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Itinéraires juifs et sionistes

The Production of a Sense of Place among Jewish Immigrants in Mandatory Palestine

La production du sens du lieu parmi les immigrants juifs dans la Palestine mandataire (1920-1948)
Zeev Shavit
p. 59-84


L’article examine la production d’un « sens du lieu » parmi les immigrants sionistes arrivés en Palestine durant les premières décennies du vingtième siècle. Le processus s’opère à travers différentes pratiques réunies sous le titre de « connaissance du pays » (« Knowledge of the Land ») et qui ont contribué à transformer la Palestine en un lieu concret pour ces immigrants.

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1In his illustrious work, Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson writes:

The significance of the emergence of Zionism and the birth of Israel is that the former marks the reimagining of an ancient religious community as a nation, down there among the other nations – while the latter charts an alchemic change from wandering devotee to local patriot. (Anderson 1991: 149, n. 16).

  • 1 The naming of this geographical space is a complicated issue by itself, to which I cannot refer her (...)

2By creating an opposition between «wandering devotee» and «local patriot», Anderson phrases in spatial terms one of the transformations Zionism has instigated in Jewish history: he defines the process by which it wished to develop an attachment of an autochthonic character to a concrete national homeland, as opposed to the imagined one of previous centuries. In other words, this article will deal with the process by which Zionism attampted to re-invent the historical land of Israel (Palestine1) as a national homeland, and the Jewish immigrants as an autochthonic population.

3The need to transform the ancient attachment, which was founded on the biblical text and not on the interaction with a concrete geographical space, is what Anderson calls «an alchemic change». It surfaced among the Zionist immigrants at the outset of the Zionist migration, at the turn of the twentieth century. The discrepancy between the imagined historical land of Israel and the actual land they immigrated to was considerable. This was not «a land flowing with milk and honey» awaiting the return of its long-lost sons, but rather a land foreign and harsh in nature, homeland to an indigenous national group far from willing to give it up.

Homeland and sense of place

4In this article I argue that the term «homeland», taken from the conceptual universe of nationalism, is equivalent to the concept of place, taken from the conceptual universe of social geography. In order to reinvent the Zionist immigrants as an autochthonic population, they had to construct a sense of place in the space they saw as their old-new homeland. Thus, the concept of local patriotism is a spatial signifier of national sentiment – the local patriot is the patriot of national place, where he lives and has a sense of place. The aim of this article is to uncover one of the major mechanisms of the process through which Zionism attempted to re-invent Palestine as a national place, and the immigrants as having a sense of place in it. The empirical analysis will show the construction of four symbolic codes that can testify for a sense of place.

5This argument needs some theoretical clarifications. Modern nationalism has always a spatial dimension that «goes side by side with history in presenting a vision of the nation» (Storey 2001: 76). Many writers refer to it, either by the concept of «homeland» – a culturally meaningful physical place (Yiftachel & Roded 2003; Liebler 2010), or an imagined and moveable representation that evokes an abstract sense of belonging (Naficy 1999; Abdelhady 2008); or by the concept of «national landscape» – a repository of national meanings and a code of national symbols, that evokes «a clear sense of belonging» to a specific group (Nogue and Vicente 2004).

6These definitions bring the concept of homeland very close to the geographical and sociological concept of place, which focuses on the symbolic and emotional meanings a group of people confer upon a location which they experience and interpret (Relph 1976; Tuan 1977/2002; Gieryn 2000). These meanings are what transform a mere location into «a place» – familiar, unique, identifying and identified; a factor in the structuring of status and identity, as well as social and symbolic boundaries, be they fixed or fluid. These meanings originate in various social and cultural aspects of local reality: landscape, ecological environment and human interaction with them; spatial conduct; communicative action, social interaction and power relations within the local community; symbolic repertoires, ideology, collective memory and sentiments. However, these meanings are not founded exclusively upon what happens in the place itself, but also upon the operation of outside social forces (national and global) – ideology, material production, class and generational affiliations, cultural trends etc. (Lefebvre 1974/1991; Pred 1983; Agnew 1987; Merrifield 1993; Massey 1995; Butz and Eyles 1997; Watson 2003).

