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Novomeysky, Moshe


NOVOMEYSKY, MOSHE (1873–1961), industrial pioneer in Ereẓ Israel. Born in Barguzin, a village on Lake Baikal in Siberia, Novomeysky attended a secondary school in Irkutsk, graduated as a mining engineer in Germany, and engaged in gold mining in Siberia. He received a Jewish upbringing and became involved in Zionism, although the Russian revolutionary movement also attracted him and he spent some time in prison. While in Germany in 1906, he became interested in a study of the potentialities of the Dead Sea as a source of valuable chemicals for industrial use. He visited Ereẓ Israel before World War i and participated in the establishment of the Palestine Industrial Syndicate in Berlin. During the war and the Russian Revolution, he was active in Jewish affairs in Siberia and became head of the National Council of Siberian Jews and of the regional Zionist Organization. When the Bolsheviks came to power he left Siberia and settled in Palestine in 1920, where he took first steps toward the realization of his plans for the exploitation of the Dead Sea. It took some ten years to obtain the necessary concession in the face of opposition in the British Parliament; but eventually his Palestine Potash Company became the most important enterprise of its kind in the Middle East. During the Israel War of *Independence (1948), the Potash Works on the north of the Dead Sea were evacuated and totally destroyed by the Arab forces, and only the plant erected in the south, near Sedom, survived. After the establishment of the State of Israel, the Potash Company, registered in Britain, was replaced by an Israel company under government control. Novomeysky was also a founder of Fertilizers and Chemicals, another large chemical enterprise in Haifa.

Apart from his intensive work in the economic field, Novomeysky devoted much time to public affairs. For a time after he settled in Palestine, he acted as treasurer of the *Haganah. He was a founder of the Palestine Economic Society for the study of the country's economic problems. Deeply interested in the Arab question, he succeeded in establishing good relations with the Trans-Jordanian authorities and the hundreds of Arabs employed by his company. In later years he devoted his time to writing his reminiscences, My Siberian Life (1956), and the story of the Dead Sea concession, Given to Salt (1958). He died in Paris and was buried in Tel Aviv.

[Moshe Medzini]

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