The Land on the eve of the Zionist Movement

Throughout most of Turkish rule the population of the Holy Land appeared to remain relatively stable at a little under 300,000. The modernizations of the 19th century led to a significant increase in population so that by 1881 roughly 450,000, mostly Arab Moslems, lived in about 750 villages and a handful of relatively small towns. The desert areas were inhabited/traversed by nomadic Bedouin, perhaps 25,000 strong, and divided into a number of tribes. The villages ranged in size from fewer than 100 up to 1,000 inhabitants, nearly all on the hilltops, where they practiced terrace cultivation, growing vegetables, cereals, fruit, herbs and olives, employing mainly handtools and ploughs. They also raised sheep, goats, and cows, especially the villagers on the eastern slopes, on the fringe of the desert. They lived in small stone houses, occasionally subjected to a Bedouin raid. In the past these raids had sometimes turned into a permanent conquest of a village, the inhabitants of which, once Bedouin, were now subjected themselves to Bedouin attacks. Virtually all the villages traced their origins to a Bedouin tribe, whose members, in turn, saw themselves as deriving from a single common ancestor (real or imagined). The villagers had once owned the land they worked, but, as described above, much of the land had been taken over by the urban elite, and many villagers no longer owned their land, but continued to cultivate it as tenant farmers of the new urban notables.

The coastal plain and the valleys, vulnerable to predatory Bedouins and malaria, were sparsely populated. Swamplands had developed on the coast since the 14th century, when the Mamelukes had deliberately razed the coastal towns. Three north-south ridges, marking ancient coastlines, delineate the coastal plain of the Samarian hills (five mark the southern coast). Winter rains drained through these ridges to the sea, but they also carried silt, which eventually blocked the channels through the ridges, and swamps developed; when man inhabited the plains he made sure the ridges remained open.

The later 19th century saw the development of towns so that by 1881 more than a third the population lived in towns. They too farmed, with a garden farm attached to virtually every household. The towns served also as shopping centers for the villagers. The population of Gaza rose from 9,000 at the beginning of the century to 19,000: Akko remained stable at 9,000 as Haifa (better able to handle large steamships) began to replace it as a major port; Haifa grew from 1,000 to 6,000: Jaffa from 2,000 to 10,000. But these ports were all put in the shade by Beirut, whose population shot up from 5,000 to 50,000.

In the hills, Jerusalem’s population rose from 9,000 to 30,000, with a Jewish majority: Christians (mostly Arab) helped the population of Nazareth grow from 1,200 to 5,000 and Bethlehem from 1,500 to 6,000. The Moslems were dominant in Hebron and Nablus, though Jerusalem did supply the major landowning families of the Khalidis, Husseinis, and Nashashibis; Hebron was home to the Ja`baris and Tamimis; Nablus to the Nabulsis, Masris, and Shak`as. Other large landowners lived in Beirut, Damascus and Paris. Ultimately a system of patronage embraced most of the Arabs, with villagers aligning with one of the major families, which themselves affiliated with either the Husseinis or the Nashashibis, creating basically two large camps. Members of the elite families filled the major administrative positions. A vast and growing gulf divided them from the largely illiterate fallahin of the countryside (and the town), though literacy was improving through the century, thanks largely to Christian missionary activity.

Until the first road was paved from Jaffa to Jerusalem in 1869, everyone (both peasants and the elite, locals and visitors) traveled on camels, horses, donkeys or mules. 1892 saw the first railroad, also between Jaffa and Jerusalem. In 1905 a second line linked Haifa with the Damascus-Medina railroad. Throughout the 19th century candles and olive oil provided lighting. Disease was rife, malaria and trachoma in the countryside, dysentery, cholera, and typhoid in the towns, which lacked elementary garbage disposal and effective drainage for sewage. Once again the Christian influx from the outside world helped improve matters as towns were cleaned up and health services introduced.

This was the Holy Land on the eve of the Zionist movement. Jews had been a constant presence in the Holy Land, long before there were Zionists; largely poor, they were largely concentrated, in separate Jewish quarters, in the towns of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad, and Tiberias. A few were merchants and shopkeepers, some were petty craftsmen, but most spent their days praying and studying, living off contributions from abroad. The newcomers, the Zionists, were to concentrate, not on merely living (or dying) in the Holy Land, but on making a living, with the distinct idea of forming an autonomous Jewish community in the ancient Jewish homeland, creating a new Jewish society composed of a new type of Jew.

