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Imagining Zion

Imagining Zion

Dreams, Designs, and Realities in a Century of Jewish Settlement

S. Ilan Troen

Yale University Press New Haven & London

Copyright © 2003 by Yale University. All rights reserved.

This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, including illustrations, in any form (beyond that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the U.S. Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press), without written permission from the publishers.

Set in Swift and Syntax types by Achorn Graphic Services. Printed in the United States of America by Vail-Ballou Press.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Troen, S. Ilan (Selwyn Ilan), 1940-

Imagining Zion : dreams, designs, and realities in a century of Jewish settlement / S. Ilan Troen.

p. cm. Includes index.

ISBN 0-300-09483-3 (cloth : alk. paper)

1. Zionism—Palestine—History. 2. Jews—Colonization—Palestine—History. 3. Agricultural colonies—Palestine—History. 4. Jews—Palestine—Economic conditions— 19th century. 5. Jews—Israel—Economic conditions—20th century. 6. Moshavim— History. 7. Kibbutzim—History. 8. Urbanization—Israel—History. I. Title.

DS149.5.I75 T76 2003

956.9405—dc21

2002151900

Acatalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources.

10987654321

For Carol

TTiya ion i? 'jtdt THiViVs nanx laiaa nnx i*eft njmr x*? f ixa

I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, to a land not sown. —Jeremiah 2:2

Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xiii

part I: The Zionist Village

chapter 1. Covenantal Communities 3

chapter 2. Trial and Error in the Village Economy 15

chapter 3. The Economic Basis for Arab/Jewish Accommodation 42

chapter 4. The Village as Military Outpost 62

part ii: Urban Zion

chapter 5. Tel Aviv: Vienna on the Mediterranean 85 chapter 6. Urban Alternatives: Modern Metropolis, Company Town,

and Garden City 112

chapter 7. "Imagined Communities": The Zionist Variation 141

part iii: Post-Independence Opportunities and Necessities

chapter 8. The Science and Politics of National Development 163

chapter 9. From New Towns to Development Towns 184

chapter 10. Israeli Villages: Transforming the Countryside 208

chapter 11. Establishing a Capital: Jerusalem, 1948-1967 233

chapter 12. Contested Metropolis: Jerusalem After the 1967 War 259

Epilogue: Israel into the Twenty-First Century 281

Notes 293

Index 325

Acknowledgments

Long before I immigrated to Israel, interest in the establishment of a Jewish state was embedded in the discourse and collective imagination of my parents, Rose and Aleck Troen, and of my family and community, and was a subject of formal and informal study. Israel did not become the focus of my professional research until the mid-1980s when I joined the Ben-Gurion Research Center in Sede Boker. Prior to this, I had con­centrated on American and European social and urban history. This re­search on frontier settlement, immigration, cities, and planning in­formed the way in which I came to think about the Zionist settlement experience.

My first explorations in this area brought me to topics that had been relatively untreated by Israeli colleagues and that appeared to me to reflect local variations of phenomena familiar to students of the mod­ern history of the west. I remain fascinated by issues of normality and uniqueness and by how social ideas that are transported across space and cultures are preserved, adapted, or discarded. After pursuing this kind of inquiry, I began to weave my studies into a coherent story that was necessarily cast within the context of the Jewish/Arab and Israeli/ Palestinian conflict. To create such an account required learning from individuals whose fields were outside Israeli history, others who were deeply involved with it, and the few who were engaged in integrating the two domains.

Early in this course, I came to rediscover what I had learned about social history and the transfer of ideas across cultures while a student at the University of Chicago with two master scholars: Daniel Boorstin and Richard Wade. I doubt either could have imagined, any more than I could have, that my training with them in American history would have laid the foundation for a study of Zionist settlement, although I believe their imprint is here. Inspired teaching and scholarship often

lead to unforeseen consequences. From the beginning of this project, I benefited from the insight, criticism, and friendship of the late Gordon Cherry, who enhanced my interest in and knowledge of planning his­tory, a topic that runs throughout this book. Another dear friend, the late Daniel Elazar, shared his encyclopedic knowledge and interest in frontiers, cities, and planning in both America and Israel. His insightful criticism of an earlier draft saved me from premature publication of this study. Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, the dean of Israeli historical geogra­phers, offered criticism and advice during the early stages, and his own work and that of his students have had a deep impact on my reconstruc­tion of Jewish colonization. Yosef Gorny's research in Jewish settlement as well as his studies on the labor movement have been valuable, as has his personal interest in this undertaking. Walter Ackerman, whose cable "start packing" signaled that a position was available at Ben-Gurion University, followed and encouraged this project from its in­ception. I am very grateful to Sam Aroni, Arnold Band, and Howard Morley Sachar, whose thoughtful reading and valuable criticism of a complete manuscript greatly improved the final result.

