Posts Tagged ‘Galilee’

Introduction

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Behind the Arab-Israel conflict a yawning ideological dichotomy separates Zionists and Arab Palestinian nationalists, each adopting a divergent historical interpretation of the socio-political landscape in pre-1918 Palestine.

Zionists assert that prior to their immigration, Palestine was desolate and under-populated and that much of the arable land in the plains remained untilled while other areas were malarial swamp. With backbreaking labour and overcoming malarial disease they started to drain the swamps and convert abandoned land to being highly productive.

In contrast Arab Palestinian nationalists assert:

  • Palestine was not desolate and without population;
  • Indigenous Arabs occupied and worked the land from time immemorial;
  • Jewish immigration and land purchases pushed Arab fellahin off the land and forced them to move to the towns where they were compelled to change their lifestyles and find alternative employment if they were so able.

Neither scenario is devoid of some element of truth.

Geography, politics and demographics of the region all undoubtedly shaped the outcome of the struggle being played out between the opposing Jewish and Arab interests but other influences operating internationally influenced the local scene.

In addition, cultural differences between Jews and Arabs began to play a highly significant role in generating the animus and hostility which characterised the emerging political landscape.

To enable readers to weigh and evaluate the respective claims and counterclaims, a clearer understanding of the various factors which bear on their validity is an essential prerequisite, and they are here summarised:

Settled Population Affected by Topography and Marauders

The coastal plains being ipso facto vulnerable to marauding Bedouin tribes were more or less desolate and unproductive:

  • The Northern coastal plain  – was swamp-like and malaria-ridden as was the land around the Hula lake and the Lake of Galilee;
  • The Southern coastal plains – were inundated with sand dunes
  • To the extent that such land was capable of being cultivated, wild marauding Bedouin tribes present in the area discouraged any permanent rural settlement or agricultural development.

As a consequence:

  • Arab urban and rural settlements were to be found mainly in the hill country west of the Jordan River in Judea and Samaria and parts of the Galilee, avoiding the coastal plain.
  • Jews, prior to acquiring and developing the barren coastal plains, had a significant urban presence in and around Jerusalem, Tiberias, Safad and Jaffa and in other smaller towns.

This subject is examined in greater detail in Section 1 below

Aside from these conditions there were a number of other factors external to Palestine which also contributed to the complex dynamics of the region.

Egyptian Population Migrations into Palestine – increased the indigenous Arab population beyond its natural birth rate.

The migrants included:

  • those fleeing from compulsory military service 1839 – 1849 in the Egyptian army;
  • deserters from the Egyptian army following its the withdrawal from Palestine after a ten year military occupation; and
  • those seeking to avoid forced labour in the construction of the Suez Canal 1861-1871.

Section 2 below expands this point

Foreign Diplomatic Political and Economic Pressure on Ottoman Independence

The Ottoman government, (seated at the ‘Sublime Porte’ or entry to the Sultan’s Palace in Constantinople – now Istanbul) referred to by Europeans as the ‘Porte’, was subject to strong European pressure and influence. This was exerted through:

  • exploitation of the ‘Capitulations’ – provisions in international agreements between European states and the Ottoman government granting trade preferences and customs concessions – extended well beyond their originally intended scope. The term ‘Capitulations’ is derived from the Italian ‘capitula’ meaning a chapter or paragraph in the agreement

(see Section 3.a below); and

  • restructuring the financial loan arrangements for the repayment of the enormous Ottoman debts owed  to the Europeans incurred by the former in fighting the Crimean War and the suppressing of ethnic uprisings in the Empire. (Section 3.b)

European Political and Financial Pressure Induced Changes in Ottoman Internal Policy

These changes included

  • the opening of its domestic markets to foreign investment in general;
  • reform of its land ownership, registration and land taxation systems. (Section 3.c.ii); and
  • modernisation of its civilian administrative structure and military organisation (Section 3.d).

all of which caused changes in the loci centres of power of the Palestinian Arab elites’ and brought social and economic consequences in the welfare of the fellah (See Section 4. below)

Internal Changes within the Ottoman Empire  Created Further Opportunities for European Intrusion.

These changes resulted in Non-Ottoman citizens being permitted to acquire land freely without obtaining a special permit. This stimulated Christian religious institutions to acquire property in the Holy Land (see Section 5.a). Religious European and Yemenite Jews were also drawn to return to Eretz Yisrael by their ethnic, cultural and religious roots and their belief of an immanent messianic appearance (see Section 5.b).

However, the most powerful force leading to a Jewish return to Eretz Yisrael lay in European anti-Semitism. In Rumania and Russia, this was overtly violent (pogroms) and in Western Europe, notwithstanding the removal of legal obstacles to Jewish assimilation in France and Germany, was covert and discriminatory; in the Dreyfus affair there was even a conspiracy.

These latter events and Jewish attempts to convert them into a positive force supporting Jewish nationalism in the Zionist movement are examined in Chapter V.

1. General Topography and Population

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Several adverse characteristics prevailing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries shaped the economic and social conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean region: under-population, marauding Bedouin clans, poverty, malarial sickness and lack of investment in efficient and scientific land utilisation.

The many descriptions of the region provided by travellers and foreign consuls at the time were generally not grounded on hard data or academic research. They failed to take into consideration that conditions which prevailed in some parts of Palestine did not pertain in others. In examining its economic and political development, Palestine must be divided into

  • four longitudinal regions paralleling the Mediterranean Sea: (i) the coastal plain, (ii) the hilly region (the Negev and the south) (iii) Judea and Samaria in the central region and (iv) the Galilee in the north;
  • the Jordan Valley which lies to the east of the Galilee and includes the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias) which forms part of the Great Rift Valley;
  • the hills of Transjordan.

(see Y. Karmon, Israel: A Regional Geography, John Wiley & Sons London, 1981)

These regions differed from one another in respect of the ethnic origin, population growth and decline, agricultural development and economic vitality.

