Biography of Yehoshua Hankin
Yehoshua Hankin (1864-1945) (also Henkin, Chenkin) was responsible for most of the major land purchases of the Zionist organization. Hankin was born in Kremenchug Ukraine, and moved to Rishon Le-Zion with his parents in 1882. In 1887 his family moved to Gedera, where he became friendly with local Arabs, helping him negotiate the purchase of land. Hankin's first purchase was the land of Rechovot, acquired in 1890. A year later he bought the land that later became the settlement and city of Hadera. He then purchased territories for the Jewish Colonial Association in the Galilee.
In 1908, when the Zionist organization sent Arthur Ruppin and set up the Palestine Land Land Development Corporation, Hankin joined. In 1909 or 1910, Hankin completed his first major purchase in the Jezreel Valley. He bought some 10,000 dunams of land in Al-Fuleh (now Afula), which became the home of Merchavia and Tel Adashim. This purchase also marked the start of bitter disputes between Arabs and Jews over the rights of tenant farmers who had been evicted, and regarding the employment of Jewish or Arab watchmen for the land.
In his article, Buying the Emek, Arthur Ruppin described the vicissitudes of this purchase.
Because of the reluctance of Zionist organizations to pay for land, Hankin frequently agreed to purchase lands and then convinced the Jewish agency or others to finance the "done deal." As Ruppin notes:
During World War I, Hankin was exiled by the Turks to Anatolia. Returning to Palestine, he soon resumed his work where he had left off. In 1920, he concluded a deal with the Sursuk family of Beirut for purchase of 60,000 dunams of land in the Valley of Jezreel. He negotiated for this land when he had in fact not a penny to finance the purchase. The chairman of the Jewish National Fund, Nehemiah De Lieme, refused to pay for the land, arguing that it was beyond the budget of the Fund, but he was overruled by the Zionist organization and in particular Dr. Chaim Weizmann. This tract became home to numerous new kibbutzim and other settlements, including Nahalal, Djindjar, Kfar Yeheskel, Geva, Ein 'Harod, Tel Yosef and Beth Alpha. Half of this land was unirrigated and considered of low value, but the remainder contained about 500 Arab tenant farmers. These latter, though reimbursed above and beyond the requirements of the law, continued to complain of dispossession.
Subsequently, Hankin was involved in large scale purchases of land in and around Acco. In 1927, Hankin proposed an ambitious 20 year land purchase plan to the Jewish Agency, a plan that was never carried out in full. In 1932 he became head of the Palestine Land Development Corporation.
Hankin understood the necessity to plan for Arab as well as Jewish settlement, and apparently intended to do so. In July of 1930 he wrote:
Yehoshua Hankin died in Tel Aviv and was buried in the Galilee on Mt. Gilboa.
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