A short experience with Turkish courts and Turkish justice taught our people that they would have to establish a legal system of their own; two collaborating judges were therefore appointed—one to interpret the Mosaic law, another to temper it with modern jurisprudence. All Jewish disputes were settled by this court. Its effectiveness may be judged by the fact that the Arabs, weary of Turkish venality,—as open and shameless as anywhere in the world,—began in increasing numbers to bring their difficulties to our tribunal. Jews are law-abiding people, and life in those Palestine colonies tended to bring out the fraternal qualities of our race; but it is interesting to note that in over thirty years not one Jewish criminal case was reported from forty-five villages.
Zicron-Jacob was a little town of one hundred and thirty “fires”—so we call it—when, in 1910, on the advice of my elder brother, who was head of the Jewish Experiment Station at Athlit, an ancient town of the Crusaders, I left for America to enter the service of the United States in the Department of Agriculture. A few days after reaching this country I took out my first naturalization papers and proceeded to Washington, where I became part of that great government service whose beneficent activity is too little known by Americans. Here I remained until June, 1913, when I returned to Palestine with the object of taking motion-pictures and stereopticon views. These I intended to use in a lecturing tour for spreading the Zionist propaganda in the United States.
During the years of my residence in America, I was able to appreciate and judge in their right value the beauty and inspiration of the life which my people led in the Holy Land. From a distance, too, I saw better the need for organization among our communities, and I determined to build up a fraternal union of the young Jewish men all over the country.
Two months after my return from America, an event occurred which gave impetus to these projects. The physician of our village, an old man who had devoted his entire life to serving and healing the people of Palestine, without distinction of race or religion, was driving home one evening in his carriage from a neighboring settlement. With him was a young girl of sixteen. In a deserted place they were set upon by four armed Arabs, who beat the old man to unconsciousness as he tried, in vain, to defend the girl from the terrible fate which awaited her.
Night came on. Alarmed by the absence of the physician, we young men rode out in search of him. We finally discovered what had happened; and then and there, in the serene moonlight of that Eastern night, with tragedy close at hand, I made my comrades take oath on the honor of their sisters to organize themselves into a strong society for the defense of the life and honor of our villagers and of our people at large.