  • To the extent that land in the coastal and other plains was capable of being cultivated, wild marauding Bedouin tribes present in these areas discouraged any permanent rural settlement or agricultural development. Consequently the lower flat lying areas were more or less desolate and unproductive. In addition:
  • the Northern and central coastal plains were swamp-like and malaria-ridden as was the land around the Hula lake and the Lake of Galilee;
  • the Southern coastal plains were inundated with sand dunes;
  • Consequently, Arab urban and rural settlements tended to avoid the coastal plains and were to be found mainly in the hill country west of the Jordan River in Judea and Samaria and parts of the Galilee,
  • Jews, prior to acquiring and developing the barren coastal plains, had a significant urban presence in and around Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias, Safad and Jaffa and in other smaller towns.

a.  The Land and Its Indigenous Rural Population

For many centuries, travellers to Palestine described it as sparsely populated, poorly cultivated and widely neglected – an expanse of eroded hills, sandy deserts and malarial marshes. European consuls located in Jerusalem and Cairo during the 18th and 19th centuries confirmed these opinions.

Mark Twain, who had visited the Holy land in 1867, described it as

“[a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds – a silent mournful expanse… Desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action… We never saw a human being on the whole route…there was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country” (Twain “Innocents Abroad” cited in Bard Myths and Facts AICE 2001, p. 30)

The Report of the 1937 Palestine Royal Commission quotes what it believed to be a truthful and unbiased description of the Maritime Plain as it existed in 1913:

”The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts…no orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen until one reached [the Jewish village of] Yabna [Yavne]….Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen….The ploughs used were of wood….The yields were very poor….The sanitary conditions in the village were horrible. Schools did not exist….The western part, towards the sea, was almost a desert. . . . The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants”. (Cmd. 5479  p. 233)

The Report also drew on contemporary descriptions of the economic situation in Palestine, written in the 1830s and supplied to the Commission by Lewis French, the British Director of Development:

We found it inhabited by fellahin who lived in mud hovels and suffered severely from the prevalent malaria…. Large areas…were uncultivated… The fellahin, if not themselves cattle thieves, were always ready to harbour these and other criminals. The individual plots…changed hands annually. There was little public security, and the fellahin’s lot was an alternation of pillage and blackmail by their neighbours, the Bedouin”. (Cmd. 5479  pp. 259-260)

Meyer Levin, the American writer (1905 -1981) recounts in “My Search” that it was impossible to travel directly northwards from Tel Aviv to Netanya, some 25 km away without deviating a considerable distance inland because of the intervening marshland. The present-day route of the “old” Tel Aviv – Haifa road still reflects this.

Derived from the reports of foreign travellers and early settlers (Oliphant), cartographers (Van de Velde), and foreign exploratory expeditions (Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF)), Arie Avneri, in a detailed study provides a description of the topographical and demographic conditions prevailing in the various regions of Palestine immediately prior to Jewish settlement.

(Arie L. Avnieri, The Claim of Dispossession- Jewish Land-Settlement and the Arabs 1878-1948, Yad Tabenkin, Efal, Israel 1982 “Avnieri”)

For example, he notes the fertility of the soil but the sparseness of population and lack of agricultural development in the valleys of the Hula, Kinorot, and the Kishon, owing to their marshy and malarial conditions.

In the valleys of Beit-Shean, Jezreel, and Zevulun, located on the trade routes and where permanent human habitation was possible, Bedouin raids on the settlements – especially in drought years – discouraged any permanent Arab settlement.

Mount Carmel was also waste land. Development was ruined by foreign and local wars and its western slope was malaria ridden, all of which contributed to the abandonment of seventeen villages before Jewish settlers arrived in 1882
(Avnieri pp 49-50).

The coastal area of Samaria (Shomron) starting at the foot of Mount Carmel and stretching south to the Sharon Plain was in a state of desolation and completely ravaged after the military campaigns of Napoleon and Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt (see Section 2 below).

The coastal Sharon Plain was poorly cultivated owing to the sandy nature of the soil and marshlands created by the Alexandra River and further south by sand dunes. Those villages which did exist, described in 1874 by C.R.Condor, were miserable and half in ruins, the villagers downtrodden and browbeaten by money–thirsty absentee landlords (Avneiri p.53).

The Mountain Regions were varied in their population. Parts around Tulkarm were relatively well populated, providing a refuge from malaria and protection against Bedouin raiders. Nevertheless, internal feuds between village clans caused many villages to be destroyed, although their inhabitants tended to remain in the area. The lack of security, however, inhibited the fellahin from investing much effort in improving the soil conditions.

Villages lower down the mountain and closer to the sea, such as Auja, Sidna Ali, Ramadan, Kabani and Hadera, were scattered and thinly populated, because of the sandy soil, punctuated by swampy stretches.

Southern Judea and the Negev, although not plagued by malaria, were no better for agricultural use or permanent settlement. These regions lacked rain and were frequently drought ridden, and the soil was sandy, being often invaded by sand dunes.

By way of contrast, Gaza in 1886 was a town with a population of some 20,000 inhabitants (but see section 2 as to their place of origin). Its people were poor and lived mostly from trade with the Egyptians. In the narrow strip between the coastal sands and desert interior, some fellahin were found to be growing fruit, watermelons and vegetables.

b.  Lack of Security for Persons and Property

During the first three decades of the 19th century, Palestine, like the remainder of the Ottoman Empire, was in a general state of decline and stagnation. Despite the ten years of Egyptian military occupation of Palestine between 1831-1841 which brought in its wake significant Egyptian migration (see section 2 below), the total indigenous population of the area did not exceed 250,000.

Under Ottoman rule the Arab male fellahin were extremely insecure both in their person and economically, being eligible both for military conscription while at the same time suffering Egyptian and Bedouin incursions into their homesteads.

Bedouin terror prevented any significant permanent settlement in the principal plains of Palestine – the coastal plain and the Plain of Esdraelon – and compelled the Arab fellahin to retreat to the hill country of Judea and Samaria, which was more secure but less productive.