Overall the Jewish population, like the population in general, had remained fairly stable from the earliest days of Ottoman rule until the 19th century. The introduction of stable government, the Christian influence from outside, and in particular the abolishment of the laws discriminating against non-Moslems, led to a disproportionately larger growth of Jews in the Holy Land. According to Ben-Aryeh, the pre-eminent student of 19th century geography, Jews increased from 6,500 in 1800 to about 30,000 by 1880, his figures including Jews who were not Ottoman citizens. Nevertheless, this `Old Yishuv' (settlement) was all in all an insignificant dot on the landscape of the Holy Land. This was about to change.

The Early Zionist settlements: the First Aliya 1882 - 1904

On March 19, 1882, a group of 18 immigrants from Russia formed, in Jaffa, the Committee of the Pioneers of Yesud Hama’alah (The Foundation of the Ascent: Ezra 7:9 describes Ezra as ‘beginning to go up’ [to the promised land]). Some had arrived under the auspices of ‘The Lovers of Zion’ (Hovevei Zion) movement, some had come on their own. With the help of local Jewish intermediaries, they bought from its Arab owners, 3,340 dunams [about 900 acres] of land, 12 kilometers southeast of Jaffa. On July 31, 1882, 10 of the newcomers plus 6 local families moved into their new home: they called it Rishon le-Zion (from Isaiah 41:27 ’A harbinger unto Zion will I give’), seeing themselves as the forerunners.

Historians commonly divide Jewish immigration before the state into 5 separate waves (the term used is aliya, literally ‘ascent’ – one ‘goes up’ to the Land of Israel). The first, from 1882-1904, was made up of, by and large, traditionally observant Jews. It was only natural for such Jewish newcomers to seek to establish themselves in places with which they were familiar; brought up on the Bible this was their guide. Even though the Almighty had included the coastal plain in his promise to the Children of Israel, nevertheless, in Biblical times, they had failed to make good on their claim, and as we have seen, the coast was conquered and settled by the ‘peoples of the sea.’ Thus the vast majority of Biblical stories were set in the hills, and with these accounts the new arrivals were familiar. They thus sought to buy farmland in the hills, but, much to their surprise, found that the land there was populated far more than the plains, prices were consequently much higher, and the land itself, with its shallow layer of soil, its narrow terraces, its scarcity of water, seemed far more difficult to cultivate than the green flat land lining the inner coast, which was also, surprisingly, so much more affordable.

The first 3 villages went up in 1882: at Rishon leZion, southeast of Jaffa; Rosh Pina (from psalms 118:22 ‘The stone which the builders rejected is become the chief cornerstone’) in the Hula valley, the section of the Great Rift valley north of the Sea of Galilee; Zamarin (3 years later renamed Zikhron Ya’akov) at the foot of Mt. Carmel. All had farmland in the green valleys, though Rosh Pina and Zikhron built their homes on higher ground. They negotiated with local Arabs regarding use of their labor (an eyewitness account at Zamarin/Zikhron can be seen here), and they, like the next half-dozen settlements after them, failed dismally.

The first to settle on the ground was the first to fail, and within a month the 6 families of Rishon were in desperate straits. Joseph Feinberg went to Paris, met Baron Edmond de Rothschild and arranged a loan; but matters did not improve and the Baron extended further help only on condition the land was transferred to him and the new farmers accept instruction and supervision from a Rothschild agronomist. Soon a similar arrangement was reached with Zikhron and Rosh Pina. A fourth village (Ekron) got off (and onto) the ground with Rothschild money from the start. Other new settlements ran into the same problems and were supported by communal money from Hovevei Zion. The early settlements were not exactly meeting the Zionist goal of a self-supporting entity. Nevertheless, this new pattern of Jewish farming communities paved the way for future successes. In the meantime the baron and other bodies helped keep them afloat. In the first decade, many of the services a government might supply - teachers, medical services, specialized training and financial aid - were offered by the Baron’s officials not only to his own, but to all the new Jewish agricultural communities. The growing Jewish community in Jaffa offered similar services. Apart from economic problems, the settlers faced opposition; on the ground from local Arabs and officially from the Turkish government.