In carrying out this research, I was also fortunate to be able to meet with and learn from experts who participated in the events described in this book. The most significant were Ra'anan Weitz, who headed the Rural Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency, Jean Gottmann, the geographer probably best known for his work on megalopolis but who had a long professional connection and personal commitment to Zion­ist settlement, and Robert Nathan, a New Deal economist who came to study the future state at a crucial period and remained its devoted friend for the rest of his long life.

Most sections of this book benefited from repeated visits to the Kres-sel Collection and the library at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jew­ish Studies, where I enjoyed the generosity and friendship of David Pat­terson and collaboration with Noah Lucas. I am also grateful to Alan Crown, Kenneth Jackson, Jack Lassner, Roger Owen, David Ruderman, and David Thelen, who provided venues for presenting and refining dif­ferent parts of this work.

The most important locale for research and writing has been the Ben-Gurion Research Center at Sede Boker. I have benefited from inter­action with colleagues, particularly Allon Gal, Zvi Shilony, and Nahum Karlinsky, and the opportunity to share ideas with the Center's scholars. The ongoing seminars have been a source of continuing education with multidisciplinary and divergent political perspectives. I am particularly

358 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

grateful to Tuvia Friling, who as a young scholar in charge of the Ben-Gurion Archives and later my successor as Director of the Center, pointed me toward appropriate documentation. So, too, I am happy to acknowledge the assistance of Hanna Pinshow and Leana Feldman of the Ben-Gurion Archives and Lili Adar of the center's library, who unfail­ingly provided indispensable materials. Other libraries and archives were, of course, essential. Most important were the Central Zionist Ar­chives and Israel State Archives in Jerusalem and the Lavon Archives in Tel Aviv. Foreign archives contained much pertinent material, espe­cially the Scottish National Library in Edinburgh, the Public Record Of­fice and the British Library in London, the National Archives in Wash­ington, and Harvard University's superb resources on Israel.

Through much of the research I was ably and creatively assisted in the collection of materials and in their evaluation by Natan Aridan and Ran Or-Ner, students who have become friends and colleagues.

I am grateful to Pieter Louppen of the cartography unit of Ben-Gurion University's Department of Geography and Environmental De­velopment and to Patrice Kaminski of the archaeological technical ser­vices unit of the Department of Bible and Ancient Near East Studies, who prepared the maps and numerous illustrations. I very much ap­preciate permission to publish other illustrations and the assistance of the staffs of the photo archives of the National Press Office, the Jewish National Fund, and Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi in Jerusalem and of Nadav Mann of "Bitmunah" in Kibbutz Merhavia. Ellen Blair, the daughter of Sam and Anna Lopin who established the chair I hold at Ben-Gurion University, provided needed funding and encouragement at a critical time. I am also grateful to various university funds that supported the assembling and preparation of illustrations and maps. Special thanks are due Robert Flynn and Erin Carter of Yale University Press, who re­ceived the book proposal and guided it through to publication with professional expertise and personal courtesy. So, too, am I grateful to Lauren Shapiro and Nancy Moore Brochin, whose close professional at­tention contributed to an improved final product.

The greatest debt is to my wife, Carol Rosenberg Troen. Even beyond moral support during the long course of producing this book, she has been a collaborator in reflecting on the research and in refining and transforming the findings into a worthy text. This book is a product of an intellectual undertaking in which she has been a genuine partner. It would not have been accomplished without her. The verse on the dedication page only partially expresses my thanks for her role in this

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 358

shared journey and adventure. Finally, I would like to express my ap­preciation to our children, Lisa, Aron, Joshua, Deborah, Judah, and Abra­ham, who endured their father's many absences, even when physically at home, and accepted with understanding their mother's involvement with my work. They, too, encouraged and discussed the project and read portions of the manuscript. I hope they will find this interpretation of the past useful as they assume responsibility for Israel's future.

