Agendath

In Brief

The "pile of cut sheets" on the butcher's counter in Calypso, used for wrapping meat, evidently consists of pieces of newspaper containing various advertisements. When Bloom takes up a page while waiting in line, he reads about a "model farm at Kinnereth." Later, as he walks back along Dorset Street, he reads about "Agendath Netaim: planters' company." These are two different ads, but both promote settlements in Palestine, suggesting that the butcher reads papers with strong Zionist leanings. The apparent mention of "Moses Montefiore" somewhere on the page of ads confirms for Bloom that Dlugacz is Jewish: "I thought he was."

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When Bloom takes up a page while waiting in line, he reads about "the model farm at Kinnereth on the lakeshore of Tiberias. Can become ideal winter sanatorium." Tiberias is a small city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, in the northeast corner of what is now Israel. Part of the Turkish empire in 1904, it was one of the centers of Jewish life in Ottoman Palestine. Modern Jews have long regarded it as one of four Holy Cities, along with Jerusalem and Hebron (both holy in biblical times), and Safed (a site of kabbalistic scholarship after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the 15th century). Many rabbis moved to Tiberias in the 18th and 19th centuries, making it a vital spot for Jewish learning and earning it the reputation for holiness. Kinnereth is another name for Galilee (it means "harp" in Hebrew, referring to the shape of the lake), as well as a hill on the western shore of the lake that was the site of an ancient fortified city.

The ad that Bloom reads apparently is offering to sell a farm intended as a "model" for future settlement of the region, though it would also make an "ideal winter sanatorium" for infirm Europeans seeking the benefits of a warm dry climate. It is accompanied by a photograph very likely identical to the one reproduced here from the letterhead of the Palestine Land Development Company, showing a "Farmhouse, wall round it, blurred cattle cropping. He held the page from him: interesting: read it nearer, the title, the blurred cropping cattle, the page rustling. A young white heifer."

The marketing of the farm is a business proposition, but it is also part of a Zionist program to promote more Jewish settlement of the holy land. The PLDC, founded in 1908-9 (if Joyce was relying on their photo he was guilty of some anachronism), was an organization devoted to purchasing Palestinian land and training Jewish settlers to become successful farmers. Before the outbreak of war in 1914 it had purchased about 50,000 dunams and had plans to acquire far more. (The dunam is a Turkish measure of land equal to approximately one fourth of an acre.)

Some paragraphs later, as Bloom walks home "reading gravely" (probably from another spot on the same sheet), the subject is "Agendath Netaim: planters' company. To purchase waste sandy tracts from Turkish government and plant with eucalyptus trees." The announcement concerns some land "north of Jaffa" on the Mediterranean coast, west of Tiberias and considerably farther south. (The ancient port of Jaffa is now part of Tel Aviv.) This ad from a German company (it mentions payment in marks, and the address is in Berlin) proposes a more complicated economic transaction. A "planters' company" proposes to purchase undeveloped land from the Turkish government and plant it with your choice of agricultural crops: eucalyptus trees, melon fields, orchards producing oranges, almonds, olives, or citrons. "You pay eighty marks and they plant a dunam of land for you . . . Every year you get a sending of the crop. Your name entered for life as owner in the book of the union. Can pay ten down and the balance in yearly instalments."

Like the simpler sale of the farm in the first ad, this fictional solicitation to invest in a collectively owned agricultural project was inspired by actual initiatives. In The Jews of Ireland, Louis Hyman quotes details from Marcia Gitlin's The Vision Amazing: The Story of South African Zionism (Johannesburg, 1950) of a "contract signed in 1913 between 'Agudath Netayim' (a variant transliteration) of Palestine, represented by Arnold Kretchmar-Israeli, and the South African Zionist Federation for the establishment of a farm on about 600 dunams near Hadera, which would be planted with almonds and olives." Investors could pay in installments for their portion (one of 150, four dunams of land each), and in six years the crops would generate revenue for them (Hyman 188n, citing Gitlin 158-59). Bloom is not about to risk his hard-earned capital in such speculative (and, perhaps, fraudulent or overpriced?) ventures, but he is intrigued: "Nothing doing. Still an idea behind it."

The mention of "Montefiore" in one of the ads lends credence to the promoters' claims. Sir Moses Haim Montefiore (1784-1885) was a wealthy London financier who retired from business in 1820 and turned his attention to philanthrophic causes. Using his money and influence to liberate Jews from political oppression in various parts of Europe, the Near East, and north Africa, he became an international hero. Starting in the 1850s he promoted Jewish settlement in the Holy Land, buying an orchard outside Jaffa where Jews could learn farming skills, building a settlement near Jerusalem, and contributing in various ways to the economic development and wellbeing of existing Jewish communities in the area. As one of the earliest advocates for what would become known as Zionism, and a revered model of sanctity (he became strictly observant after the first of his many trips to Palestine in 1827), his presence on an ad would have imparted an air of high moral purpose to the proposed economic transactions.

JH 2017
Model farm at Kinnereth, from a photograph on the letterhead of the Palestine Land Development Company, held in the Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem. Source: Louis Hyman, The Jews of Ireland, Plate XIX.
Stock certificate made out to Leon Simon for five shares of the PLDC in 1910, with mention (red ink) of "Kinnereth" and reproduction of the same photograph. Source: www.kedem-auctions.com.
1881 oil portrait of Sir Moses Montefiore. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Sketch of Montefiore in Diaries of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore (London, 1890). Source: Wikimedia Commons.