MembersToporovsky’s Wonder Plow

The incredible contribution of an early Zionist pioneer would be all but forgotten if not for a single letter

By Tsvi Sadan | | Topics: Zionism
Photo: Courtesy of Rishon Letzion Museum

The elders of Rishon Letzion still remember the otherwise all-but-forgotten Yitzhak Lieb Toporovsky (1866-1938), who revolutionized the traditional wooden plow used in the Holy Land from time immemorial. Even the name of his great-grandson, Boaz Toporovsky, today a Member of Knesset with the “Blue and White” party, means little to most Israelis, who know next to nothing about this humble man whose physical prowess made him a legend.

A religious Jew from Yekaterinoslav (today’s Dnipro) in Ukraine, Toporovsky started working from early age in a local locksmith’s workshop. In 1882, at the age of 16, he arrived to Israel on his own, thus becoming part of the legendary first wave of Zionist immigration (First Aliya). Several months after his arrival, Toporovsky joined the first 10 Jews who established the agricultural colony of Rishon Letzion.

Lacking money, agrarian knowledge and water, the first attempts to cultivate the poor soil of Rishon were dismal failures. Thanks to funds and agronomists sent by Baron Edmond Rothschild, however, the new colony was able to dig a life-saving water well, plant vineyards and orchards,...

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