“According to Turkish registration books from 1596, it seems that the [coastal plain] served as home to Bedouins (Arab nomads) and Turkish and Kurdish nomads. In the eighteenth century, according to tradition, the amir (chief) of the Hawara Bedouins, who hailed from Bilad Hareth …in Eastern trans-Jordan, occupied part of the coastal plain by force. Hawara Bedouins did not cultivate the land; rather they occupied themselves with brigandage and inter-tribal wars. The outcome of their predatory activities was that Wadi Hawarith was described in the nineteenth century as abandoned, swampy, and malaria-ridden and that its passage was dangerous. The lands of the Wadi were described by the Ottoman governor of the Jerusalem region (1906-7) as abandoned lands that were sparsely inhabited by Bedouins”…

“Thus only a small part of the country was being used for agriculture.  The towns of Palestine at the beginning of the last [19th] century are best defined as large villages each built on a small area and possessing a limited economic base and a small population of up to 10,000”

(Ruth Kark, Changing Patterns of Land Ownership in Nineteenth-Century Palestine, (1984) 10 J of Historical Geography, 357, 374 ; ‘Landownership and Spatial Change in Nineteenth Century Palestine in Transition from Spontaneous to Regulated Spatial Organisation’ Inst. of Geography and Spatial Organisation, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, 1983 (“Kark 1983”) pp 185-187

Even by 1895, after the rural population had descended from part of the hilly areas and had begun to settle in plains, only ten per cent of the total area of Palestine was under cultivation, (Kark 1983 p. 189) notwithstanding that Arab urban entrepreneurs and absentee landlords had begun to assemble large tracts of land for resale, following the Ottoman land reform legislation (see section 3.c.ii. below).

c.    Fellah’s Economic Situation

Economically, the fellah was generally in a state of chronic poverty and indebtedness to his absentee landlord, seed suppliers and money lenders, owing to a number of interrelated causes: poor soil, lack of water, poor means of communication with the towns, unsuitable marketing arrangements, frequent crop season failures, and an antiquated land system. Even before the first modern Jewish settlement, established in 1855, Palestinian Arab society was already socially fragmented between the peasantry and landowning interests. This became exacerbated after the Ottoman land reform in 1858.

(Haim Gerber, The Social Origins of the Modern Middle East, Lynne Rienner, London, 1987, p.75  (‘Gerber).

Thus, while Palestine as a whole cannot be said to have been desolate and without population as claimed by the Zionists, its people were certainly not thriving. In the hilly areas, the Arab population, while not poverty stricken, was barely self-sustaining. In the plains and the valleys the travellers’ descriptions were a true reflection of the situation – vast desolate expanses devoid of permanent population, malaria infested and subject to the uncontrolled power of the nomadic Bedouin.

Aside from these environmental conditions there were a number of other factors that also contributed to the complex dynamics of the region.

2. Egyptian Population Migrations into Palestine

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Palestinian Arabs have long argued that they have been indigenous to the area for generations- indeed some claim from time immemorial. This may be true for a segment of the population living in the hill country but in the remainder of Palestine, the reality is otherwise: there were considerable Egyptian and other Arab population movements into and out of Palestine taking place.

The indigenous population of the plains, such as it was, was migratory in character. In addition to the insecurity created by marauders, the environmental, physical economic conditions of the area were hard. Fellahin would come, settle for a short time and move on when living conditions became intolerable. In particular, other than in the hills, rural settlement was threatened by Turkoman devastation. However the Arab population increased beyond its natural birth rate due to significant migration into Palestine from Egypt fleeing from compulsory military service 1839 – 1849 or forced labour on the Suez Canal construction 1858-1869.

a.   Inward Arab Settlement of Palestine pre 1918

Inward migratory settlement came from both Ottoman (Turkish) and Egyptian sources:

i.    Ottoman Grant of Asylum to Muslim Refugees

The Ottomans granted asylum to Moslem refugees fleeing from their homelands for political and religious reasons:

  • After the French conquest of Algeria in 1830, many Algerians settled in Lower and Upper Galilee.  This region also attracted other immigrant Moslem Arabs from Damascus, and Kurds from Syria;
  • In 1878, the Ottomans permitted Circassian refugees fleeing from Christian-Russian rule in the Caucasus to settle in cis- and trans-Jordan;
  • Turkoman tribes from the mountains of Iraq were allowed ultimately to settle on the slopes of Mount Carmel;
  • In 1908, Arabs from Yemen settled in Jaffa.

ii.      Egyptian Émigrés

One of the most important Arab migrations into Palestine came from Egypt during the early and min-nineteenth century.

  • Egyptian Army Conscription
  • Muhammad Ali, (aka Mehemet Ali) the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt between 1805-1849, instituted a number of administrative reforms within his territory. Most significantly he established a standing army by means of conscription in 1829. As a consequence, many Egyptian peasants fled to Palestine to avoid such service. This was to be of little avail, because Ali’s son, Ibrahim Pasha, invaded and occupied Palestine between 1831-1841 and they again came under his control. During this period he ‘imported’ more Egyptian labourers into Palestine in addition to those who were already there.
  • Ultimately, Ottoman forces supported by the European powers – especially Britain – forced Ibrahim Pasha to withdraw. In the process, however, his army suffered considerable desertion from its ranks, and those who escaped remained in Palestine, hiding in small settlements. British intelligence estimated that the number of troops reaching Cairo in the withdrawal approximated some 33,000, compared with 125,000 before the retreat, leaving 92,000 unaccounted for.
  • In the 1860’s over 1.5 million Egyptian labourers were conscripted for the construction of the Suez Canal, of whom 120,000 died in the process. This, too, may also have created an impetus to flee Egypt and to settle in Palestine. (Arieh L. Avneri, The Claim of Dispossession Jewish Land- Settlement and the Arabs 1878-1948, Yad Tabenkin, Efal, Israel, Herzl Press, New York 1982 (hereinafter  ‘Avneri’);  Interview Prof. David Grossman 28.07.08)
  • Employment Opportunities on Public Works Projects

Inward migration to Palestine was also stimulated by new employment opportunities. The Ottoman government commenced railway, road and port construction projects in Palestine, most of which was financed from Europe. These works created increased commercial traffic through the ports of Jaffa and Haifa and the general economic boom that attracted Arab labour from Egypt, Syria and Trans-Jordan, as well as the indigenous Palestinian fellah.

