Friday, December 30, 2011

Jewish Industries in Palestine 75 Years Ago -- Part 1


Inspecting polished diamonds (1939)  View the factory here
Well before the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael was well established.  The "Old Yishuv," consisting primarily of Orthodox Jews, had been living in Jerusalem, Safed, Hebron, Tiberias, Jaffa and even Gaza for centuries.

After 1880, the "New Yishuv," often supported by overseas philanthropists, purchased properties throughout Palestine and established agricultural settlements and industries.  The photographers from the American Colony recorded dozens of pictures of these enterprises.

Tnuva cheese processing. Another
picture here. (1939)
The economic development of the Yishuv is described by Mark A Tessler in his book, A History of the Israeli Palestinian Conflict (Indiana University Press, 1994).  The following is an excerpt:

The number of agricultural communities and workers grew rapidly.... There were 82 agricultural settlements by 1936.  In the same year, there were about 32,000 Jews employed in agriculture, in contrast to fewer than 4,000 in 1921. 
Textile factory (1939).  Textile
dyeing here
A similar pattern of growth took place in the industrial sector.  By 1936 there were 5,602 manufacturing establishments in the Yishuv, about 90 percent of which were small-scale handicraft operations.  The number of industrial workers rose from fewer than 5,000 in 1921 to almost 29,000 in 1936, and the value of industrial output reached $42 million in the latter year.  Most of the products of the Yishuv's industries were consumer goods and construction materials, both of which were sold on the domestic market.....
Furniture making. Another picture

Beverage and bottling
A good overall indication of the Yishuv's expanding economic base during this period is the rapid acceleration that occurred in the consumption of electricity.  The output of the Palestine Electric Company, whose largest shareholder was the Jewish Agency and whose principle consumer was the Yishuv, grew from 2 to 65 million kilowatt hours between 1926 and 1936.  Industry and irrigation each consumed about one-third of this total. 

It should also be noted that the economy of the Yishuv was almost completely independent of the Arab economic sector.  The monetary value of inputs from the Arab economy was only about 3 percent of all inputs....

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