P. 276

From 1,000 Settlements to Days of Wine and Dates
One of the most active departments of the Jewish Agency, before the establishment of the state and for many years afterwards, was the Settlement Department, which had a key role in the establishment of 1,000 settlements throughout Israel and in caring for them even after they settled the land. The Department's offices in the National Institutions Building always teemed with farmers and settlers, some young and some less young, who came to present their requests and claims.
Levi Eshkol, Raanan Weitz, Matityahu Drobles, David Calderon, Yehiel Admoni and Shimon Ravid headed the Department for years, and we wish to add to them Yehuda Dekel, who began working in the Department in the early Fifties and ended his work there after about forty years – at the end of an eight-year period as Director-General.
Dekel first worked in the "field," among other things in the establishment of the Lakhish Region and afterwards he headed the Jerusalem Region. He was the man who, one day in the summer of 1967, had several young people knocking on his door, headed by a particularly vigorous man named Hanan Porat, who expressed a wish to return and reestablish Kibbutz Kfar Etzion on its original site, once the area returned to Israeli hands after the Six-Day War. The others were the sons of the village's founders, most of whom had fallen during the battle in which Gush Etzion was conquered by the Jordanian Legion. Yehuda Dekel surprised his visitors by telling them that he had already toured the area and ordered the preparation of a plan for full restoration of Gush Etzion in general and Kfar Etzion in particular. The excited youth demanded to go out into the field immediately, and Dekel proposed that they wait until government approval is received. This was not easy for these excited youth however Dekel, who had better judgment, had insisted.
The approval arrived and shortly afterwards the young men renewed the settlement of Kfar Etzion. Yehuda Dekel proposed to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol that he go there and the photograph that was taken (see the following page) appeared in all the newspapers shows the Prime Minister in an army coat and Yehuda Dekel to his left.
In the following years, Dekel was responsible for integrating industry and tourism into agricultural settlements throughout Israel and is considered the father of the "Zimmers" (guest houses). In 1981, he was appointed as Director-General of the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency. He served in this position for eight years. These were economically and politically difficult years and the energetic Director-General had to put out many fires. Simultaneously, he made sure to introduce improvements and innovations to agriculture, and to integrate new sectors and crops therein. Several times a week, he would set out from his office in the National Institutions Building in Jerusalem to settlements both near and far and Israeli farmers knew that his office was open to all of them.
Two "sweet" examples of the innovations from his time as Director-General: The first example deals with wine. Yehuda Dekel knew that the wine sector in Israel had not progressed sufficiently in

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