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The Story of the City of Netanya

Published on Sunday May 3th, 2020

What do Nathan Strauss, Netanya, and the Titanic all have in common? Hashgacha Pratit (Divine Providence) and a love for the Jewish nation and the land of Israel.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, two of America's richest and most famous men were two Jewish brothers named Nathan and Isidor Strauss. Owners of the R. H. Macy's Department Store and founders of A & S (Abraham & Strauss). The brothers were multimillionaires, renowned for their philanthropy and social activism.

In 1912, the brothers and their wives traveled to Europe, when Nathan, the most ardent Zionist of the two, one day declared impulsively, "Why not go through Israel?". At that time, Israel was not a tourist country as it is today. Its population was ravaged by disease, famine, and poverty, but Nathan and Isidor had a strong sense of solidarity with their less fortunate brothers, and also wanted to see the health and social care centers they had donated millions of dollars to.

However, after a week of visiting, Isidor Strauss had had enough: "How many camels, building sites and yeshivas can you still go and see? It's time to leave," he told his brother with obvious. But Nathan refused to take his brother's imperious command into account. He was aware of the difficulties and living conditions in this country, and he wanted to stay.

After having spent a week in the country, Nathan realized the immense challenges that his Jewish brothers faced, and he felt responsible for them. "We cannot leave now!" he protested. Look at all the work that needs to be done here. We must help. We have the means to help. We cannot turn our backs on our people."

"Then we will send them more money," his brother replied. I just want to get out of here."

But Nathan felt that money was not enough. He felt that the Jews who lived in such dire circumstances in Israel needed the presence of their brethren: their initiative, their leadership, and their ideas. Isidor did not agree.

They discussed this over many times, and finally, Isidor said, "If you insist, stay here. Ida and I are returning to America, the country to which we belong," and the two brothers separated. Isidor and his wife returned to Europe, while Nathan and his wife stayed in Israel. They traveled the country and donated huge sums of money to education, health and welfare institutions for the needy.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, Isidor Strauss was preparing to return home to America aboard a liner for which he had also made reservations for his brother, Nathan and his wife. "You must leave Israel immediately," he wrote urgently in a telegram to his brother. I made reservations for you, and if you do not arrive here very quickly, you will miss the boat."

Nathan decided to join his brother to return to America, but, while visiting a soup kitchen in Jerusalem, he fell and broke his leg, delaying his departure for England.

He arrived in London on April 12, but the ship has already left the port of Southampton to days earlier, with his brother Isidor and sister-in-law Ida aboard. Nathan was inconsolable, he had missed the boat, as his brother had warned. Indeed, it was not an ordinary expedition, a daily cruise that he had lost, but the maiden voyage of the most famous ship of the century: the Titanic.

***

Nathan was overwhelmed with sorrow as he mourned his brother and sister-in-law. He could not get rid of the feeling that he had made history.

This feeling that he had been spared by divine intervention did not leave his consciousness for the rest of his life. He continued his philanthropic activities until the day of his death in 1931, with unparalleled intensity, and he devoted two-thirds of his fortune to help the Jews of Israel.

Among his actions, he financed the development of a brand-new city on the shores of the Mediterranean. Since his name was Nathan and he was the main donor of the city, the founders named it after him and called it ... Natanya, which also means "Gift of G-d".

Today, Natanya is a picturesque seaside resort of 200,000 inhabitants, and one of the thriving diamond trade headquarters in Israel. In almost every part of the city, there is a little reminder of Nathan Strauss's generosity, his humanity, and his love for his people. His legacy lives on.

The Torah-Box Team - © Torah-Box

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