In 1875, Eliezer Rokach, from Safad, together with several of his friends from the Old Yishuv, purchased half the land of the Arab village, Gei On, located at the foothills of Safad, near the Safad-Tiberias road. In 1878, 17 Jewish families from Safad settled there. They named the settlement Gei Oni, very much like the Arab name. The aim of the settlers was to change their way of life and end their dependence on money from the Distribution. However, drought, famine and disease (including plague which wiped out their cattle) and their lack of experience in farming forced the settlers to leave the place. Most of those who survived the diseases returned to Safad. There they were received with hostility resulting from the bitter ideological dispute that had been caused by their leaving Safad, a religious community dependent on money from the Distribution, to form an agricultural settlement. Only three families remained in Gei Oni.
From Gei Oni to Rosh Pina
In 1882, a group of 30 Hassidic families from Moineşti, Romania decided to make “aliyah” and to work at farming. They arrived at Gei Oni, whose land had been purchased by their agent, David Shuv. They decided to change the name to Rosh Pina from Psalm 118, verse 23. “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone… “. The change in the name hinted at the settlers’ intention to lay the cornerstone and renew the settlement of the moshava. Those settlers who weren’t farmers suffered from a variety of hardships and financial problems. In 1883The Baron Rothschild came to the rescue of Rosh Pina and the moshava was the first to come under his patronage. In return for transferring all the land and the buildings to the Baron, he made sure the moshava would continue to exist and develop and he paid off all its debts. He built a spacious home for every family, arranged for different services, such as a doctor, a teacher, a kosher slaughterer and a rabbi. The control of the moshava was in the hands of his clerks. Over the years a synagogue was built (1887), the first national Hebrew school in the Galilee (1899) was founded by Yitzhak Epstein, a plant to produce silk threads, a winery, an olive oil press and the first hotel in the Galilee, among other things, were built.
At the start of the 20th century, Rosh Pina was the fourth largest moshava in the Land of Israel. In 1900, following the faulty administration of the Baron’s clerks and the many disagreements between the clerks and the farmers, the Baron Rothschild transferred the moshava to the aegis of PICA, which was subordinate to the Baron Hirsch.