358 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Introduction

The return ofJews to their homeland is a central event in contemporary history and a continually vexing issue in world affairs. While there has been a small but constant Jewish presence in Palestine, the center of Jewish life, culture, and learning moved for nearly two millennia from one Diaspora community to another. In 1900, less than one-half of 1 percent of world Jewry, or only approximately 50,000, lived in the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine). In the course of the twentieth cen­tury, the Yishuv increased a hundredfold, to nearly 5 million. By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, Israel is likely to con­tain the largest Jewish community in the world. Not since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 c.e. and the subsequent eclipse of Jewish sov­ereignty have Jews been such a significant majority in the country. (Israel's population in 2000 numbered 6.3 million, of whom 4.9 million were Jews and 1.1 million were Arabs.) This "ingathering of the exiles," whether one believes it is the fulfillment of a Divine promise or a neces­sary pragmatic response of Jews to persecution in the lands where they sojourned, has signified an unprecedented opportunity and challenge. An ancient people—long dispersed, linguistically and culturally diverse, usually marginalized and restricted in occupation and residence—Jews set out toward the end of the nineteenth century to reconstitute them­selves as a modern and sovereign nation living in their own land.

Between 1880 and the end of the twentieth century, the Zionist movement established nearly 700 villages, towns, and cities. About 250 were built prior to independence in 1948 and more than 450 during the first fifty years of statehood. This was not a haphazard development fueled by private capital and carried out by individuals acting primarily for personal gain. Nor was it the product of a directed and well-financed policy of an imperial power. Rather, during the crucial stage prior to statehood, the Jewish settlement of Palestine was conceived by a corps

of professional planners, architects, and officials recruited by organiza­tions bent on achieving national purposes. Most were immigrant Jews from Europe, but there were also a few Americans, gentiles as well as Jews. Many were professionals employed by bureaucracies, but there were also visionaries, architects, social scientists, military officers, and politicians. Some are familiar figures in Israeli history, while others are known primarily to those in the field. Bringing with them the best of contemporary planning and design ideas primarily from Europe, these experts aspired to implement their plans in Zion even as they were chal­lenged to adapt their concepts to the realities and requirements of the country's physical and political environment.

lmagining Zion is a history of the ideas of these colonizers and how they attempted to implement them. I have placed their story within Jewish and Zionist history and the history of the Arab/Israeli conflict. And I have set it within another historiography as well: the expansion of European societies into non-European worlds that began about 500 years ago. Understood in this way, Imagining Zion is both a particularistic history of Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel), the ancient term for Palestine, and a chapter in the history of a larger phenomenon. Indeed, Zionists may have been the last Europeans to colonize distant lands. Neverthe­less, their experience was unique, for there was no "mother country" in the conventional sense. For this reason and for others, as I shall ar­gue, their history is a deviation from the familiar categories of imperial­ism and colonialism found in other instances of European emigration. It is a unique story of a people rediscovering their past and returning to an ancient homeland. They did so with an increasing awareness that the other people in the country, Palestine's Arabs, opposed them. Their program therefore attempted to placate and accommodate opposition and to confront it when it became violent. The phases in this process are also necessarily part of this history.

Like other European settlers, Zionists transplanted European ideas in a process of experimentation and adaptation. Initially, they planned agricultural colonies, but they soon added towns and cities to the inven­tory of their colonization program. The first model for agricultural set­tlement was the moshava, a colony of independent property owners. This was superseded by the moshav, a cooperative farming village, and the kvutza and kibbutz, or collective settlements. More recently, planners have set nonagricultural colonies in the countryside. On Zion's urban frontiers they designed metropolises, regional cities, new towns, com­pany towns, garden suburbs, and discrete housing estates. The balance

358 INTRODUCTION

between urban and rural colonization changed, as did the preferred models within these categories.

The continuous revisions and adjustments in settlement planning were a response to the interplay of three distinct factors that deter­mined which design concept was given priority. These factors are social and political ideologies, the need for productivity and economic inde­pendence, and the problem of ensuring security in a hostile environ­ment. Ideological, economic, and security objectives competed with one another for primacy and affected the plans of colonizers in different ways at different periods. By examining the dynamic relationship among these three variables, this study creates a unique prism through which to view Israel's history.

Imagining Zion tells this large story in an efficient compass. It begins in the 1880s with the establishment of a loose network of small farming villages. Zionist planning at that time reflected a popular attempt to escape the abnormalities of exile and to enable a "return to history" by embracing the romantic ideal of transforming Jews into peasants. By the 1930s, security and strategic concerns had emerged as paramount in the thinking of planners, and had come to dominate the design of Zionist Palestine. Only at the start of the twentieth-first century, more than a half-century later, with negotiations for peace and normalization of relations with Arabs within and beyond Israel's borders, is there a possibility that Zionist planning may finally become relatively unexcep­tional. Our story ends fifty years after the establishment of the State of Israel with discussion over a new Master Plan for the year 2020 as the independent Jewish state continues to seek "normality." This plan re­flects what many Israelis believe an advanced industrial state should look like in the future.

