7 Things You Need to Know About… Karl (Charles) Netter

Father of Jewish agriculture in Israel

1. Karl Netter was born in Strasburg in the mid-1820s. As a young man he traveled within Europe, doing business in London, Moscow and Lille, and finally settling in Paris.

2. In May 1860, in Paris, he became one of the six founders of the Alliance Israelite Universelle [see my blog post of February 19, 2014]. He served as its general secretary, and for a long time its offices were housed chez Netter (ie, in his home).

220px-Charles_Netter3. He visited Palestine in 1868 as a representative of the Alliance Israelite Universelle for the purpose of studying the needs of Jews there. He recommended that an agricultural settlement be founded there with an agricultural school. Toward this end, he obtained an audience with the Sultan and was awarded 250 hectares near Jaffa. Mikveh Israel was founded on this land in 1870, the first modern Jewish agricultural settlement in Eretz Yisrael.

4. The school taught the many branches of horticulture, including viniculture, and grew asparagus, artichokes and other promising crops. Netter managed it personally until 1873, when he was forced to return to Europe for health reasons. He continued to raise funds for its support and to be involved in its activities from afar.

5. He worked tirelessly, too, on behalf of the rights and protection of Jews in the “eastern lands:” submitting memoranda to AIU conferences (1876 and -8), arguing the rights of Moroccan Jews at a European conference in Madrid (1880), arranging passage to America for refugees from the Ukraine (1881) and working on a special committee in Paris to help other refugees from the pogroms in Russia.

6. In October 1882, Netter made a return visit to Palestine and died there. He is buried in Mikveh Israel.

7. Kfar Netter, a moshav near Netanya founded in 1939, commemorates him; several Israeli cities have named streets in his memory, as well.

In Tel Aviv, Netter Street runs south off Montefiore, just north of Rothschild.

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