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Pinchas Rutenberg was the man who electrified Palestine in more ways than one. A Russian revolutionary and an assassin who plotted the murder of Lenin and Trotsky, he escaped the Bolsheviks, finishing up at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. There he persuaded British leaders to grant him the concession to set up a hydro-electric plant on the Jordan River in Palestine. Described as a mixture of a whirl-wind and a steam-roller, he blustered his way past determined opposition in the British Parliament and the Zionists. His power plants were successful in providing electricity for virtually the whole of Palestine during the 1920s and ‘30s. It was this, more than much else, that allowed the agricultural and industrial development of a land that had been sorely neglected for generations. He went on to initiate Palestine Airways, the forerunner of EL Al, and was elected leader of the Jewish population of Palestine. In this position he was heavily involved in negotiations with the British Government and its Mandatory administration and spent much effort in trying to forge a peace deal with Arab leaders including King Abdullah of Jordan.
He died in 1942, stipulating in his will that no fuss should be made of him after his death. He was to be buried amongst the workers, no eulogies were to be given and no streets, villages or towns were to be named after him. Perhaps it was this that led to the paucity of literature about him in English. This biography is an attempt to rectify this neglect of a remarkable historic figure.
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