Whether Israel can emulate the course of development conceived for other modern nations will depend on the significance of the third variable, security, in Israeli society. If Palestinian Arabs do not become reconciled to a Jewish state, strategic concerns will continue to shape and even distort Israel's development, and the beginning of the second century may be a chronological marker and nothing more. However, if amicable relations and secure borders can be achieved, Israeli planning may come to approximate that of other modern states. The end of the first century would be a watershed in Israel's history and a new depar­ture in imagining Zion.

INTRODUCTION

358

Imagining Zion

Part I

The Zionist Village

CHAPTER 1

Covenantal Communities

The stream of modern life draws the countryman to the town. To ex­change the town for the country is to swim against the stream. For a people which was uprooted from its land two thousand years ago and which has become attached with every fibre of its being to town-life, for such a people to return to the soil is to swim against the current of dou­ble strength. An effort of quite unusual intensity is required to over­come the obstacles.

yitzhak elazari-vqlcani, 1927

From the 1880s, Jews who swam against the stream and returned to Palestine came with increasingly precise and practical concep­tions of how the country could be settled. The first generation of pioneers and planners imagined a land filled with villages in imitation of the Europe they had known before emigration. They assumed that the European experience could be applied directly to changing Euro­pean Jewry into a Middle Eastern peasantry. Jewish agricultural coloni­zation did transform Palestine from a poorly developed and backward country into a land that supports hundreds of villages and boasts one of the most modern and efficient agricultural systems in the world. But this result was not achieved merely by transplanting European models. Nearly fifty years of systematic experimentation and adaptation were necessary to produce the methods by which a modern nation based on villages might be established. In the course of a process of trial and error, the economy and agricultural technology of the Zionist village were necessarily transformed. By the 1930s Zionist colonizers had be­

gun to redesign these pastoral villages as paramilitary outposts neces­sary for penetrating and holding territory in a hostile countryside.

From the 1880s until Israel was granted statehood in 1948, about 250 villages of various types were established. With recruits drawn from the massive post-Independence immigration of the 1950s and the en­larged territory and financial resources generated with statehood, 400 more settlements were founded until the Six-Day War in 1967, when agricultural colonization largely ended. Thus, in less than a century, from 1882 to 1967, Zionist colonizers established more than 650 vil-lages.1

During the initial stage of this process, from the 1880s until the First World War, Jewish settlement was concentrated almost exclusively in the moshava, a traditional kind of colony whose members farmed their land independently. The early moshavoth (plural of moshava) failed to achieve economic independence and did not develop quickly enough to enable large-scale colonization within a reasonable time. Attempts at reform and experimentation led to the design of the kibbutz, or kvutza (collective settlements), and the moshav (cooperative farming village) just before the outbreak of the First World War.

There were prior movements to resettle Jews in Palestine. Disciples of the Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797), a spiritual and rabbinic authority among Eastern European Jewry, constituted one of the first and cer­tainly largest early organized migrations of European Jews. Believing that omens indicated the imminent arrival of the Messiah, they thought they could hasten Redemption if they settled in Eretz Israel, and sev­eral thousand immigrated between 1807 and 1847. In an effort to attract more Jews, they even dispatched a messenger to Yemen to en­courage the ingathering of that remote community. Their preferred lo­cations for settlement were Jerusalem and Safed, where they estab­lished institutions for study and worship, most notably the Hurva synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem. They looked forward to the year 1840 (5600 in the traditional Jewish reckoning), when it was widely predicted that the Messiah would come. His failure to appear at the appointed time caused great frustration and led them to abandon the belief that by taking action "from below," Jews could ensure and even hasten Redemption. The disappointed disciples of the Gaon retreated into the ideology of "If God does not build the house, its builders labor in vain."

Other Jews took personal responsibility for "rebuilding ruins" and called for an "awakening from below," including the establishment of

358 COVENANTAL COMMUNITIES

productive farming colonies.2 Perhaps the best known was Moses Mon-tefiore, the English philanthropist, who in 1855 contributed funds for moving Jews out of Jerusalem to become farmers. In 1870, the French-Jewish philanthropic organization, the Alliance Israelite Universelle, es­tablished Mikve Israel outside of Jaffa as a training farm for Jews whom they hoped would work the land. In 1878, a group of largely Jerusalem-based Hungarian Jews established a colony on the coastal plain that soon disbanded. Not until 1882 did a sustained movement of rural Jew­ish settlement begin. In that year recent arrivals founded Petach Tikva, Rishon le-Zion, and Zichron Ya'acov along the coast and Rosh Pina at the base of the Upper Galilee. A year later, settlers established Ness Ziona in the coastal plain and Y'sod Hama'ala in the north, followed in 1884 by Gedera in the south. By the outbreak of the First World War, approxi­mately 12,000 Jews were living in some 30 moshavoth. They understood themselves as engaged in a new departure that would change the char­acter of Jewish society in Eretz Israel from an object of charity to a thriving, independent community and thereby begin a new page in Jew­ish history. They viewed themselves as pioneers of a new Jewish society rooted in the ancient homeland.3

