Introduction

This website is dedicated to the man who facilitated the funds to the Anglo Palestine Bank in Yaffo to purchase a piece of land. On this piece of land, Kerem Jabali, the first houses of Tel Aviv were build on a street which is now known as Rothschild Boulevard. When the Ottomans found out this land was registered on the name of the Jew Jacobus Kann, the Dutch Government was asked to send a warship to Yaffo to protect (t)his property.

Theodor Herzl, who wrote the blueprint, is maybe our most honored man and the 60 families who came from Yaffa to build their houses in Kerem Jabali are remembered with a memorial on that boulevard. But the man who made this important land purchase possible somehow got lost in history and is in no way commemorated by the municipality of Tel Aviv.

Like Herzl, Kann was exposed to the Jewish national idea as a result of the Dreyfuss affair. Jacobus Kann visited the first Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897 and got excited after hearing Herzl. He became Herzl’s aide, especially on financial matters. He then, together with David Wolffsohn, founded the Jewish Colonial Trust (Bank) and the Jewish National Fund. Herzl, Wolffsohn and Kann were the core of the International Zionist Movement during its first decade. In 1908 Kann published a book in which he demanded an autonomous Jewish state in Palestine with means to defend itself, the first important Zionist to say such a thing and a reason to clash with many other (practical) zionists. He was also well aware of the native people in Palestine and criticized the way the Zionist movement approached the Arabs.

Kann envisioned millions of Jews coming and could foresee many problems with the existing infrastructure. On his own account and with his own money he instructed a Dutch engineer to make development plans for Jerusalem including a new water system, electrical street lighting and a light rail. Jerusalem was using the water aqueduct from the Hasmoneans from the 1st century BC at that time!

The banker and backbone of the Zionist movement when it comes to finance, was also the person trusted by the Americans when they sent shiploads of money to Palestine during WWI. In this war Kann, as a citizen of a neutral country, acted as intermediary in sending mail to Zionist leaders who resided in different belligerent countries and pressured the Dutch Government to mediate in remittances to the Jews in Palestine. After WWI he became the first Dutch consul in Mandatory Palestine for The Netherlands.

It is not only in Tel Aviv that they “forgot” him, nowhere in Israel do you find recognition for Kann and his deeds. Only Jerusalem named a square in Kiryat Yovel after him which, according to Yad Vashem, is to commemorate transport XXIV/7 from Westerbork to Theresienstadt where he died on October 7, 1944.