Egyptian settlers particularly were scattered among many urban and rural points, appropriating large tracts of land and lending variety and numbers to the existing population. The Ghawarna and Arab ez-Zubeid Bedouin tribes and other Egyptian immigrants settled in the Hula (near the Sea of Galilee) and Beit-Sheaan Valleys; members of the Arab el-Ufi and ed-Damair tribes settled respectively in Wadi Hawarith (near Tulkarm) and in the vicinity of Hadera;  while other Egyptian migrants settled in and around Jaffa.

The assimilation of the Egyptians with the indigenous Arab population was a drawn-out process. After his visit to Palestine in 1917, Philip Baldensperger relates that the existing population of Jaffa, although essentially Arab, contained at least twenty five different nationalities, most of them Palestinian and Egyptian Arabs (Avneri p.14).

b.   Outward Arab Migration Caused  by Personal and Property Insecurity Within Palestine

Although Arab migration into Palestine increased, the total Arab population in the nineteenth century rose only slightly, because of internecine strife leading to internal instability which caused significant emigration:

i.  numerous and incessant village and factional internal wars:

  • between “Quais” and the “Yaman” villages located near Jerusalem (see Ruth Kark and Michal Oren-Nordheim, Jerusalem and its Environs, Quarters Neighbourhoods Villages , 1800 -1948, Wayne State University Press, 2001, pp 232-234)
  • in Nablus, between the pro-Egyptian Abd el-Hadi faction and pro-Turkish Tuqan faction;
  • along the ridge of Mount Carmel seventeen Druse villages were destroyed in the chaos which followed in the wake of the Egyptian retreat from Palestine;
  • during the late 1830’s, 1860’s and 1870’s, Bedouins ousted  fellahin from  the Jordan Valley, the Sharon Plain, Beit Shean and the Jezreel Valley, leaving the land desolate and uncultivated; (Avneri, pp 20-22)
  • in the Hebron region during the late 1890’s, between the Bedouin ed-Dulam and fellahin of Yatta village.

ii.  Marauding Bedouins uprooted settled fellahin, stimulating their emigration.

The nature and extent of Bedouin attacks have been discussed earlier and they were a prime factor in creating outward migration

iii  Arab emigration to North and South America
Palestine experienced significant Arab emigration by those who perceived  a better life in the New World.  Avneri quotes Arthur Ruppin, a contemporary sociologist, as stating:

There is emigration from the Christian districts, such as Bethlehem, Beit-Jala and Ramallah to North and South America, even though in smaller numbers than in Lebanon…. The American Consul in Jerusalem (Daily Consular Trade Reports 6-6-14) estimates the emigration from the Jerusalem District at 3000 annually, of whom 30% are Christians, 35% Moslems and 35% Jews. Thus from the Jerusalem District alone, 2000 Arabs emigrated annually (pp. 25-26)

A similar population exodus occurred from the north of Palestine in the area of Safed.

iv. Escapees from Turkish Army Conscription

During World War I many young Arab men fled from Palestine in order to evade Turkish military conscription.

In addition to those fleeing from conscription, the Ottoman central military authorities concluded that the presence of Arabs and Jews in coastal plains constituted a security threat. However the regional military commander applied a discriminatory policy of expulsion. Arabs were left undisturbed. Jews on the other hand were expelled from the port areas of Jaffa and Haifa. But for the intervention of the German government, they would also have been expelled from the coastal lands which they had developed agriculturally.
(see Isaiah Friedman, Germany, Turkey and Zionism 1897-1918, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1977,pp.—)

Thus, in summary and contrary to contemporary Palestinian claims, a very large percentage of Arab settlers in Palestine were neither indigenous nor had they worked the land from time immemorial. Like the Jews, they too, were immigrants who settled only a generation or two prior to the start of significant Jewish immigration.

5. External Responses to Ottoman Internal Changes

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

One of the most significant changes in Ottoman internal policy which impacted on foreign interests generally and sectarian concerns in particular (both Christian and Jewish), related to the acquisition of land in Eretz Yisrael- Palestine.

As explained earlier the sale of land to Christians and Jews under 1858 Ottoman land reformation legislation was generated not by a new liberalism per se. On the contrary, the internal economic exigencies associated with the costs of the Ottoman centralisation of its public administration and discharging its foreign indebtedness made the Porte more vulnerable to foreign influence, brought to bear by respective foreign consuls.

a.   Christian Land Acquisitions.

Events in Europe in the latter half of the nineteenth century and first two decades of the twentieth brought a degree of Christian interest in developing their holy sites. The objective of these acquisitions was to gain and maintain control over distinctive and separate Christian holy places in Palestine and to establish religious institutions.

For the Christians, these purchases were motivated by missionary, humanitarian, philanthropic, social and political objectives. Other, private, individual investors were also encouraged by the Ottoman government to acquire and develop land, especially if they surrendered their European citizenship and assumed that of the Ottomans.

France gave its support to the Roman Catholic acquisition in Nazareth (and to the Maronite Christians), Russia supported the Eastern Church in Jerusalem and Germany supported the Templar settlements in Jerusalem and Haifa. Britain extended its protection to the Anglicans and also to the Jews.

According to Professor Kark, the churches and the missions were the most active land purchasers among the Christians in the second half of the nineteenth century. Prominent among them were the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Roman Catholics, Armenians, Anglicans, German Evangelist Community and smaller churches, including Ethiopians, Copts, and Greek Catholics. In the aggregate, the Christian Churches acquired both directly and indirectly through Ottoman nominees extensive urban property interests in and around Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Haifa, Beit Jalla, Acre and large rural holdings in areas that were sparsely populated, such as the Coastal Plain, Jezreel Valley, Galilee, Beit Shaan, and Jordan Valley. This activity provided a purchasable (fluid) inventory of relatively empty and inexpensive lands. (Kark p. 362).

