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Frantz Oppenheimer was born in Berlin on 1864, to a preacher in the Reform Jewish community. On 1886 he was granted a doctor’s degree and married Martha Oppenheimer on 1890.After several years of working as a doctor in remote villages, he decided that “in order to heal man, one must first cure society”. He subsequently returned to Berlin and studied economics and sociology at the university, where he was introduced to socialism, communism and Zionism.

After graduation, Oppenheimer lectured at Berlin and Frankfurt universities, published articles about economical and social issues, and developed the “Cooperative conception“, which maintained that farmers must be free people who enjoy the profits of their agricultural products. This method was first applied in Freiland, a village near Berlin, but five years later the project failed due to severe economical and social problems. During that period, Dr. Oppenheimer met Hertzel and convinced him of his project’s advantages to such an extent that Hertzel declared, “It might be the best way for the Jews to settle in their homeland”. The project was supposed to facilitate the settlement of penniless crowds Eastern Europe in Israel.

In 1903 Oppenheimer attended the Sixth Zionist Congress in Vienna where he presented his plan for Zionist settlement in Israel, which was highly praised. Yet only the 9th Congress, in 1909, approved the instigation of an experimental cooperative farm in Israel, and when the lands of “ Fulla” were purchased, it was chosen as a location for the project.

Rabinovitz, Cooperation secretary and author of the book “Merchavia”, writes: “ Dr. Hertzel regarded Oppenheimer’s approach the best way to keep the land in the nation’s possession while encouraging the individual’s diligence and attachment to his farm. This system claims agriculture can flourish only if farmers receive their labor profits and recognize the economic advantages of cooperative farming. He aspired to unify these two principles: work in the farm must be cooperative, but each farmer will be aware that his diligence and talents are appreciated; therefore salary is paid according to work quality.” Upon arriving in Merchavia, Shlomo Dikke, Oppenheimer’s student and friend, expressed the Cooperation’s objectives in short (and in that period’s style): “ The Settlement Association endeavors to save workers from exploitation and provide them with the opportunity to develop and benefit from their production in accordance with individual competence.”

On 1913 Oppenheimer visited Merchavia, a profoundly moving experience for him, having witnessed the realization of his dream. The Cooperation members were greatly encouraged by his speech and vision. In 1917 he was ordained a sociology professor in Frankfurt University and published many articles and books about social and economic matters. The Cooperation project’s failure in 1918 deeply disappointed him, yet he continued visiting Israel. When Hitler became Germany’s leader, Oppenheimer left Germany for good. After an unsuccessful attempt to settle down in Israel, he moved to Los Angeles in 1940, where he raised his young daughter (from his second marriage) and wrote about workers unions, the communist system, the world crisis and other sociological -economical subjects.

Professor Oppenheimer died in 1943 and his descendants live in the United States, Germany and Israel. His grandson, Michael Oppenheimer, attended Merchavia’s high school as a boy and, years later, inaugurated (together with David Niv, son of Josef Rabinovitz, the Cooperation secretary) the visitor center that narrates the story of the Cooperation in Merchavia.

In order to coordinate your visit the Great Courtyard,
please call Shlomo Sdeur and inform him of the date and hour you will be coming. Mr. Sdeur’s cell phone number: 052/3638156.