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Today in history: the old man of Naharaiym

Today in 1926 Pinchas Rutenberg received a concession to generate electricity in the Land of Israel by river water.

Pinchas Rutenberg was a fascinating man: He was born into an educated Jewish family in Ukraine (then Russia) in 1879, and by the age of 40 he had converted to Christianity, become one of the top revolutionaries in the Russian Empire, participated in the 1905 revolution attempt, murdered a double agent of the police, accused by his revolutionary friends of being a double agent himself, exiled to Italy and studied engineering, returned to Judaism and became sympathetic to Zionism, assisted in the establishment of the Jewish battalions in World War I, returned to Russia after the February Revolution (1917) and served as an advisor to the Prime Minister, arrested by the Communists, fleed and participated in the Russian Civil War as a senior White Army official, and immigrated to Palestine in 1919. In Israel, he became one of the professionals involved with the chosen ranks and the operational ranks, and helped establish the Haganah organization, and write reports on the electric future of the Jewish community. In 1923, Rutenberg founded the Israel Electric Corporation and built a power plant near Tel Aviv; but his great ambition was to generate cheap electricity from an independent source – such as the Jordan and Yarmukh rivers. In 1926, Rutenberg was granted a charter by the British government to produce electricity there (a move that was very controversial in British politics), and soon built the Naharayim power plant at the confluence of the rivers. Rutenberg continued extensive activity under the leadership of the Jewish community until his death in 1941 – although he never defined himself as a Zionist, barely spoke Hebrew and remained bipartisan.

Photo Source: Wikipedia

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