders, they knew very little about farming and nothing at all about growing things in the boondocks. But they had little choice: they had lost their Romanian citizenship and had to try and stick it out.
Then, when things were as black as they could be, a miracle occurred: Edmond de Rothschild, known in Israel as the Great Benefactor, decided to lend a helping hand. Not a philanthropist, but rather a banker who had lots of ideas for making money in the Land of Israel, he was thrilled to be contributing to its redemption. Unfortunately, many of his European underlings were snobs and bullies who had no idea how to deal with Romanian settlers and a Middle Eastern wilderness. They did, however, know how to live well: they resided in a fabulous villa. The settlers lived elsewhere.
In the end, after many often ludicrous failures, they did discover what the Land could generously offer: grapes. And so, de Rothschild set up a fantastically successful winery in Zichron Yaakov.