A Visit to Palestine
Henrietta Szold, 1860 - 1945
In the wake of the nervous exhaustion that followed her disappointment over Louis Ginzberg, the Jewish Publication Society granted Szold a 6-month leave which she used to travel abroad with her mother in the fall of 1909. An additional gift of $500 from JPS enabled an added trip to Palestine, which proved to be a turning point in Szold's life.
Refusing to be limited by the usual Holy Land itinerary during their month-long stay, Szold and her 70-year-old mother set out in a horse-drawn cart visiting struggling agricultural settlements around the Galilee. There, and in the poor quarters of Jerusalem, they were appalled by the poverty and disease rampant among Muslim, Christian, and Jewish inhabitants. Szold's later recollection of the inspiration for Hadassah cited her mother's response to these conditions in reference to Henrietta's New York Zionist study circle, "this is what your group ought to do â?¦ You should do practical work in Palestine."
On her return to New York, Szold immersed herself more deeply in Zionist activities. She presented a slide lecture of her Palestine visit that introduced Jewish women's audiences to the challenges faced by Zionist pioneers. She spoke of the promise that Western hygiene could bring to women in Palestine together with the spiritual uplift that such work could bestow upon women in the Diaspora.
Szold also accepted the position of secretary to the fledgling Federation of American Zionists and the burden of bringing order to its woefully disorganized files and finances, a task she likened to "cleaning up other people's augean stables."