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Palestine Colonisation Association (PICA)

Baron Edmond de Rothschild and Palestine

Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) was the youngest son of James de Rothschild and Betty (née von Rothschild). He bore the Hebrew name Benjamin. He was born in the Paris suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, Hauts-de-Seine, and grew up in the world of the Second French Republic and the Second French Empire, and was a soldier 'Garde Mobile' in the first Franco-Prussian War. Edmond joined the Paris banking House in 1868.

A strong supporter of Zionism, Baron Edmond's most outstanding achievements were involved in responding to the threats facing the Jewish people in Europe in the late 19th century by supporting massive land purchases and underwriting Jewish settlements in Palestine and Israel. Edmond's large donations lent significant support to the movement during its early years, which helped lead to the establishment of the State of Israel. In the 1880s, in his goal for the establishment of a Jewish homeland, Edmond’s philanthropy funded Jewish settlements and encouraged the development of agriculture and industry. 'The Benefactor', as he was known provided support for Jewish colonists, overseeing dozens of new colonies. Rishon le Zion (the First in Zion) was followed by others bearing the names of his parents. Edmond stimulated the economic development of the settlements by investing in new crops, such as wine, grapefruit and avocado, and industrial enterprises such as silk production; he played a key role in Israel's wine industry. Under the supervision of his administrators in Ottoman Palestine, farm colonies and vineyards were established, and two major wineries were opened in Rishon le Zion and Zikhron Ya'akov. Edmond paid his first visit to the colonies in 1887, to inspect the progress that had been made in the first five years. On this first trip, he was accompanied by his wife Adelheid. Edmond's yacht moored at Port Said, then on to Jaffa, before travelling on to Jerusalem.

In 1899, responsibility for the Rothschild settlements was transferred to form the Palestine branch of the Jewish Colonisation Association, which had been founded in 1891 by the Bavarian philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch to help Jews from Russia and Romania to settle in Argentina. Baron de Hirsch died in 1896 and thereafter the JCA began to also assist the Jewish settlement in Palestine. At the end of 1899, Edmond transferred title to his colonies in Palestine plus fifteen million francs to the JCA.

In 1924, the JCA branch dealing with colonies in Palestine was reorganised by Baron Edmond as the Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association (PICA), under the direction of his son, James de Rothschild (1878-1957). PICA acquired more than 125,000 acres (50,586 ha) of land and established a range of business ventures. As well as offices in Palestine, PICA had offices in Paris. After the 1929 Palestine riots PICA helped to rehabilitate agricultural colonies that had been damaged.

When Edmond died in Paris in 1934, he left a legacy which included the reclamation of nearly 500,000 dunams of land and almost 30 settlements. In 1954, his remains and those of his wife Adelheid were brought to rest at Ramat Hanadiv in Zikhron Ya'akov. After Edmond's death, his son James de Rothschild (1878-1957) presided over the affairs of PICA. In his will of 1957, James instructed that PICA should transfer most of its land in Israel to the Jewish National Fund. On December 31, 1958 PICA agreed to vest its right to land holdings in Syria and Lebanon in the State of Israel. Edmond and James' determination to continue to support Israeli institutions was carried out after their deaths by James' widow, Dorothy (1895-1988), who founded Yad Hanadiv. Jacob, 4th Lord Rothschild has followed the family's charitable interests in Israel and is the chairman of Yad Hanadiv, the family foundation which gave the Knesset and the Supreme Court buildings to Israel. 

Archive sources: The Rothschild Archive London

The Rothschild Archive London holds very little private correspondence of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and very few papers relating to Edmond's activities in Palestine. A few sundry papers relating to PICA (including the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Jewish Colonisation Association, 1891, correspondence and papers relating to Palestinian colonies, including viticulture and sundry published reports) will be found in the Lafite Papers (OC 155 and OE 532). Sundry accounts relating to Rothschild Family expenditure and payments to Jewish colonies in Palestine will be found in the Account volumes in the Lafite Papers, (OB 40, OB 42, OB 44, OB 49, OB 48, OB 60, and OB 66). An Agreement terminating the administration and management of the Palestinian colonies, between Baron Edmond de Rothschild & the Jewish Colonisation Association, 1923 will be found in the Moscow Papers, (58-1-825). Sundry papers of the Jewish Colonisation Association 1891-1964 including Articles of Association will also be found in papers of NMR, Private Client Packets (000/142). Also listed below are other related papers to found in the Archive collection.

Archive sources: PICA records at Waddesdon Manor

Administrative records created by the Paris PICA office were transferred to Waddesdson Manor by James de Rothschild after the Second World War. They contain correspondence, financial records, censuses, photographs and publications relating to the management of the settlements, land ownership, individual settlers, and the politics of Jewish settlement in Palestine, as well as industry, vineyards, and agriculture. These records are now held by The Archive, Windmill Hill, Waddesdon Manor » 

Further secondary sources

  • Baron Edmond de Rothschild: The Story of a Practical Idealist, David Druck, (New York, 1928)
  • Edmond de Rothschild: Palestine Pioneer, Isaac Naiditch, (Zionist Organization of America, Washington, 1945)
  • Two Rothschilds and the Land of Israel, Simon Schama (London: Collins, 1978)
  • Edmond de Rothschild: l'homme qui racheta la Terre sante, Elizabeth Antebi (Monaco: Editions du Rocher, 2003)
  • Rothschild and early Jewish colonization, Ran Aronsohn (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000)

Jewish Colonization Association, Memorandum and Articles of Association, 1891

000/1530/2, 1 item

Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Jewish Colonization Association, 1891.

