OTTO WARBURG - A biographical note

He therefore decided to resign from the Zionist executive explaining in his letter to Wolfsohn that it would be easier for him to carry on his activities in Palestine and Cyprus if he were not a member.
In 1907 he decided to make the disbanded Eretz-Israel Committee part of the Zionist Executive and to allot it a permanent percentage of the budget. He also decided to appoint a professional director to be in charge of all its activities, and proposed Dr. Arthur Rupin for this role with Dr. Jacob Thon as his assistant. They arrived in Palestine in 1907 and their first task was to define the exact roles of the newly established Eretz-Israel Office, and the ways of achieving them. Two years later Warburg was instrumental in founding the Society for Jewish Physicians and Scientists in order to undertake and supervise medical aid in Palestine and to fight prevailing diseases such as malaria and trachoma. In the educational sphere Warburg started by founding the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem in 1905 and by appointing Boris Schatz, the Jewish Bulgarian sculptor, as its director. In addition he laid the foundation for the first Jewish secondary school in Jerusalem. He insisted that the language of tuition be Hebrew and therefore did not include the German Jewish Ezra society (of which he was a member in his early years) in his initiative since it insisted on German as the lingua franca for tuition. Instead he sought British-Jewish support and also obtained funds from non-Jewish sources which made his negotiating with his Zionist friends somewhat easier. Bezalel became Warburg’s special preference and it was run from his Berlin office for numerous years. Thon, who was its first secretary, relates the story about Warburg’s devotion to recruit famous artists and non-Jewish philanthropists for this project, whom among others included the painter Max Lieberman, Dr. Hirsch Hildesheimer, Dr. Franz Openheimer and many others. When the Eretz Israel Committee was established, the running of Bezalel was transferred to Jerusalem and a special executive was charged with its running. Warburg was filled with pride of Bezalel and glorified its achievements at every Zionist gathering. He also purchased a special building to accommodate the school and its museum.
However, in practice Warburg’s position did not improve since the members of the Zionist executive in Vienna continued to refuse all his requests for funds, including the salaries of Rupin and Thon, who were now in charge of the Eretz-Israel Office, which he had to pay for from his own pocket. Warburg wrote a letter to Wolfsohn in which he bitterly criticized the impotence of the Zionist movement and repeated his demands for immediate action in a variety of fields, but to no avail. Despite these setbacks, Warburg’s insistence on “Practical Zionism” gained massive support both among fellow-Jews in Russia and elsewhere, as well as among the Jews who had settled in Palestine who were also fed up with bureaucracy and politicizing which dominated the Zionist movement under Wolfsohn’s leadership. It was in these circumstances that Warburg made alliances with several Jewish leaders, such as Menahem Usishkin, who supported his practical trend and were willing to go ahead with his plans for settlements and industry in Palestine.

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