Yet for all their differences, colonists who undertook to cultivate a barren land shared significant similarities with settlers who established themselves in "holy cities" to await the Messiah. Neither disciples nor pioneers saw themselves as individual pioneers on a frontier. Both sought to live within a communal framework. Most founders of mo-shavoth were traditional Jews, although they did not choose to live under an uncompromising regime supervised by religious authorities. Moreover, although pioneers who settled in moshavoth, unlike their religious counterparts in the cities, sought and anticipated ultimate economic independence, they also assumed that they would require significant temporary financial support from sponsors abroad. Thus, Zionist villages were conceived as communities, rooted in a common religious tradition and dependent on external support.

Covenantal Traditions

The founding and the travails ofthe moshavoth have been documented often and well. The salient issue in the present discussion is the inten­tion of the founders to create communities or, to borrow a relevant phrase from the Puritan experience in the seventeenth and eighteenth

COVENANTAL COMMUNITIES 358

centuries, "miniature commonwealths."4 The source of this communi-tarianism has usually been traced to various streams ofEuropean coop­erative, socialist, or communist ideologies. However, upon closer exami­nation, the covenants ofthe moshavoth suggest that Zionist communal thought was rooted in the religious experience, imaginations, and pre­dilections of early planners and pioneers, and that their colonies re­created traditional patterns of bonding along national and/or religious lines. By the First World War, the collective imperative was secularized, and it transcended regnant ideologies from socialism on the left to free-enterprise capitalism. Still, it is noteworthy that Zionist colonizers from all ideological perspectives built villages rather than latifundia, planta­tions, ranches, or homesteads.5

The communitarian and religious roots of this phenomenon prefig­ure the moshava. At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were about 3 million Jews in the world, and only 5,000, most of whom were Sephardim, or Oriental Jews, lived in Palestine. Thereafter, Ashkenazim, or European Jews, began to arrive in steady if small numbers, contribut­ing significantly to the growth of Jewish communities in the "holy cities" of Safed, Tiberias, Hebron, and, above all, Jerusalem. By 1880, the Jewish population had increased about fivefold to perhaps 24,000 as a result of emigration from Eastern Europe.6 But these new arrivals did not cultivate the land. Many neighborhoods and housing estates were established as the city expanded westward from the ancient core. Individual homes were rare. Nearly 90 percent of all building was con­structed by or for Jews who organized themselves according to a com­munal contract with specific regulations and rules. They joined or cre­ated kollelim, religious communities devoted to the study of Torah and committed to a rigorous adherence to religious law and custom. Coreli­gionists abroad supported them and their institutions through an exten­sive charity network. These early neighborhoods provided considerable local experience in community-building. Some of the founders of the first moshavoth were themselves involved in the organization of Jeru­salem's new housing estates and were members of them. The Jerusalem experience followed a pattern common to Jewish community-building across the centuries and throughout the Diaspora. They easily and natu­rally transplanted deeply rooted practices to nineteenth-century Pales-tine.7

The moshava's founding covenants (brithoth,or brith in the singular) and regulations (takanoth) provide a clear statement of the intentions of both planners and pioneers. The ubiquity of these documents testifies

358 COVEN AN TAL C OMMU NI TI ES

to their significance. One major collection of covenants and regulations is contained in seven substantial volumes.8 Together and individually they reflect the aspirations and intentions of Jews from the small towns and cities of Eastern and Western Europe as well as those who emi­grated from them to America and Palestine.

The fundamental purposes put forward in these documents and the plans for their realization are remarkably similar. It is as if a recognized and agreed archetype for community design had emerged without the deliberations and formal adoption of an international association. There was no single planner, group of planners, or planning author­ity in this initial stage of Zionist colonization. Not until 1897, when Theodor Herzl organized the first Zionist Congress and established the World Zionist Organization, did an international Zionist authority un­dertake to coordinate and implement a coherent policy of colonization. There were attempts that anticipate the work of the WZO including regional conferences of the Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) and the efforts of individuals, notably Baron Edmund de Rothschild of France. But in the first generation, Zion was planned according to a common blueprint that reflected the aspirations of a multitude of Jews.