On June 29, 1882 14 Biluim (acronym from Bet Ya’akov Lechu V’nilcha – O ‘house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk’ [in the light of the Lord] Isaiah 2:5) left Istanbul for Jaffa. On the very same day Istanbul instructed its governor of the Jerusalem district to bar Russian, Rumanian, and Bulgarian Jews from landing in Jaffa and Haifa. Earlier, on April 28, 1882, the Turkish consul-general in Odessa had posted an announcement at the consulate door, declaring that no immigrants to Turkish territory would be permitted to settle in Palestine. Moreover, these newcomers were nothing like the Jews who had always inhabited the Ottoman Empire: their language and dress were different and, to make matters worse, many came from Russia, Turkey's archenemy. Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the Holy Land had for the past few decades fallen under the protection of not just Russia, but Europe in general, even being issued with Austrian or British papers. This new influx might further advance the Capitulations, allowing the Christian Powers to subvert Ottoman authority still more, and reinforced the Porte’s suspicion that the Christian powers had designs on the Empire. In June 1891, Sultan Abdul Hammid II declared: `Why should we accept those that the cultured Europeans turned back and expelled from their own countries?' On July 1, Istanbul ordered Jerusalem’s governor to bar Jewish settlement and prevent Jews disembarking in Jaffa. The following year he was instructed to stop the sale of state lands to Jews, even if they were Ottoman citizens. From this time on Istanbul was to issue a string of prohibitions against Jews buying land, building, settling or even visiting the Holy Land.

Turkish suspicions proved not altogether unjustified; the consuls did intercede, in particular the Russian consul; after all most of the newcomers came from Russia and while Russia might persecute its Jews back home, it certainly was not about to let the Turks do the same, not to Russian Jews. The newcomers did not really need much help; accustomed to living in a society which did not protect, but often persecuted them, they had learned how to circumvent authority. The venal nature of the Turkish administration made their task much easier, and they found little difficulty in evading and, when necessary, offering a little incentive to Turkish officials. It was much more difficult to make a going concern on the ground, to coax a little substance out of the earth.

The 1890's saw a renewed wave of Jewish settlement on the land, with some departures from previous patterns, as Hartuv was set up on land in the Judean foothills (the land was bought from the ‘London Jews Society’ who had attempted to settle needy Jews a decade before), and Motza was established in the hilltops just west of Jerusalem (on land bought by Bnai Brith from Jerusalem Jews who had purchased it in 1860 from Qoloniya Arabs). The Safad Bnai Yehuda society settled on land bought on the Golan (abandoned entirely before World I) and some settled on part of the 70,000 dunams bought further east in the Uran mountains; here, however, Istanbul’s expulsion orders were carried out in 1897. The northernmost village was established at Metulla by the Baron on land bought from Druze and the southernmost at Be’er Tuvia on land bought from the Arab village of Qastina. In both, modern farming equipment was supplied and for the first time prospective settlers were screened. Both, being more isolated, suffered more from attacks by their (Druze and Arab) neighbors.

On January 1, 1900 the Baron, having spent 40,000,000 francs with not much to show for it, handed over all of his holdings in the Holy Land to the Jewish Colonization Association (a non-Zionist organization founded by Baron Hirsch to settle Jewish refugees wherever he could, though primarily on his farms in the Argentine); The JCA cut subsidies and services and replaced vineyards with field crops. Settlers abandoned the farms in large numbers, many leaving the Holy Land, sometimes with boat tickets supplied by the JCA.

JCA established a number of new settlements in the lower Galilee; all of the measures tried earlier - more land per farmer, livestock, tools and loans supplied, only experienced farmers accepted, and independence only after several years as a successful tenant-farmer – were applied, but this time all together, with a little more success.

From 1882 – 1904 some 28 villages were established on about 235,000 dunams (1 acre = about 4 dunams) of land, about 5,500 Jews sticking it out. These farming communities were known as moshavot (moshava in the singular), comprising villages of small shareholders. Though not a resounding success, foundations had been laid. All in all, about 1/3 of the total number stayed on the farms (nearly 30,000 came, about half left). Other immigrants settled in the towns, first of all in Jaffa, the gateway to the new old world, a new center for the ‘new Jew’.

