Ruppin, Arthur

(1876–1943)
   Director of Palestine settlement and sociologist. Dr Ruppin did more than any other person to put Zionist agricultural settlement in Palestine on a systematic basis. He was also the pioneer of modern Jewish demography.
   Born in Prussia, Ruppin obtained a doctorate in law and was employed as a court registrar. At the same time, from 1903, he became director of the Bureau for Jewish Statistics and Demography founded by Alfred Nossig and edited its journal. In 1904 he published the first of many books on contemporary Jewish sociology, a pioneer work based on statistical data he had gathered. His studies of Jewish life brought him with some intellectual hesitation into the Zionist orbit. In 1908, he was appointed to direct the Palestine Office in Jaffa on behalf of the Zionist Organization. At the same time, he established the Palestine Land Development Company (PLDC). His colleagues from Eastern Europe at first thought him a typical Prussian - solemn and bespectacled, with a rather formal manner, precise in discussion and methodical in his work. It took time to perceive the dedicated and creative Jew behind the statistician. The six years from his arrival to the outbreak of World War I were an intensely formative period in the history of the yishuv. They saw the absorption of the Second Aliyah, the groups of idealistic young Russian pioneers of BEN- GURION’S generation; the first experimental kibbutz at Degania; the beginnings on the sand-dunes north of Jaffa of a Jewish suburb that was to grow into Tel Aviv and the establishment of financial institutions. Ruppin’s ideas and driving energy were involved in all these developments. Foundations were laid on which the future State of Israel would rest. However, the scale was small, the resources meagre, and the bureaucratic difficulties endless.
   In 1916 Ruppin was amongst the Zionists expelled from Palestine by the Turkish military governor, JAMAL PASHA. He made his way to Constantinople, and with the help of the German Embassy managed to get funds to the colonies in Palestine and to help refugees from there. In 1920 he joined the Zionist Commission set up by Dr WEIZMANN and from 1921 to 1935, with intervals, was a member of the Zionist Executive. His sphere of activity remained agricultural settlement, the growth of urban quarters (such as Rehavia in Jerusalem), the fostering of industry, and the financing of workers’ co-operatives. He was responsible for the introduction of many semi-tropical fruits into the yishuv.
   After Hitler came to power in Germany, Ruppin was in charge of the absorption of the Central European refugees who streamed in, with their own special problems. In the late 30s, he also renewed his writing and research on demography, and became professor of the sociology of the Jews at the Hebrew University.
   From 1925, Ruppin was a leading figure in a small but eminent group that called itself Brit Shalom (‘Covenant of Peace’), and worked for Jewish-Arab co- operation. After the Arab riots in 1929, Ruppin resigned from the group, believing that what mattered at that stage was to strengthen the Jewish economic base in the country.
   Ruppin was survived by his wife Hannah, one of the well-known Hacohen family; a son Rafael, a leading expert on fisheries; a daughter, Car-mela, married to the archaeologist Yigael YADIN; and another daughter, Aya, married to the deputy minister of finance, Zvi Dinstein. Places named after him were Kfar Ruppin in the Bet She’an Valley, an agricultural school in the coastal plain, and a botanical garden in Degania. Among his many books were Three Decades of Palestine (1936), and Jewish Fate and Future (1940; first published in German, 1904). ‘My Life and Work’, a three-volume autobiography, was published posthumously in Hebrew (1968) and in a one-volume summary, Arthur Ruppin, in English (1971).

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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