Covenantal Societies: Social Ideals

Individuals became members of a community in Palestine by entering into contracts replete with largely standardized bylaws, or takanoth. These documents affirmed social and religious bonds among the mem­bers. Social ties were paramount, while economic distinctions were blurred, so that bylaws typically made no distinctions between poor and rich. The crucial marker was the differentiation ofJews on the basis of country of origin or religious practice. There were, for example, sep­arate neighborhoods of Jews from Bukhara in Asia and from Hungary in Europe. Community members adhered to the teachings of a particu­lar rabbi or religious movement such as a Hasidic sect. The takanoth ensured that neighborhoods and housing would be societies of like-minded people dedicated to the same purposes. Like the miniature com­monwealths of New England—which were also framed by covenants— the early settlements in Palestine were exclusive societies with demo­cratic elements only for those permitted to join.

Like the Puritans, who understood themselves as latter-day Israel­ites, the Zionists, too, framed their compacts, covenants, and founding

COVENANTAL COMMUN ITIES 358

documents with Biblical precedents as they returned to their Promised Land. The takanoth resonate with biblical imagery, often echoing the experience ofthe Patriarchs. Many explicitly use the word "brith" (cove­nant), a term that appears frequently in the documents of colonizing societies in Eastern and Central Europe during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Whether in the masthead, the opening state­ment, or a specific article identifying the purpose of the proposed soci­ety, covenants usually employ quotations from the Bible foretelling the time when Jews will take their destiny in their own hands and reclaim the land from which they have been exiled.

When Me'a She'arim was constructed beyond the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem (1874), the takanoth quoted Isaiah to address prob­lems of urban overcrowding: "Enlarge the site of thy tents, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy dwellings; spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes" (Isaiah 54:2). Pioneers who ventured beyond the city walls to work the land and those who supported them found inspiration in other verses. The society organized to establish Ness Ziona invoked Ezekiel (36:8, 24): "But ye, O Mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are at hand to come."9 Redeeming the land through the toil of the pioneers is the dominant motif of the bylaws of the rural moshava.

The Bible also provided founders of the moshavoth with a call for collective action. The organizers of Rehovoth (1890) begin their found­ing document, The Book of the Covenant ofMenuchah ve-Nachalah (Rest and inheritance), with a quotation from Isaiah (65:21-22):

And they shall build houses, and inhabit them;

And they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.

They shall not build, and another inhabit,

They shall not plant, and another eat;

For as the days of a tree shall be the days of My people.10

The society of Hovevei Zion in Warsaw, in September 1883, rallies its members with a call for self-help, also from Isaiah (63:5):

In the name of G-D who dwells in Zion!

And I looked and there was none to help,

And I beheld in astonishment, and there was none to uphold;

Therefore, Mine own arm brought salvation unto Me.11

358 COVEN AN TAL C OMMU NI TI ES

This Warsawconstitution, framed in the aftermath ofan outbreak of particularly violent pogroms, demands a solution to imminent national calamity. The Jews must save themselves by joining forces in rebuilding their national homeland as workers of the land in Zion. Their urgent call to action, too, is cast in the language of ancient prophecy: "Living in the city of Warsaw we have seen the signs of the present time, the burning sword of hatred, that is turning over today in human society. We have observed the plight of our people and its ruin. We are totally frustrated with the position of the nation . . . and we shall listen to the voice ofGod from the voices ofthe torches that are so powerfullycalling the children of the scattered and separated people saying: 'gather to­gether children of Jacob, understand the matter and understand what you see!' "12

The recourse to Biblical motifs is consistent with the traditional reli­gious orientation of the early colonists and their supporters. Bylaws made provisions for the employment of a rabbi and a teacher for reli­gious instruction as well as literacy training; a ritual slaughterer who would be able to provide the colonists with kosher meat; the construc­tion of a communal ritual bath, a synagogue, and a house of study.

Many covenants correctly refer to the intended colony as a "kehillah kedoshah," or a "holy community." Adherents of traditional religious cul­ture could not otherwise imagine life in the Holy Land, or perhaps any­where. In Judaism, there are commandments that can only be fulfilled and even prayers that may only be uttered within communities. By tra­dition and religious law, groupworshipoffers greater possibilities than does individual prayer. Moreover, most institutions essential to the con­duct of Jewish life require communities. It was therefore natural to envi­sion themselves and their coreligionists in Palestine as members ofcom-munities rather than individuals venturing forth in pursuit of personal objectives.

