Moshava with municipal council status in northern Israel, in the Huleh Valley.

Founded in 1883 by First Aliyah pioneers from Poland, who named the place Yesud Hama'alah, after Ezra 9:7. Yesud Hama'alah was the first settlement in the area. The settlers endured grave hardship due to malaria, scarcity of food, lack of medicine, poor harvest and Bedouin raids.

Yesud Hama'alah was one of the settlements, which received support from Baron Edmond de Rothschild, but its development was very slow.

In the 1940's, the situation gradually improved when a group of young people joined the village. During the War of Independence, the moshava was badly hit by the Syrians. After 1948, the village absorbed a small group of immigrants.

In 1990's, Rosh Pina numbered some 700 inhabitants, mostly farmers.

 

Dubrovin Farm and Yesud haMa'ala

The story of the "Dubrovin Farm" is a part of the history of the settlement from the first Aliya "Yesud haMa'alah".
 

Yesud haMa'alah

The first Jewish owner of the land of Yesud haMa'alah in the Upper Galilee was Jacob Hai Abu who bought rights of partnership to the ground in 1872 from the "Izbeid" Bedouin tribe.
Relatives of Abu, the brothers Shlomo and Shaul Mizrahi founded a colony there misnamed; "The Mei Meron Colony" for the waters (Mei) of Meron.

A society for acquiring lands in the land of Israel was founded in Poland by 22 members in 1879, and in 1883 it bought 2,500 dunams (250 hectares) from Abu.
In 1884 seven families from Poland and Latvia settled there and named the place "Yesud haMa'alah" from the Biblical verse "For upon the first day of the first month was the beginning of going up from Babel". (Ezra 7:9)

Together with the Mizrahi brothers they planted an olives orchard, and orchards of pomegranates, almond, fig, apricot and mulberry trees, and roses for the perfume industry.

The new settlers' major problem was their complete ignorance of agriculture; they did not know how and when to sow, or to harvest.
The land was in partnership only, thus they had to share their crops with the Izbeid Bedouin tribe, were not even allowed to build houses, and lived in palm leaf shelters.

In 1887 the Baron Edmond de Rothschild visited the nearby settlement of Rosh Pinah, and also began to help and protect the settlers at Yesud haMa'alah.

In 1889 the Baron purchased all the rights to the land, and in 1890 the cornerstone was laid for the first stone building in the colony.

Because their ignorance of agriculture, the trees withered, the perfume industry failed and closed in 1900; while the settlers began sowing grain and corns and selling crops in Safed, Haifa and the Southern Lebanon. They produced 60 kg. grain per dunam, (today 500 kg. of grain crops is the average yield per dunam).

During the early years of the 20th century, the colony suffered from attacks, robberies and murders by the Bedouins and Arab neighbors; in 1903 there was a fight with Arab workers in the colony where Yitzhak Cohen was killed. In 1905 a serious robbery took place and 86 year old Israel Jacob Solomon, one of the founders, was murdered by the intruders.
In 1918 the Turkish Empire fell and the land was divided between the British and French Mandatory governments.

Yesud haMa'alah came under the British mandate, while most of their agricultural lands remained under French control; the colony found itself in a sea of enmity between the two mandatory governments over their frontiers, in which Arab neighbors took part.
Yesud haMa'alah was the only colony which survived this period; Tel Hai, Metullah, and Hamra were abandoned.
An attack from the Bedouins to the east was expected, until a British army unit of Indian Sikh soldiers took up position in the colony. When the British Army left the colony, they left their weapons to the settlers to defend themselves.

During the first generation of Yesud haMa'alah settlers, their worst enemy was the malaria-bearing Anophiles mosquito.
In 1888 scientists found the way to combat malaria, but this was also the year of the greatest fatalities at Yesud haMa'alah; it took too long for the knowledge about combat of malaria to reach the colony; instead of planting Eucalytus trees, draining the swamps, or consulting a doctor, they trusted a French pharmaceutical chemist who claimed to be an expert on malaria, but did not know about Quinine, the only effective medicine against malaria.
10 of the 33 farmers died, many of the early settlers' children were killed by the illness; one family is known to have lost 12 of their 13 children.
In 1913 Dr. Yafeh and his wife visited the colony, where he distributed Quinine, spoke to the children in the school and to the farmers, taught them about the mosquito and its swamp habitat and illustrated his lessons with a magic lantern slides which he brought with him. Before he left Yesud haMa'alah, the farmers organized a festival in his honor, to celebrate the conquest of malaria.
In 1949, the first local council was established, and the Huleh swamps reclamation project, proposed in time of the Turkish mandate, began and was completed in 1957.
The settlement received 3,000 dunams of additional agricultural land, the hope of the first settlers became reality for those who continued.
Today more than 15,000 ton of fruits are produced in a year. There are over 1,000 inhabitants today in Yesud haMa'alah, from many countries; 5 families descended from the original settlers still live in Yesud haMa'alah, the main economic basis is still agriculture, although not exclusively - tourism is one of the new branches.

 

The Dubrovin Farm

The Dubrovin family were originally Christians from the Russian nobility, living near the frontier with Iran, on the shores of the Volga river. They observed the Shabbat, as Subbotniks, and officially converted to Judaism. In the year 1903 they came to Eretz Israel.

The father of this large and rich family, Yoav and his wife Rachel (Hebrew names they took on conversion), joined the settlers of Petah Tikvah. Two years later in 1905, all the 13 other members of the family arrived. They were very industrious courageous and strong and were highly esteemed by their neighbors; they moved to Beit Gan near Yavniel and worked as coachmen between Haifa and the Galilee settlements.
Two years later, the family bought 650 dunams near Yesud haMa'alah and settled there, where they built their own farm. They were known as good and hospitable farmers, who sang as they worked.
Despite their happiness, malaria also hit this family; 3 of their sons and one of their sons-in-law died one after the other from the illness; every morning Yoav prayed in synagogue to ask the Lord to be merciful with the rest of his family.

In the land purchase contract, which the family signed with the Jewish National Fund, was a clause, stipulating that if they left because of the malaria, they would be compensated for all their investment. They did not leave, and Yoav died on the farm, aged 104 years.
The last member of the family who lived at the farm was Yitzhak, who gave the farm to the JNF. It was restored and opened to the public in 1986.

 

Text and pictures by: Pinhas Baraq

 
 

 

 

 

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05 May 2005 / 26 Nisan 5765 0