Jewish Jaffa (still primarily an Arab town) rapidly developed into a town with a distinctly modern air, especially when compared with the traditional Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad or Tiberias. The (Jewish) town committee was worried about the lack of respect shown the rabbi, the desecration of the Sabbath, and – heaven forbid - men and women dancing together. Eventually there was an open clash between the freethinkers and the traditional, but meanwhile Jaffa replaced Jerusalem as the center of Jewish activities. Not only did most new immigrants arrive in Jaffa, they stayed there, or left their families there while the farms were being prepared. The executive committees of Hovevei Zion and others were based in Jaffa, the JCA, based in Beirut, had an administrative center in Jaffa (and moved its headquarters there in 1905). Schools teaching in Hebrew (with Sephardic, not Ashkenazi pronunciation) were established, as was a library. Jaffa, already close to most of the new settlements on the coastal plain, became the urban center for the villages, a place where education was completed, where officials guided those in need through the web of bureaucracy, and where medical services could be found; a natural symbiosis developed between the Jews in Jaffa, including those of the Old Yishuv, and the new villagers, all of whom saw themselves as part of a new movement. Jaffa’s Jewish population had increased to about 6,000 (Haifa’s, another ‘Zionist’ town, was now some 2,000). But this nucleus of an internal Jewish government was eclipsed by the establishment in Basel of the World Zionist Organization in 1897, when 400 delegates met in response to the publication of Theodor Herzl’s The Jewish State, in which he claimed that Jews would never be accepted in the world at large until they had a state of their own.

Herzl initially believed that he could reach an agreement directly with Istanbul, which would permit an autonomous Jewish region in the Holy Land, either directly or by persuading one or more of the World Powers to influence the Turks in that direction. As early as June 1896, a year before founding the Zionist Organization, Herzl had visited Istanbul and offered to help settle the Turkish national debt (he had no funds to back up this offer, but hoped to raise the money if he could get a deal), in exchange for granting the Jews a homeland in Palestine. Abdul Hamid II would not see him but sent an answer: ’my people have won this empire by fighting for it with their blood … We will again cover it with our blood before we allow it to be wrested away from us ...’ In May 1901, Herzl finally met with the sultan. But Abdul Hamid apparently used the meeting merely as a lever for gaining better terms for a loan from the French.

Turkish opposition to early Jewish immigrants stemmed not only from its own concerns with outside interference in the Empire. It was also a response to local Arab opposition. On March 1, 1899 Jerusalem’s Yusuf Diya al Khalidi sent a letter to France's chief rabbi, Zadok Kahn, who passed it on to Herzl: ‘Who can challenge the rights of the Jews in Palestine? Good Lord, historically it is really your country,' wrote the 70-year-old Moslem. In theory, the Zionist idea was ‘completely natural, fine and just.’ But reality must include the recognized sanctity of the Holy Land to myriads of Christians and Muslims. The Jews could acquire the Holy Land only by force and he foresaw growing Arab opposition to Zionism. ‘It is necessary, therefore, for the peace of the Jews in [the Ottoman Empire] that the Zionist Movement ... stop ... Good Lord, the world is vast enough, there are still uninhabited countries where one could settle millions of poor Jews who may perhaps become happy there and one day constitute a nation ... In the name of God, let Palestine be left in peace.’ (Herzl responded directly to Khalidi on March19. Ignoring Khalidi's prediction that Zionism would provoke Arab opposition, he assured him that the Jews intended no ill towards the Ottoman Empire, and would materially benefit the Arab population as well.)

Khalidi’s response to the Zionist movement derived from the more politically conscious town Arabs, in particular from the elite families, and mostly from 1890 on. The fallah on the other hand, who came into direct and close contact with the new owners of the land that once was his, responded on a far more basic level.

Early Signs of the Arab-Zionist Conflict

In early April 1887 fallahin from Qatra, cultivating fields sold to Gedera (the only settlement set up by the Biluim), attacked a Gedera settler. Gedera was built on land previously owned or farmed by Qatra fallahin. A group from Gedera responded by attacking the fallahin with whips. The outnumbered Gederans were soon driven back, but the authorities intervened and arrested nine Arabs. The following year, October 17, 1888, Qatra villagers stole a horse. Gedera villagers gave chase, retrieved the horse and captured one of the thieves. That night the villagers stormed Gedera to get back the prisoner. Shots were fired in the air and stones were thrown - both sides taking care not to kill anyone - and the Arabs were driven off. The following day, reinforcements arrived in Gedera from Ekron and Rishon LeZion. The arrival of Turkish soldiers may well have prevented a major outbreak of hostilities. The authorities arrested four Qatra Arabs and took away the Arab `arrested' by the Jews. The quarrel died down and the two communities made peace. Qatra apparently resigned itself to the settlers' presence.

