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Moshe Novomeisky - The Founder of the Dead Sea Factories

 

Moshe Novomeisky - a Jew from Siberia who Established the Dead Sea Factories

 

Moshe Novomeisky The Founder of the Dead Sea Factories

 

 

Who made the Dead Sea factories? The man behind their construction was Moshe Novomeisky, an entrepreneur and pioneer of the modern Israeli Dead Sea industry. In the 1930s, Novomeisky established Palestine Potash Ltd. to extract minerals for fertilizers and other products from the hypersaline waters. His drive and vision led to the opening of the first modern plants on the shores of the Dead Sea in Kalia in 1934. Despite doubts that any enterprise could succeed in such a harsh landscape, Novomeisky persevered and built an operation that pumped seawater into evaporation pans, extracted valuable minerals, and shipped the products worldwide. The facilities he constructed formed the foundation for Israel's modern Dead Sea factories that produce health, beauty, and industrial products from this unique natural resource. The factories owe their origin to the business savvy and perseverance of Moshe Novomeisky.

 

There is a common opinion that Jews in Russia lived exclusively in the European part, and very few lived in Turkestan. However, it is wrong.

Siberia also had a Jewish population, though the majority of them had not chosen to relocate there. The destiny of Moses Novomeysky, a Siberian Jew who accomplished a great deal of good for both Russia and Eretz Israel, provides insight in this respect.

The Novomeysky family, like many others, did not appear in Siberia of their own free will. Moses' grandfather Chaim lived for some time in the Kingdom of Poland. But when an anti-Russian uprising began there in 1830, he sided with the Poles, for which he was punished. After the suppression of the uprising, Chaim was exiled to Siberia. He, along with other prisoners, traveled the road to those distant lands on foot.

For Chaim Novomeysky personally, the journey to Transbaikalia, where the court sent him, took 4 whole years. Arriving on the eastern coast of Lake Baikal, he settled in Barguzin. And here we should pay tribute to the local authorities. They did not oppress the exiled Jew but allowed him to work. Chaim took up the fish trade. Things went well. Soon he bought the house in which he lived for the rest of his life. His son and grandson Moses also lived there.

The son of Chaim Novomeysky continued his work. He also began selling fish, slowly expanding his list of clients. Part of the product began to be supplied to the mines. It was there that he saw new prospects for himself. The Novomeyskys began to engage in gold mining, which became a more profitable business than selling fish. When Chaim's son Moses was born in 1873, his father did everything to ensure that he received the best education. That's exactly what happened. At one point, Moses was first assigned to the Irkutsk Technical School, after which he was sent to study in Germany, where he entered the Ore Academy in Claustel.

Having completed his studies and received an engineering diploma, Moses Novomeysky returned home in 1898, immediately getting involved in work. His first independent project was a plant for the extraction and purification of Glauber's salt. Having earned some money, Moses ordered a dredge from England, with the help of which he intended to dramatically increase the amount of gold being mined in the mines. This was a new step in this industry, where washing of precious metals was carried out mainly by hand. With this approach to the matter, Moses confirmed that the funds spent on his training were not in vain.

One more factor should be taken into account, clearly far from business. Siberia was then full of exiled revolutionaries. For the most part, these were highly educated people, and, despite their opposition to the central government, they wanted Russia to prosper. In particular, the “political” helped Moses in his preparation for school, college, and academy in Germany. From them, he adopted an interest in the prosperity of all of Russia, including Siberia. But at the same time, the “political” ones instilled in Moses some revolutionary ideas. He dreamed of seeing the country not as a monarchy, but as a democratic state. These views cost him 7 months in prison.

True, among the ideas of the theorists of socialism there were also unacceptable to Moses. In particular, he did not share their attitude towards the Jewish question. The future of the Jewish people did not worry them at all, but for Novomeysky it was a priority. From general revolutionary ideas, he began to move towards Zionism. Already as an adherent of this idea, Moses went to Eretz Israel. Unfortunately, Palestine at that time was a dusty Turkish province without a hint of industrial development. Having an education as a mining engineer, Novomeysky saw the prospects of this region. However, then, in 1911, he, as a citizen of Russia, could not find partners to start a business among the local population.

Meanwhile, the world was moving inevitably towards world war, and in 1914 it began. For Europe, it turned out to be a disaster. The result of the war was the collapse of three of the five empires that then existed on the continent. One of them was the Russian Empire, in which, as a consequence of the hostilities, a series of revolutions swept through. And what happened then, for many people who wanted changes in the country, became an extremely unpleasant revelation. The once united state turned into a huge military training ground, where everyone fought with everyone. Of course, prospects also appeared. However, for the most part they were extremely illusory.

After the revolution, the same Novomeysky took the position of chairman of the National Council of Jews of Siberia and became the head of the Siberian Zionist Center. Only this position was more than nominal, and given the unstable situation, even dangerous. As a result, Moses, taking with him his mother and two sisters, left for China, and from there crossed over to Eretz Israel. By that time, Palestine no longer belonged to the Ottoman Porte. Britain had its eye on it and issued a mandate to govern it.

 

Novomeysky chose the Middle East as the final goal of his evacuation from Russia for a reason. He remembered the idea of exploiting the riches of the Dead Sea. Deciding to revive it, he turned to the British authorities for permission but came across a complete misunderstanding. It turned out that the British government was not interested in the development of the mandated territory. He had completely different aspirations. For 8 long years, Moses tried to achieve understanding, but neither in London nor among international industrial corporations did the idea of ​​developing potash and bromine in the Dead Sea find support.

It seemed that the business would die without starting, but in 1929 Moses took an unusual step - he made an Englishman one of the founders of his company. And things moved forward. Permission to build the plant was immediately obtained, and agreements were signed allowing the extraction of minerals in the Dead Sea area. This is how the first plant of the Palestine Potash Company appeared. Further difficulties also arose, but of a purely technical nature, and Novomeysky overcame them one by one.

The location for the construction of the first plant was not very well chosen. The material had to be mined from great depths. The issue was resolved by the construction of another plant, where production was carried out almost from the surface, at a depth of only two meters. Large volumes of fresh water were needed, and Novomeysky went to negotiate with the Jordanian Emir Abdullah. He, having agreed on the condition of hiring Jews and Arabs along with him, agreed to supply water to the plant. It is noteworthy that the employees of the enterprise never conflicted with each other on ethnic grounds, and the Arabs who worked there did not participate in Jewish pogroms. Both factories of the Palestine Potash Company existed until 1948.

Another side of Novomeysky’s actions is also of interest. Until 1920, the Dead Sea area was visited only by lonely pilgrims and travelers. It was believed that the local climate was unsuitable for people of the white race. Moses Novomeysky changed this opinion. He was the first to settle this area as a resort. And to this day, tourists from almost all over the world are drawn to the Dead Sea, not to mention the Israelis.

As for the Palestine Potash Company, in 1948 its northern plant fell into the occupation zone of Transjordan and was destroyed by the military. The southern enterprise survived, but to resume its work significant financial resources were required, which Novomeysky no longer had. After the proclamation of the State of Israel, the plant was nationalized, and a new organization called “Dead Sea Enterprises” was founded on its basis. However, the aged businessman was not offended by the state but continued to help it develop the economy. Moses Novomeysky ended his earthly journey in 1961 in Paris, from where his body was taken to Tel Aviv, where he was buried.

 

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