When secular pioneers, infused with secular socialist ideologies, came during the Second Aliyah ("aliyah" meaning "immigration," liter­ally "going up" to the Land) (1904-1913) and the Third Aliyah (1919­1923), they also set out as members of groups. They, too, went to great lengths to work out and write down the arrangements ofthe communi­ties they intended to create. Although the pioneers of the First Aliyah (1882-1904) anchored their beliefs and actions in religious tradition, their successors based their communities on socialist conceptions of brotherhood and on a commitment to national solidarity. Traditional

COVENANTAL COMMUN ITIES 358

settlers ofthe First Aliyah and their secular, socialist successors shared a commitment to collective ambitions. What is striking, then, is that all Zionist villagers in this formative period ofagricultural colonization framed their communities in terms of national purposes and couched their preferences in terms of which model served those purposes best. Entirely absent were alternative models where individuals would settle rural areas primarily for personal benefit.

During the First Aliyah, religious law also figured in the regulations governing agriculture. Returning to the land meant Jews could fulfill mitzvoth, or religious commandments, that could not be performed in the Diaspora or even when resident in a city in the Holy Land. The laws most frequently mentioned in the covenants concern the observance of the sabbatical year (sh'mitah) and of the fiftieth or jubilee year (yovel) when Biblical injunctions prohibit cultivation. Occasionally there are regulations about leaving a portion of the harvest for the poor, as indi­cated by Biblical law and reflected in the Book of Ruth. There are also references to tithing. In sum, European supporters and early colonists intended to shape their agricultural economy in accordance with an­cient legislation that had been studied continuously in the abstract dur­ing centuries of exile.

Traditional law also influenced the design of Jerusalem's communal neighborhoods. The ShulkhanAruch (the code of Jewish law), for example, specifies that windows may not look out on neighbors. So in Jerusalem's new neighborhoods, windows opened onto the alleys in back of the houses. Also, as stipulated in the Shulkhan Aruch, synagogues were placed at the center of the housing estate. It is revealing that even laws regard­ing sanitation are anchored in Halakha (Jewish law based on Biblical injunctions) rather than drawing on the contemporary sanitary and ur­ban planning movements in Europe. Any correspondence between com­munal design and purpose and contemporary secular conceptions was unintentional.

This commitment to community animated even avowedly secular pioneers. Perhaps the most famous group in the mythology of early Zionist pioneering is the Bilu'im, who took their name from the acrostic: B-I-L-U, or BeitYa'acov Lechu V'nelcha (Isaiah 2:5: "O House of Jacob, Come ye and let us go"). With a strong sense of the first-person plural—"let US go"—they constituted themselves into a community. Lacking financial resources and practical skills, this group of largely secular and socialisti-cally inclined young people suffered great privation in an unsuccessful

358

COVENANTAL COMMUNITIES

effort to achieve a shared objective. Many left Palestine, and only a handful actually became farmers.

Far more numerous and successful were the founders of Hadera (1890), a moshava organized by four different subgroups who joined forces to establish their colony. One of these groups originated in Vilna, where they invited a broad spectrum of Jewish youth to join in a shared enterprise. These included "suitable" men and women, followers ofHa-sidism or traditional orthodoxy, and even secularists "that go with the spirit of the day." Although they did not define themselves as a disci­plined religious society, their objectives are stated within a traditional framework that could embrace many potential members. Exiles are called to return to the land after being dispersed for nearly two thou­sand years: "The purpose of the association Ohavey Zion is to spread knowledge of Eretz-Israel with the objective of exiles returning to work the land, to plant it with all their hearts, to support the immigrants to the land of Israel in cultivating the land and in working its mountains and valleys, and to support them with a generous hand; and also to translate stepby stepthe settlement of Eretz Israel from the idea to the deed and from the potential to the reality."13

The founders of Rehovoth (1890) were perhaps the least explicitly religious of the pioneers of the First Aliyah moshavoth. Yet, even their takanoth draw extensively on Jewish traditions. Organized by largely middle-class pioneers who sought to further their wealth within a com­munal framework, their regulations contain no mention of a rabbi, rit­ual bath, synagogue, and other religious functionary or institutions. Nevertheless, such offices and officials were instituted in the new col­ony. In the spectrum of societies that the first generation of Zionists created, a recognizable similarity developed. The inherent and even in­tended congruence of these societies is anticipated in the takanoth of one of the first moshavoth, Rishon le-Zion. Its purpose as defined by the founders was "to improve the material and moral condition of the congregation, and to be a sign for our brothers the Children of Israel who are coming to take hold in the Holy Land, to stir the hearts of our people in settling Eretz Israel and in upbuilding the national ruins, and to assist with all their might the founders of other moshavoth with counsel and action."14