Palestine Colonisation Association (PICA), company seal, n.d.

000/939, 1 item

Company seal-die of the Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association (PICA).

Palestine Colonisation Association (PICA), sundry correspondence and papers, 1862-1919

000/1634, 1 file

Photocopies of correspondence and other documents in French and English relating to the Jewish Colonization Association 1862-1919. Originals belived to be at Château Lafite. Includes: preliminary report of Mr Meyerson, on the Palestinian Colonies, for Baron Edmond de Rothschild; Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Jewish Colonization Association, 1891; Jewish Colonisation Association Report for the year 1898 on its activities in Argentina, United States, Palestine, Cyprus, Russia and Romania.

Palestine Colonisation Association (PICA): catalogue of papers held at Waddesdon Manor, 2001

000/934, 2 files

A printed catalogue of Jewish Colonisation Association (PICA) records, held at Waddesdon Manor. Administrative records created by the Paris PICA office were transferred to Waddesdson Manor by James de Rothschild after the Second World War. They contain correspondence, financial records, censuses, photographs and publications relating to the management of the settlements, land ownership, individual settlers, and the politics of Jewish settlement in Palestine, as well as industry, vineyards, and agriculture. These records are now held by The Archive, Windmill Hill, Waddesdon. Researchers are advised to contactby The Archive, Windmill Hill, Waddesdon Manor for the latest version of this catalogue.

Photographs of Palestine and the Middle East, c.1914-1918

000/209, 219 items

Although not records of PICA, the Archive holds a collection of 219 photographs of Palestine and the Middle East, which are included here for ease of reference. The photographs, dating from c.1914-1918, show views of scenery, military action, Jewish settlements and winerys at Rishon Le Zion, amongst other scenes, including images of General Allenby's arrival in Jerusalem in 1917. Many of the photographs are captioned in manuscript on the reverse. The images were purchased by NMR from Major P G Devenish in November 1969, and received into the Secretary’s Department, NMR. It is possible that they were purchased by Mr Edmund de Rothschild; images show troops from the Royal Bucks Hussars, a regiment in which Mr Edmund's father Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942) served.

HM Government report: 'Palestine: Report on Immigration, Land Settlement and Development', 1930

000/2581, 1 volume

Copy of Government report: Palestine: Report on Immigration, Land Settlement and Development (Cmnd 3686), by John Hope Simpson, C.I.E. . (His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, October 1930).

L'Agence Juive pour la Palestine [The Jewish Agency for Palestine]: Report of the Joint Palestine Survey Commission, 1928

000/2390, 1 volume

L'Agence Juive pour la Palestine: sundry papers. The Jewish Agency for Palestine was created in the late 1920s, as an executive agency of the World Zionist Organization. Copy of Reports of the Experts submitted to the Joint Palestine Survey Commission, December 1927, Boston, Massachusetts, October 1928. The reports include reference to the colonies of PICA. The Joint Palestine Survey Commission was established on behalf of The Jewish Agency in 1927 to survey conditions in Palestine  with a view to working out a plan of ten years activity for the reconstruction of the country under the terms of the Palestine mandate. The Palestine Survey Commission inquired into 'the present state and future prospects of agriculture, mining, industry, commerce and will ascertain the results of the activities carried on in Palestine by the Zionist Organisation and other Jewish organisations and private undertakings during the past ten years'. The Commission was also charged with the task of 'examining all available records to ascertain the receipts of the past ten years of the various Jewish bodies engaged in Palestine work and the sources of such receipts. The commission will deal with the problems of immigration, agriculture, colonisation, industry, cooperative movement, hanking and credit, public health, labour, finance and the physiographical and geographical character of the country.'

L'Agence Juive pour la Palestine [The Jewish Agency for Palestine]: sundry papers, 1945-1957

000/1938, 1 folder

L'Agence Juive pour la Palestine: sundry papers. The Jewish Agency for Palestine was created in the late 1920s, as an executive agency of the World Zionist Organization. From the early 1930s, it became the de facto government of the Palestinian Jewish population. A collection of photocopied correspondence including corresponmdence from Baron Guy de Rothschild, notes on 'The Palestinian Question' to the United Nation's Security Council; note on the attitude of the British Government regarding the resolution of 'The Palestinian Question'; article by Prof. Meir Zamir, 27 June 2008, 'The French Connection'.

Zichron Ya’akov: secondary sources, c.2000

000/970, 1 item

Tourist brochure about Zichron Ya’akov in Israel. Zichron Ya'akov was one of the first Jewish settlements of Halutzim in the country, founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) and named in honour of his father, James Mayer de Rothschild (1792-1868).