  • 2 Williams developed this concept in several books. Pred cites the following definition of it:
    «A ‘fel

7People in places have a distinctive attachment to them; they share a collective memory, sentiments and symbols which concern the place and they take part in a spatially unique set of relations. They develop a sense of place – a feeling of familiarity and intimacy with all these aspects of the place. Given that the concept of place points to a repository of meanings in a geographical location, a sense of place is the knowledge of these meanings that evolves in a reflexive manner (Tuan 1975a; Tuan 1975b; Relph 1976; Walter 1988: 132-145). Pred finds links between sense of place and Williams’ concept of structure of feeling (Pred 1983).2 Agnew goes further to note that it often develops into identification with the place and turns it into an object of identity and belonging (Agnew 1987: 27-28).

8All writers who discuss sense of place highlight spatial experience as its main source. Walter puts it succinctly by saying that, «The whole synthesis of located experience – including what we imagine as well as the sights, stories, feelings and concepts – gives us the sense of place.» (Walter: 2).

9Thus, a sense of place is a deep-seated structure of feelings and a form of social knowledge which is taken for granted, at least for the locally-born. It means a special and tight relationship of people to places and a certain quality of knowing the place from within. Pred (1983) puts the concept of sense of place in a dynamic perspective and conceptualizes sense of place as a process. He does so by suggesting the integration of structuration theory and the time-geography approach with the concepts of place and sense of place. This «marriage» (as he puts it) enables us to see sense of place as a «process of becoming», and as a part of larger social processes of socialization and the structuration of social structures. Massey suggests to think of places as «temporal and not just spatial: as set in time as well as space» (ibid. 186). She locates places on a historical continuum and argues that the characterization of place is dependent on interpretations of past and present in a certain «space-time envelope» and the power relations that characterize it. She concludes that «the identity of places, indeed the very identification of places as particular places, is always in that sense temporary, uncertain, and in process» (Massey 1995: 190; italics in original). From this we can deduce that a sense of place (which stems from the interpretations of place) is also a process.

  • 3 Sand has doubts as to the similarity between the biblical place and the Zionist one (Sand 2012). Ho (...)

10Perhaps the evasive quality of the concept might become clearer by relating it to the well-established concept of habitus. A key concept in Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology, habitus denotes a generative set of dispositions, preferences, classificatory and interpretative schemes, that «functions at every moment as a matrix of perceptions, appreciations and actions […]» (Bourdieu 1972/1977: 83; italics in original), for people who belong to a certain group and operate in a certain field (Bourdieu 1977: 78-86; Bourdieu 1980/1990: 52-65; Bourdieu & Wacquant 1992: 115-140; Jenkins 1992/2002: 74-84). One of the metaphors used by Bourdieu to clarify the effect of habitus is «a feel for the game» (Bourdieu 1980/1990: 66). The habitus is a taken-for-granted knowledge of conduct in the field, a practical sense of it, in the same way as a sense of place is a feel of the place. Furthermore, Savage and his associates (Savage, Bagnall & Longhurst 2005: 7-12) point that fields articulate with physical spaces and depend on spatially situated practices; thus, every field is spatially organized. This means that every habitus has the aspect of a sense of place – the place(es) where the game of the field is played. The field discussed in this article can be defined as the field of national production – the production of national sentiment, identity, and institutions. One of the stakes in this field at the early days of Zionism was producing a new sense of place, different from that which originates in «the ancient story of the place written in the biblical text» (Gurevitch 1997: 204).3 A broader gaze will define it as a field of conflict between various players, on the production of these «national goods».

11Thus, homeland (or national landscape) is produced and reproduced constantly as place either by culturally-produced interpretations, aspects of collective memory, or by interpretations people give to their interests, constraints, routines of conduct, interactions, practices and experiences which are defined spatially. Living in the homeland, experiencing it, and interpreting the experience of it, produces a sense of place. It follows that «local patriot» can be defined not only nationally but also spatially, by using the concept of sense of place. Thus, a «local patriot» is the one who is attached to his homeland, or national place, not only because of his national feelings but also because he has a sense of it as a place – a taken-for-granted knowledge of it, a part of his national habitus, which makes the place an object of his identity.

  • 4 For a critical analysis of the production of Palestine as a national place, see Sand’s (2012) recen (...)
  • 5 The direction Jewish sense of place in Israel has taken place in recent decades shows that religion (...)