Kark also makes particular reference to The Temple Society founded in Germany during the mid-nineteenth century, whose members believed in the importance of settling in Palestine. It established centres in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem, as well as a number of small villages. On the eve of World War I, the Society’s population in the cities amounted to some 1,400 persons, in addition to 624 persons in the villages (Kark p.365)

Initiatives by private investors in land development were also forthcoming from European entrepreneurs, amongst whom were Emil Bergheim, a banker who established a  farm near Tel Gezer managed on European principles and equipped with modern machinery, Swiss-born Johannes Frutinger – both of whom were German subjects, and British-born Lawrence Oliphant.

In addition to establishing their own religious institutions, a number of influential Christians writers, notably Alexander Keith of the Church of Scotland, writing in 1843, English social reformer, Lord Shaftsbury, in his 1853 correspondence with Foreign Minister, Lord Palmerston, and William Eugene Blackstone, an American Christian, writing in 1881 on his return to the United States after a visit to the area, saw for themselves the extent of human habitation in Palestine or, more accurately, the relative absence of it, and advocated the restoration of a Jewish population to Palestine as an essential part of their respective belief systems.

b.   Religious Jewish Land Acquisition

i.  Expansion of Existing Urban Settlement.

Religiously motivated Jewish migration from Europe (and also from Yemen) in anticipation of the coming of the messianic millennium succeeded in encouraging only a very limited Jewish migration to Palestine.

The faith of religious Jews in Palestine was sorely tested by political-sectarian violence and by natural and human disasters.

Politically, between 1831-1841, Muslim authorities and the local Arab population encouraged Arab fellahin to rebel against the rule of Egyptian Muhammed Ali’s son, Ibrahim Pasha, during his occupation of  Palestine. In the process, they rampaged against the Jews of Safed and other towns, looting their property; destroying their homes; desecrating their synagogues and study-houses; raping, beating and, in many cases, killing Jews.

In 1837 an earthquake killed more than two thousand Jews in the Galilee; the Messiah failed to appear in 1840, contrary to the predictions of the Kabalists; and plagues raged throughout the region.

Despite these setbacks, Jewish religiously motivated urban migration continued to grow but at a low rate. It must be borne in mind that the religious Jewish urban communities were not self-sustaining. Their male population did not engage in agriculture, manufacturing or commerce, but were, in the main, committed to the performance of religious precepts, the study of Jewish religious texts and the philosophic evolution of religious thought (including Kabbalah). It was the Jewish woman who, in addition to caring for their husbands and households, engaged in ‘trade’ and marketing. The communities relied upon the distribution (‘halukah’) of financial donations sent voluntarily by Jewish communities in the diaspora or collected by Jewish emissaries sent from Palestine for that purpose.

(see Andrew G. Bostom, Under Turkish Rule, FrontPage magazine July 27, 2007 (Part I) http://frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=68314118-6D77-4E06-B4D5-282AF4285BC9  and Part II August  3, 2007 http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=3CA6CAE4-04C9-4AC6-BA1C-08B047719A1A

In 1855, English missionary W.H. Bartlett records in his book, ‘Jerusalem Revisited,’ that the Jewish community in Jerusalem numbered over 11,000. James Finn, the second British consul in Jerusalem, confirms this fact in his book Stirring Times, published in 1878.  Other writers, notably, Mary Elisa, Andrew Bonar and W.F. Lynch, confirm in their respective books and reports during the 1840-1860’s an increased Jewish immigration and active Jewish communities and institutions in Haifa, Nablus and Jaffa, respectively. (see Behat)

Notwithstanding the danger to life and limb from Bedouin raids, pillage and general banditry in the region, Jewish residents of the Old City of Jerusalem were compelled, by reasons of overcrowding and insanitary conditions prevailing there, to seek the aid of Sir Moses Montefiore in establishing Jewish urban settlement outside the walls of the City.

Montefiore had already received a firman from the Sultan allowing for the reconstruction of a synagogue in the Old City. In the process he took the opportunity of purchasing a tract of land to the west of the city as the site for almshouses, Mishkenot Sha’ananim, for Jerusalem’s Jewish population overflow. In 1859, however, implementation of the project was suspended under orders of the local Ottoman authorities, who were no longer willing to classify it as a business or trade or even to consider it as philanthropy (which would have been permissible). It took a year of considerable effort to persuade Fuad Pasha, the Ottoman Foreign Minister, to grant Sir Moses an ‘exceptional permission’ to proceed with the construction of housing (which without the special permission would have been prohibited) for twenty families. The project was completed and dedicated in 1861. (Friedman, 1977, p. 36)

The continuing growth of the Jewish urban population in Eretz Yisrael put pressure on the community to create a second urban settlement outside Jerusalem’s walls. In 1880, Mea Shearim was established by a building society comprising 100 shareholders, who pooled their resources to acquire a tract of land a little farther away from Mishkenot Sha’ananim. Constructed by both Jewish and non-Jewish workers, 100 apartments were ready for occupancy by October 1880. Development continued, such that, by the turn of the century, the suburb had 300 houses, a flour mill and a bakery.

However, the existing Jewish population could barely sustain itself – let alone expand – being downtrodden, poverty stricken and lacking local resources. Support – financial, human and spiritual – had to come from the European Jewish Diaspora.  But even this was not achieved without difficulty.

  • Indeed one of the main fears lying in the hearts of the existing Jewish urban settlements was that the haluka on which they relied would be reduced if demands for other purposes were made on Jewish philanthropists in the Diaspora. It was this fear that led a number religious Jews to oppose the settlement in Eretz Yisrael of poverty stricken Jewish migrants fleeing from East-European anti-Semitism.
  • It must also be remembered that, in general, the Ottoman authorities were opposed to any settlement in Palestine by persons who claimed foreign consular protection. Even individual Jews who were born in the Empire and inherited property but claimed to be under foreign jurisdiction were told that unless they renounced their consular protection their title deeds would be invalidated.

ii. Early Attempts at Establishing Jewish Agricultural Settlement

During the second half of the nineteenth century, there were also attempts at establishing a Jewish agricultural settlement. In 1859 a Baghdadi Jew, Shaul Yehuda, with the aid of British Consul James Finn, purchased farmland on the outskirts of Jerusalem in Motza, from the nearby Arab village of Colonia, for agricultural and industrial purposes (a tile factory). Unfortunately, legal complications prevented the construction of the settlement for some considerable time, although a travellers’ inn was established at the site in 1871.