This sort of Arab-Jewish interaction took place in many of the moshavot. Once the initial disputes over land were sorted out, and once the aggrieved Arabs resigned themselves to the loss of Jewish-bought lands, relations were usually calm between each moshava and its neighbors. Indeed, the moshavot were often a boon to the neighboring villages: Fallahin working in the moshavot earned relatively good pay; settlers bought Arab produce and dung, and Arabs from the villages were hired to do guard duty. The growth and relative prosperity of the moshavot attracted Arabs to settle nearby. A few villagers were even pleased when they heard that Jewish immigrants intended to settle in their area. For example Sarafand, near Ramle, 'once a complete ruin ... has become a big, expansive village, because many families who had deserted the villages have settled in it [again], since now there is work for all of them … '

In general, initial hostility gave way to relatively peaceful day-to-day relations between each settlement and its Arab neighbors. But as the fallahin daily saw the newcomers cultivating lands that they had once owned or worked, it is not hard to imagine that many resented their new neighbors.

Turkish Modernization, Arab Nationalism, Jewish Immigration

The turn of the century saw many changes in the Ottoman Empire in general and the Holy Land in particular. The politicization of the Zionist movement brought into focus the burgeoning conflict between Arab and Jew, which played out on the stage of a growing Arab national movement, aiming at independence (or at least autonomy) from the Turks.

These hopes were galvanized by the July 24, 1908 revolt of the 'Young Turks' (all men over 25 now voted for electors who in turn chose the delegates for the new parliament), including those who wished to grant limited self-government or autonomy to the Empire's various national groupings (notably, the League for Private Initiative and Decentralization, comprising many officers from the peripheries of the empire). However the victory of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), which sought to maintain the empire, soon snuffed out these hopes, as they did quickening Zionist hopes for a Turkish change of heart. But CUP had no intention of creating another 'Armenian problem,' nor of fuelling the growing Arab national cause; if a handful of Jews could gain independence, why not millions of Arabs? Bulgaria had just declared independence, Crete announced her union with Greece; the empire was in danger of disintegrating. Accordingly, through 1909 the CUP embarked on a policy of 'Turkification' of the Empire. This policy, however, only stimulated Arab nationalism, and spurred on the creation of societies promoting pan-Arab ideas.

In the Holy Land, Najib Nasir in Haifa, in December 1908 founded al-Karmil, the first major local Arab newspaper, modeled after al-Mufid, the unofficial organ of al-Fatat, the pan-Arab secret society. On January 11, 1909 the cousins 'Isa and Yusuf al-'Isa began to publish the newspaper Filastin in Jaffa. The growing Arab nationalist movement in the Holy Land also focused on the dangers of the Zionist movement, an area in which they held common ground with the Turks. In March 1911, 150 notables sent a cable to the Ottoman parliament protesting land sales to Jews. Azmi Bey, the Turkish governor of Jerusalem, responded: "We are not xenophobes; we welcome all strangers. We are not anti-Semites; we value the economic superiority of the Jews. But no nation, no government could open its arms to groups ... aiming to take Palestine from us." On May 16, 1911 the Ottoman Parliament held the first major debate on the dangers of Zionism following speeches by Ruhi al-Khatib and Hafiz Sa'id, deputies for Jerusalem, and Damascus deputy Shukri al-'Asali (the local governor - kaymakam - of the sub-district of Nazareth), all of whom highlighted the threat of Zionist land purchases in the fallout of the al-Fula episode (1910-11). Istanbul responded to these protests by prohibiting the purchase of land by non-citizens.

On January 23, 1913, CUP, claiming external threats to the Empire, suspended the constitution, which provoked even greater Arab opposition. On June 21 the first Arab National Congress was held in Paris, all of the participants, apart from two Iraqis, coming from Greater Syria. The congress demanded that the Turks recognize the Arabs as a nation and grant them autonomy within the Ottoman Empire, stressing their continued loyalty to the Empire. Zionism was very much a side issue and hardly played a part in the Congress. The Turks responded forcefully; on May 16 Jamal Pasha, the Ottoman military governor, executed a group of nationalist intellectuals in Beirut and Damascus, and again in Beirut on August 21.

On November 14, 1914 the Ottoman Empire entered WWI on the side of Germany. Turkey's attempts to westernize had led to a revival of Turkish nationalism which, in turn, engendered an Arab reaction. These steps all meshed with the growing xenophobia displayed by the newborn national movements in Europe. As seen, these had played a part within the Ottoman Empire, coming to a head at the turn of the century, with Germany the clear winner. Britain had already established herself as the de facto ruler of Egypt and, in 1906, she drew the border between Egypt and the Empire in an almost straight line running from Rafah to the Gulf of Aqaba (this is the border today between Israel and Egypt). On November 5 1911, Italy invaded and annexed Libya. The Treaty of Fez on March 30, 1912 turned Morocco into a French protectorate. All these actions reinforced Turkey's alignment with Germany, especially to block Russian aggression (though Turkish forces suffered an immediate defeat at Sarikamis). It was against the backdrop of this world game, that the Second Aliya made its entry onto the smaller stage of rising Arab nationalism.