The covenants of these colonies, then, reflected a common culture rooted in tradition. Thus, the Vilna colonization society that supported the establishment of Hadera ordains in their takanoth that "The Associ­

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358

ation will celebrate annually (in Vilna) its establishment on the Sabbath of Nachamu." That is, they plan to assemble in late summer to chant Isaiah 40 and subsequent chapters that foretell the return to Zion after a national catastrophe. The takanoth go on to provide: "On this day, three active members shall come to the main synagogue to pray and one of them shall recite the prophetic portion, kaddish [memorial prayer] shall be recited for the members who have died and a candle shall be lit for them." Moreover, they determine that on one of the days of Hannukah they will assemble for a review of accounts and for a cul­tural program, including reading portions of the Bible relevant to pio­neering and chapters from the Book of Hasmoneans (Maccabees). Several members were to discuss settlement in Eretz Israel after which the taka-noth carefully stipulate that "they then dine at their own expense."15 Often, arrangements for public convocations that were originally con­ceived by covenant-makers in Europe were transferred and incorporated in the life of the moshavoth.16

Covenantal Communities: Self-Government

Jewish settlers in Palestine, whether rural or urban and religious or secular, viewed themselves as separate from the surrounding society. In part, this might have been a consequence of how the Ottomans re­lated to foreigners and members of non-Muslim religions. Jews were a separate community, as were Christians and others. As in most cases where separation is enforced, it is rarely accompanied by equality.17 The British, who supplanted the Ottomans as Palestine's rulers after World War I, also viewed Jews and Arabs as members ofseparate communities. Typically, the British assembled statistics and published their census with people divided by religion: Moslems, Christians, and Jews.18 How­ever, these distinctions were not strange or remarkable to Jewish immi­grants, particularly those from Eastern Europe. Jews who came from Russia, Poland, Romania, and the lands ofthe Austro-Hungarian empire were accustomed to viewing themselves and others as members of dis­tinct communities who enjoyed or endured differential status defined by law. They brought with them well-developed traditions and patterns of self-government within the parameters established by local rulers and readily translated these into covenants.19

Thus, although there was no supervising authority that imposed a

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standard format, the moshavoth developed common provisions for self-government. As was customary in the small towns where Jews lived in Europe, the rabbi was not only a learned authority on religious matters but also the judicial authority in the event ofdisputes between settlers. All colonies established community courts of from three to five mem­bers, depending on their size. This practice became so firmly incorpo­rated that after the First World War a court of appeals emerged to ad­judicate disputes between moshavoth on matters where local courts failed to satisfy the litigants. Jews stayed away from Ottoman justice whenever possible. Independent courts were part of a larger mechanism envisaged in the earliest covenants. Depending on size, each moshava had a council of upto seven elected members, one of whom was elected as its head.20 Nearly all elections were conducted by the membership of the General Assembly, which was open to all men and women who had been resident in the colony for at least a year and who paid taxes to the moshava. Candidates for office had to be resident longer, from two or three years, and had to be older, at least twenty-five in most settlements.

A major function of the council was to serve as an intermediary between the moshava and the Ottoman government on such issues as taxation and military service. As in Europe, local committees were re­sponsible for communal services including education, health, security, and the library. Elected council members supervised and paid employ­ees such as the doctor, pharmacist, midwife, and teachers. In addition, special needs were met by voluntary groups that organized to grant small loans and assist the poor and visit the sick.

With their own institutions for handling social, health, and educa­tion needs, the moshavoth became miniature commonwealths. Given the inherent similarities between these miniature societies, the shared general purposes, and the common origins of the settlers, it was natural that there should be attempts to establish cooperative frameworks among them. In the decade before the First World War, common se­curity problems led to cooperation in self-defense through the organi­zation of ha-Shomer (The Watchman). Shared economic problems led to cooperative organizations such as in 1905 both Pardes, the associa­tion of citrus-growers, and Agudat ha-Kormim, the association of vine-growers, for marketing wines and producing almonds, and even associa­tions for digging wells and irrigating fields and orchards. Cooperation also led to the establishment ofcommon political institutions and com­

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358

munal frameworks. At the end of two generations, on the eve of the First World War, the moshavoth were connected to one another in a loose federation.

For all their success in forging communal institutions and building societies on shared values, the moshavoth were beset by forces that pushed toward disintegration and failure. The primary challenge to maintaining these village communities through the First World War was economic. The moshavoth had to achieve economic independence or they could not survive. It is to the impact of economic imperatives on the Zionist village that we now turn.

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CHAPTER 2



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