While rural settlement close to Jerusalem may have been blocked for the time being, as was earlier noted in Chapter  the Jewish messianic impetus to bring about a Jewish return to agricultural work still continued.(see Arie Morgenstern, Dispersion and Longing for Zion 1240-1840 in Azure,  2002, Winter  Issue, Shalem Center, Jerusalem, (hereinafter ‘Morgenstern’  http://www.azure.org.il/article.php?id=264 )

Although the Jewish migration to Palestine grew out of the messianic dream, it was an obscure orthodox Sephardi rabbi, Rabbi Judah Alkelai from Belgrade, who began to promote the necessity for establishing Jewish agricultural settlements in Palestine as a prelude to the Redemption.  By the 1870’s he succeeded in attracting only a small group of followers to settle together with him in Palestine, before his death in 1878, but his extensive writing stirred others to consider doing likewise.

Contemporaneously, other rabbinical figures in Poland with substantial followings, such as Rabbis Zvi Hirsh Kalischer and Eliyahu Guttmacher, believed that the Jewish people would be redeemed only after they first returned to the land of Israel, worked the land and observed the commandments relating to the land. Instead of waiting passively for the Messiah, redemption could be achieved by natural means – self help. Jews should purchase land in Palestine, establish agricultural settlements and send poor Jews from Europe to be farmers, so as to colonize Palestine without delay.

Only when many pious and learned Jews volunteered to live in Jerusalem, Kalischer explained, would the Creator hearken to their prayers and speed the Day of Redemption. Prayers would not suffice. Kalischer urged the formation of a society of rich Jews to undertake the colonization of Zion; settlement by Jews of all backgrounds on the soil of the Holy Land; the training of young Jews in self-defence; and the establishment of an agricultural school in the Land of Israel where Jews might learn farming and other practical subjects. Far from undermining the study of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), “the policy we propose will add dignity to the Torah …. ”
(Howard M. Sachar A History of Israel From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, Alfred A. Knopf, 2nd ed. New York 2003 (Sachar- History ) pp.7-8

To implement their ideas, Guttmacher and Kalischer made appeals to European Jewry to raise money for Jewish settlement in Palestine and participated in a conference in Thorn (Torun, Western Poland) in 1860. This laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Society for the Settlement of the Land of Israel.

However, Jewish religious efforts to return to Eretz Yisrael in significant numbers had to await the occurrence of East European (Rumanian and Russian) Anti-Semitic Violence and the failure of Western European secular ‘Haskala’ (Enlightenment) movements to eliminate Anti-Semitism in order to produce a combined Jewish religious and secular response expressed in practical, cultural and political Zionism.

4. Effect of Crusader Control of Holy Land (Phase II) on Jewish Settlement

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

In the second phase the Crusaders gained a hold over certain towns and regions by means of treaties and agreements in which the Jews participated.  The destruction of entire communities ceased as the Crusaders were more interested in possessing living cities than in occupying desolate wastes.

Jews, however, sought refuge in Ashkelon, Rafah and El Arish ahead of the advancing Crusaders.  In more remote areas such as Galilee, the invasion was felt less.  Everywhere the Jews were treated by the Crusaders as were other non-Christian communities, except that they were not allowed to live in Jerusalem.

Travel between the Holy Land and Europe became easier and the number of Jews immigrating from France, England and North Africa increased as did the number of Jewish pilgrims to Jerusalem; Yehuda Halevi in 1141, Maimonides in 1165 and Benjamin of Tudela, visiting between 1167 and 1169.

The renowned rabbi Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, 1135-1204) in the Preface to his Commentary on Tractate Rosh Hashana, written in 1165 notes:

    On the 4th day of Cheshvan (October-November) we departed from Acre to go up to Jerusalem at grave risk.  I entered the great and holy place (the synagogue on Temple Mount) and prayed there… and I departed from Jerusalem for Hebron to embrace the tombs of my forebears in the Cave and prayed there that day and gave thanksgiving to God for everything… And these two days I made an oath to celebrate for me and my descendants forever, may the Lord help me fulfil my pledges.

    And just as I was privileged to pray in the Land in its desolation, may I and all Israel live to see its speedy restoration.[gma emphasis] (Tal, p. 101)

Benjamin of Tudela found Jews living near David’s Tower in Jerusalem, despite the Crusader ban.  He noted the existence of Jewish communities in Acre, Tiberias, Caesarea, Jaffa, Ramla, Ashkelon and Hebron, as well as in the rural areas, mainly in Galilee:

    I saw in Jerusalem a numerous population composed of Jacobites, Armenians, Greeks, Georgians, Franks, and in fact of all tongues.  There’s a dyeing house rented yearly by the Jews, exclusively.  Two hundred of those Jews dwell in one corner of the city, under the Tower of David. (cited in Tal, p.102)

Benamin left a record of the number of Jewish inhabitants in towns and villages across the country. The relatively small numbers reflect the outcome of the destruction of entire communities by the First Crusade, half a century earlier.
Although the Crusaders massacred many Jews during the 12th century, the Jewish community rebounded in the next two centuries as large numbers of rabbis and Jewish pilgrims immigrated to Jerusalem and the Galilee. Prominent rabbis established communities in Safed, Jerusalem, and elsewhere during the next 300 years.