Within the Zionist movement tensions had developed between those who believed primarily in a political solution and those who believed in a step-by-step approach, purchasing land and settling it inch by inch. These tensions were exacerbated by the new wave of Jewish immigrants: socialists who had spurned Orthodox Judaism and reformers who believed in Jewish self-labor. Arriving under the auspices of HaPo`el HaTza`ir ('the Young Worker' founded in 1905) and Po`alei Zion ('The Workers of Zion' founded in 1906), they founded the term Kibush Ha'avoda (the conquest of Labor) by which they intended to turn Jews from intellectuals into manual laborers and to force the Jewish landowners (of the moshavot), their predecessors, to pay reasonable wages to their new Jewish workers. There was, of course, the added benefit of furthering the Zionist cause (by increasing the number of Jewish immigrants) as well as their own (by finding work). Lost in the tortuous ideological rationalization of 'Hebrew Labor' was the the ideal of the international solidarity of the working classes.

The earlier Jewish settlers resisted these attempts. After all the Arab fallah, at home on the land, was a far hardier and more efficient worker, and he never thought of himself as more than a fallah; the newcomers were physically weaker, had no farming experience, and, seeing themselves as partners (or leaders) in a greater enterprise, had difficulty in relating to their employer as their boss. (Much as the now bosses of the moshavot had, in their time, felt about the officials of the Baron or the JCA.)

The tensions between political and practical Zionism were resolved with the establishment, in December 1907, of a Zionist Organization office in Jaffa, which provided an overall policy and coordinated the initiatives of the immigrant societies and Jewish philanthropists. By now the Jewish population of Jaffa had grown to about 6,000. The Anglo-Levantine Banking Company in Istanbul, headed by Victor Jacobson, acted as an (unofficial) representative of the Zionist Organization until September 1911, when Jacobson became the official representative in the Ottoman capital. The office, headed by Arthur Ruppin (and his assistant Jacob Thon), directed most of its energies towards purchasing land.

JNF (the Jewish National Fund - Keren Kayemeth LeYisrael ) was founded on December 29, 1901 with a charter to buy land (called the 'redemption' of the land). It raised money worldwide by selling stamps and placing collection boxes (the blue box has now become a collector's item) in homes, schools and various institutions. In 1904 and 1908 it bought with these proceeds small parcels of land in the Judean hills and the Galilee.

In 1908 Otto Warburg and Arthur Ruppin set up the PLDP (the Palestine Land Development Company) to purchase land for the JNF. Keren Hayesod (the Foundation Fund) followed in 1920 to raise money abroad. Ruppin became the prime mover in the settlement enterprise, combining his studies in law and economics with his natural administrative ability. He regarded the farmers as equals (to the overseers and bureaucrats) in the settlement movement; he set up agricultural training farms, graduates of which would subsequently lease JNF land for their own use. The training farms also provided fertile grounds for ideological discussions which produced the dominant communities of the future, the kibbutz and the moshav ovdim. (In 1909 the first kibbutz, Degania, was founded on the southwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, on JNF land, as was later the first moshav, Nahalal, in the northwestern corner of the Jezreel valley, in 1921). Ruppin was also instrumental in advancing urban development, buying land in Haifa and Jerusalem to establish new neighborhoods and helping to found Tel Aviv.

In 1909, the same year Degania was founded, a group of 60 Jews from Jaffa, founded Ahuzat Bayit to buy, with financial assistance from the JNF, 48 dunam of sand dunes, north-east of Jaffa. They drew the outlines of four streets off a single backbone in the sand, drew 60 plots, and put 60 numbers and 60 names into 2 containers, in this manner deciding who would get which plot. Tel Aviv ('Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-Aviv' Ezekiel 3:15), was named for Nahum Sokolow's translation of Herzl's Altneuland, a depiction of the future Jewish state. Meir Dizengoff, for whom a main shopping street is named, was mayor from 1911 till 1936. A few of the original homes can be seen today on Rothschild Blvd. between Allenby St. and Herzl St.

On the eve of World War I the total population of Palestine, still predominantly agricultural, was about 690,000 (535,000 Moslems, 70,000 Christians, most of whom were Arabs, and 85,000 Jews). The number of Zionist villages had risen from 19 in 1900 to 47 in 1918, even though the majority of the Jews were town dwellers.