Baron Edmund de Rothschild was born in France in 1845. He was not interested in his family’s banking business, preferring to occupy himself with artistic and cultural projects.
Rothschild visited Israel 5 times. At first he was suspicious of the Zionist Movement and refused to support Theodore Herzl. However, during World War I he became a supporter of the movement, and was influential in lobbying for the drafting of the Balfour Declaration.
The Baron contributed greatly to the settlement movement in Palestine. He supported numerous settlements in the Holy Land. He is famous for bailing out Rishon LeZion and Zichron Yaakov from their financial difficulties. He also established new settlements: Rosh Pina, Ekron, and more. The Baron invested in land purchases and in industry for the farming communities: winemaking, perfume, olives, windmills, etc. Settlements which were under the protection of the Baron were administered by his employees down to the very last detail. Due to the settlers’ dissatisfaction with their lack of independence, Rothschild’s support was replaced by Baron Maurice de Hirsh’s from 1900-1923.
In 1920, the Baron was appointed honorary president of the Jewish Agency. In 1923, Edmund’s son James became the head of the newly-established Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA), and the Rothschild family supported the settlements once again.
Edmund de Rothschild died in 1934. He was interred in a Parisian cemetery, and his bones were moved in 1954 to Ramat HaNadiv, near Zikhron Yaakov. During his lifetime, he was responsible for the reclamation of nearly 500,000 dunams of land and almost 30 settlements. In 1957 all of the PICA properties were handed over to the State of Israel.