5. Islamic Control Reasserted Over the Holy Land

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Ayyubids

    Christian attempts to maintain their hold the Holy Land against the Islamic Ayyubid dynasty failed. Its founder, Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi, a Kurdish warrior, born in 1138 in Tikrit, ultimately became the Sultan of Egypt and a known champion of Islam. In 1174, he conquered Damascus, Alleppo, and Iraq and preached Jihad to the Muslim world in a counter crusade against the Christians. Gathering a large force of Muslims of various groups, Saladin attacked the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187 and defeated the Crusaders in the Battle of the Horns of Hittin near the Lake of Galilee. After a further three months of fighting, Saladin gained control of Jerusalem. The Christian attempt at retaliation with the third crusade led by the English King Richard the “Lionheart in 1189 failed to recover Jerusalem. Richard conceded defeat and settled for a peace treaty – Peace of Ramla- that guaranteed Christian pilgrims access to the Holy Places and a Christian presence on the Mediterranean coast. In their fight against Islam, the Christians neither regained control of interior of the Holy Land nor of Jerusalem.

    Under Salah al Din (aka Saladdin) and his successors, Jews again enjoyed a certain measure of freedom were permitted to resettle in Jerusalem. Many who had fled earlier to Ashkelon returned and in 1211, some three hundred rabbis from England and France immigrated in a group, some settling in Acre and others in Jerusalem.

    Mamluks

    The 13th century saw the Mamluks (originally slave soldiers in Egypt who rebelled against the former Ayyubid sultans) gain power in Egypt and Syria in 1250. This notwithstanding, Jews continued to immigrate to the Holy Land, particularly from France, and settled in Haifa, Caesarea, Tyre and Acre.
    • In 1257 Rabbi Yehiel of Paris settled in Acre and established the Yeshiva (Religious Seminary) of Paris;
    • Nahmanides, a famous Jewish physician and talmudic scholar (1194-1270) migrated from Spain and after settling initially in Jerusalem he later moved to Acre. There, in the growing Jewish community, he became involved in local religious education.
    Unfortunately the Jewish communities in Acre and the other towns along the Mediterranean coast – Tyre, Haifa, and Caesarea – did not survive for very long. The Mameluk Sultan, Al Ashraf Khalil, employed a scorched earth policy along the coast to prevent the possibility of a new Christian invasion. He attacked and destroyed Acre in 1291 in an effort to dislodge the remaining Crusaders who had holed up there in retreat. The Jews were therefore forced to abandon their coastal settlements and move inland. (Bahat pp.41-43)
    Thus by the end of the 13th century, although Islam succeeded in regaining control of the Holy Land, many Jews who had tried to settle there were killed in the course of Islamic confrontations with Christians.
    Although the Mamluk rule brought stability to the Holy Land in the early 14th century and permitted the revival of Jewish settlement, which augmented the existing Jewish communities in Safad, Ramla and Gaza, nevertheless a Jewish renaissance was retarded by natural disasters such as epidemics and earthquakes. This notwithstanding, during the middle and through to the end of the century, travellers such as Jacques of Verona, and Ogier D’Anglure reporting on their visits to Jerusalem in 1335 and 1395 respectively, refer to the existence there of Jewish communities, as did Giorgio Gucci in 1350 who described the Jews coming to pray in Hebron at the shrine of the Jewish forefathers. (Bahat pp.44-45)
    The writings of the visiting Dominican priest, Felix Fabri, towards the end of the fifteenth century (1482) also disclose a reference to the presence of Jews in Jerusalem at the time. He described the city as “a collection of all manner of abominations” amongst whom were the Jews whom he referred to “as the most cursed of all.” On the other hand, a Christian pilgrim from Bohemia visiting Jerusalem in 1491 – 1492 wrote in his book ‘Journey to Jerusalem’

    “Christians and Jews alike in Jerusalem lived in great poverty and in conditions of great deprivation, there are not many Christians but there are many Jews, and these the Muslims persecute in various ways. Christians and Jews go about in Jerusalem in clothes considered fit only for wandering beggars. The Muslims know that the Jews think and even say that this is the Holy Land which has been promised to them and that those Jews who dwell there are regarded as holy by Jews elsewhere, because, in spite of all the troubles and sorrows inflicted on them by the Muslims, they refuse to leave the Land.” (cited in Bahat, p.49)

    Shortly afterwards, Palestine was to experience a further influx of Jews following their expulsion from Spain in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella.

6. Jewish Presence in Palestine Under the Ottomans

Monday, September 8th, 2008

The early sixteenth century saw the Ottoman capture of Palestine by Sultan Selim. The Ottoman regime was to last 400 years until its defeat at the hands of the British at the end of World War I in 1918. Throughout this period, Jewish life was maintained in four main urban centres: Jerusalem, Safad, Tiberias and Hebron. Bahat notes:

    The largest community, numbering about 10,000 Jews was situated in and around Safad,; most of them were refugees from Spain, from which they were expelled in 1492. The Jews of Safad were reported as trading in spices, cheese oils, vegetables and fruits. Many Jews Jews were engaged in weaving.  Amongst the prominent leaders of the community in the 16th century was…R. Joseph Karo, compiler of the ‘Shulhan Arukh’  [and] the Cabbalist R. Isaac Luria.  During this century Safad was the centre of Jewish mysticism” (p.50)

According to official censuses, in the second quarter of the 16th century the number of Jews in Jerusalem varied between 1,000 and 1,500, living in three quarters coextensive with the present Jewish Quarter of the city, while William Biddulph, an English priest who visited Palestine in 1600 commented in his book “The Travels of Four Englishmen and a Preacher ” that Tiberias is entirely occupied by Jews.

In 1631, the Christian writer Eugene Roger records that there were approximately 15,000 Jews were living in various parts of the country, including Jerusalem, Hebron, Gaza, Haifa, Ramla, Nablus, Safad, Acre and Sidon.

They were subject to the whims of the local rulers who in many cases had purchased their posts at great cost [from the Ottoman Government] and attempted to recoup this money during their period of rule. (Bahat p.54)

Bahat’s research provides information regarding the visit of George Sandys, son of the Archbishop of York who visited the Holy Land in 1611. He states in his Travailes,

    “And in their Land they (the Jews)live as strangers, hated by those amongst whom they dwell, open to all oppression and deprivation, which they bear with patience beyond all belief, despised and beaten. In spite of all this, I never saw a Jew with an angry face.”

