Talk about the Rothschilds and you will automatically think of finance, the arts and philanthropy.
scratch below the surface and then wine, the Jewish community and
Israel come to the fore as ongoing threads through the remarkable family
story. Their influence in the building of the State of Israel is
Some of the most fundamental institutions in Israel
were founded with financial support from this most famous of Jewish
families. The Knesset and new Supreme Court Building were funded by the
Rothschilds. Some towns such as Zichron Ya’acov and Binyamina were named
after Rothschilds. These and others, such as Rishon Lezion and
Caesarea, remain monuments to their support and generosity.
Rothschilds, the world’s most preeminent wine family, have also had a
lasting effect on Israeli wine. They created a modern wine industry,
renewing a 5,000-year-old tradition. The three Rothschilds most relevant
to Israeli wine are as follows:
Baron James Jacob de Rothschild
(1792 – 1868)
The five arrows in the family logo symbolize the five sons sent by Mayer
Amschel Rothschild from Frankfurt to the main capitals of Europe in
order to found banks.
The youngest son, James Jacob, turned out to be the most successful. He
was sent to Paris. There he became the richest man in France, an adviser
to two kings and a man of power and influence to match his financial
brilliance. He was known as “the Great Baron.”
His English nephew, Nathaniel, was the first Rothschild to enter the
wine world by purchasing Château Mouton in Bordeaux in 1853. In 1868
Baron James purchased another famous winery, Château Lafite, for the
Rothschild family. The naming of Zichron Ya’acov, which means “In Memory
of Jacob,” was in his honor. So Carmel’s Zichron Ya’acov Wine Cellars
is privileged to be named after the Rothschild who bought Château Lafite
for the Rothschild family.
Baron Edmond (Benjamin) de Rothschild
Baron Edmond, the
third son of Baron James, paid an important role in the history and
development of Israel. He was known by David Ben-Gurion as the “Father
of the Yishuv” and he spent close to 40 million francs purchasing and
reclaiming land, supporting 30 new villages and sponsoring new
Initially he was known as “Hanadiv Hayadua” – The Well-Known Benefactor – because his donations were given anonymously.
In 1882 he began his involvement in Palestine by sending France’s finest
agronomists to survey the land. He supported the new farming villages
of Rishon Lezion and Zichron Ya’acov and then sent his own
viticulturists to plant vineyards, which quickly became the dominant
form of agriculture. He built the large wineries at Rishon Lezion in
1890 and Zichron Ya’acov in 1892, and sent Bordeaux winemakers to make
the first vintages. His investment in Carmel Winery was 11 million
francs – an enormous amount when set against the four million francs
needed to buy Château Lafite Rothschild or the one million francs that
Château Mouton Rothschild cost.
Today he is remembered as one of the founding fathers of Israel. When
the shekel was reintroduced in Israel in the early 1980s for the first
time since biblical days, each of the banknotes featured one of the main
founding fathers. Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion, Chaim Weizmann,
Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Sir Moses Montefiore and Baron Edmond de Rothschild
The 500-shekel note featured Baron Edmond and appropriately on the reverse side was a bunch of grapes.
Tishbi Winery was founded in 1985 by a family of growers whose previous
generations had planted vineyards for Rothschild in the 1880s. In honor
of Baron Edmond, the winery was registered as Baron Wine Cellars Ltd.
Only later was the name changed to Tishbi Estate Winery.
Baron Edmond died in 1934 and his remains were reinterred in 1954 in the
State of Israel at Ramat Hanadiv, a place on the southern Mount Carmel
slopes appropriately overlooking Zichron Ya’acov, Binyamina and
James Rothschild, the son of Baron Edmond,
was French born, but went on to become a British citizen and even a
politician serving as a member of Parliament in England. However, he
inherited his father’s love of Israel and his generosity. He was a great
friend of Weizmann, doing much of the groundwork with him that resulted
in the Balfour Declaration.
In 1924 he was appointed by his father to manage and direct the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association, known as PICA.
He was therefore involved in founding the village of Binyamina, which was named after his father’s Hebrew name, Benjamin.
In 1952 PICA approved the formation of a new winery in Binyamina called Eliaz.
This was situated on the premises of a perfume factory called Jasmin
that was built by James Rothschild in 1925. Now Binyamina Winery is the
fifth largest winery in Israel.
In 1957 just before his death, PICA was disbanded. James Rothschild
donated the funds required to build the Knesset, and both Rishon Lezion
and Zichron Ya’acov wineries were donated to Carmel. This brought to an
end the Rothschild involvement in Israeli wine, which had lasted from
1882 to 1957. However, his foundation, Yad Hanadiv, continues to this
day to support both Jewish and Israeli causes.Wine of the weekMony Sunny Hills Colombard 2010
A dry white wine made from the French Colombard grape.
The wine is fragrant, fruity and fresh with very good, clean acidity. The Colombard grape is underrated. It is aromatic with good balance and it grows well here. Mony Winery, owned by an Israeli Arab family, is situated at a monastery, where a Canadian winemaker makes kosher wines! Winemaker Sam Soroka has really turned things around. Some of the younger wines represent excellent value being full of flavor, well balanced with aging potential. This wine is really good value. Price: NIS 39.Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine for both international and Israeli publications. [email protected]