The writings of a Dutch scholar, Olf Dapper who collected data mostly from travellers to the Holy Land in this period summed up his findings in 1677 with the statement:

    “There are Jews all over Syria and the Holy Land, especially in Acre, Sidon, Damascus, Jerusalem, Hebron and Gaza. No transactions take place without the knowledge of the Jews and even the smallest dealings pass through their hands.”  (Bahat p.54)

Despite the economic and cultural decay of the Ottoman Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries, Jewish immigration to the Land continued even though life became increasingly difficult. Jewish communities began to organise themselves and agricultural settlements such as Kfar Yasif were established in the Galilee. On the other hand, with the increasing impoverishment of the Ottoman Empire, the non-muslim inhabitants of Palestine bore an increasing burden of taxation. Such were the human and natural disasters that it is estimated that during the first half of the 19th century the total population of the country did not exceed 250,000. In Jerusalem, however, travellers Richardson, Carne and Scholte reported in 1820-21 that Jews constituted the largest religious group in the city. This is confirmed by the first official census for Jerusalem held in 1844, which showed the population to be composed of: 7120 Jews, 5760 Muslims and 3390 Christians

By 1874, the American consul in Jerusalem, de Haas, reported that the city’s population numbered 30,000 of whom, 20,000 (two thirds) were Jews. (Eliyahu Tal, Whose Jerusalem? p.274)

In concluding this brief survey of the evidence of the uninterrupted presence of Jews in the Holy Land from the year 70 C.E. it is worth while presenting Behat’s extensive references to the official and institutional reports. These attest to the increasing significance of the Jews in the urban centres of Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem, as well as the first Jewish agricultural institutions and settlements, culminating in the waves of European immigrants who arrived on the shores of the Holy Land at the turn of the 20th Century.

“During the 19th century, immigration increased, as the English missionary, W.H. Bartlett, records in his book, Jerusalem Revisited, London 1855, that the Jewish community in Jerusalem numbered over 11,000. This is confirmed by the second British consul in Jerusalem, James Finn, in his book Stirring Times, London 1878. Mary Elisa Rogers writes in her book, Domestic Life in Palestine, London 1862, that there was an active Jewish community in Haifa. She lived there with her brother, the British vice-consul, from 1850 to 1859. The English missionary, Andrew Bonar, who visited the Holy Land in 1839, mentioned the synagogue of the Jews in Nablus besides that of the Samaritans (Narrative of a Mission of Enquiry to the Jews … Edinburgh 1846). The American officer W.F. Lynch who arrived in the country in 1848 describes the Jewish community in Jaffa in his Narrative of the U.S.’s expedition to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea, London 1852. All these communities were urban in nature and attempts by Jewish philanthropists abroad to establish rural villages

In 1870, the Mikveh Israel Agricultural School was founded near Jaffa. This was followed almost immediately by the establishment of villages in Motza (Jerusalem) and, in 1878, in Petah Tikvah.

The rise of nationalism in Europe and the Russian pogroms of the 1880′s led to a new wave of immigration. The names given by these immigrants to the villages which they founded reflect the vision and ideals represented by them – Rishon LeZion (the First in Zion), Nes Ziona (the Banner of Zion), Yesud HaMa’ala (the Start of the Ascent) and Rosh Pina (Cornerstone). The deterioration in economic conditions in the Land of Israel adversely affected settlement and threatened the total collapse of agricultural enterprises! The Jews of the Diaspora and the Jewish philanthropists, particularly Baron Edmond de Rothschild, came to the rescue.

In 1904, the second great wave of immigration, known as the Second Aliyah, began. This, too, was ideologically motivated, being based on the principles of Jewish labour, independent agricultural settlement and the brotherhood and equality of men. Subsequently the revolutionary forms of settlement we know today – the kibbutz (collective settlement) and the moshav (cooperative small-holders’ village) – were established. The Hebrew language, long relegated to liturgical or literary usage, was revived as a spoken tongue.

The World Zionist Organisation began to create the necessary tools for consolidating Jewish settlement, such as the Workers’ Bank, the Jewish National Fund, whose task was to purchase land for the nation, and many other institutions dedicated to the mission of national revival.

As will be discussed later, the Balfour Declaration, issued by the British in 1917 recognising the right of the Jews to a national home in Palestine, and the subsequent Mandate for Palestine, in which the League of Nations incorporated this aim, served as the international recognition of what was to become the State of Israel in 1948.” (Behat pp 64-65)

One must also bear in mind that Zionism is not a modern phenomenon imitating other nationalistic movements prevalent in the 19th century. While a spiritual longing to return to Zion has long existed ever since Jewish expulsion by the Romans in the first century, there has been a constant physical Jewish aliya -“going up” – or return to Israel driven by the age old messianic dream of medieval times which started well before the early Zionist aliyot (plural  of aliya) in the 1880’s. The relationship between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel is a basic element in Jewish consciousness. For some historians, notably Benzion Dinur, Israel’s Minister of Education from 1951-1955, the driving force behind the aliyot of the medieval and early modern periods was the “Messianic ferment” that cropped up in Jewish communities which, together with the appearance of charismatic leaders heralding the end of days, precipitated the organisation of groups to return to Israel in order to hasten the Redemption.

(see Arie Morgenstern, Dispersion and the Longing for Zion 1240-1840, Vol 12 Azure, Winter 2002; Joseph Farah “The Jews took no one’s land” www.WorldNetDaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=27338 )

“First Photographs of the Holy Land” http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~dhershkowitz/index2.html ; also Photographs of Early Zionist  in Palestine http://www.zionism-israel.com/photos/Historicphotos1.htm ;

The purpose of this Section has been to refute any argument that the Jewish connection with Palestine is one of relatively recent origin. It also serves to bring to the readers’ attention the factual basis upon which the Palestine Mandate document was able to declare in no uncertain terms in the third paragraph of its Preamble as follows:


“Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country”