12Having said that, my analysis of the «alchemic change from wandering devotee to local patriot» will focus on the first organized efforts to establish a sense of place among Zionist immigrants in Palestine during the 1920’s. This was done through a set of practices known in Israeli culture as «knowledge of the Land» (Yedi’at Ha’Aretz). The organizing body of these practices was the culture committee of the Jewish Workers Organization in Palestine. I argue that through «Knowledge of the land» practices, symbolic meanings of the space were invented or re-invented, reproduced over and again, thus establishing codes of a sense of place within the Zionist community in Palestine. Thus, «Knowledge of the Land» was the major mechanism that stood behind the reinvention of Palestine as a national place (in the secular manner characteristic of modern nationalism) and the production of a sense of place.4 It should be noted though that the long-established association of religion and nationhood in Judaism made this invention seem rather obvious in the eyes of many of the Zionist immigrants.5

13The empirical material for analysis consisted of documents of the culture committee: correspondence and notes, reports of activities, participants’ eye-witness accounts, public announcements of activities and minutes of meetings. Additional material includes written memoirs of some of the more prominent figures in this context, and newspaper and journal articles of the time. Thus, the raw material for analysis was textual, but the objects of the analysis were the practices and behaviors which were described – indeed a kind of «armchair anthropology».

  • 6 See also: Wuthnow et. al. 1984, Wuthnow 1987, 1992.

14In the analysis I identified in these practices and behaviors repetitive themes which bear similar meanings in different contexts in order to be able to indicate a process of codification. The direct inspiration for this kind of analysis comes from Wuthnow’s theoretical and empirical concepts of cultural codes as systems of cultural classification comprising significant symbolic components, which serve to confer meaning upon reality and the individual’s behavior within it, and to confer legitimacy upon this behavior and its reproduction, by setting it within wider contexts of significance (Lamont & Wuthnow 1990).6

«Knowledge of the Land» – an overview

  • 7 Some of the hikes were considerably daring considering the security conditions on the roads at the (...)
  • 8 See also, Yanait Ben-Zvi 1959: 3-246; Berlovitz 1987; Berlovitz 1996: 167-198; Y. Shavit 1997: 359- (...)
  • 9 See, Ben-Yehuda 1970: 114-131; Niv 1983: 173-179; Prawer 1992.

15Untill the 1920’s efforts to establish a sense of place among Zionist immigrants, were mainly taken on an individual basis or in small groups, but basically in an unorganized manner. This included hikes,7 wondering through the country in search for employment and literary descriptions of the landscape – all done with great desire (Neumann 2011).8 There were also some episodic and small-scale organized practices like excursions to destinations linked to the traditions of festive days, or school excursions that formed part of the curriculum in some of the schools.9

  • 10 One has to see this institutionalization also as part of the growing propensity of the Jewish Labor (...)

16But what suited the first immigrants, small avant-garde groups, did not suffice when immigrants started to come in greater numbers. The charisma of desire had to be routinized, thus the efforts aimed at establishing a sense of place evolved during the 1920s into an organized and more extensive activity. It was through the work of the Culture Committee of the Jewish Workers Organization at this period that «Knowledge of the Land» became an institutionalized, systematic and semi-professional Practice.10

  • 11 The term «teacher-guide» was coined by Katz in order to describe the complex role fulfilled by thes (...)
  • 12 For a more detailed description of this, and the other practices, see Shavit 2001: 188-255.

17«Knowledge of the Land» included four main practices. The most popular of these were hikes accompanied by a teacher-guide.11 Hikes took place on Saturdays and on holidays and may be divided into two types. The first type included short, one-day or at most two-day hikes, arranged for the residents of a single settlement, which focused only upon few well-defined destinations adjacent to the settlement; these hikes were undertaken either on foot or by car. The second type combined long and strenuous walks with sections traveled by vehicle. These hikes lasted from three-four days up to as long as ten days; their routes were complex, taking in many sites and reaching far-flung areas. Such hikes necessitated careful preparation on the part of both participants and guides, and generally included a definite element of study, such as a sizable reading list to be read prior to the hike and after it (this will be described in detail below). In some cases traditional ceremonies related to the current festive day were included in these hikes’ itinerary.12

18The second practice took the form of lectures on a wide range of topics related to Palestine’s geography, history, nature and ethnography. The lectures were held in the evening, after working hours, and in many cases were illustrated by slides projected by means of a portable overhead projector. The lectures were given by teacher-guides, who, when not engaged in a hike, wandered from one settlement to another, each designated to a certain region, as they sought to reach as wide an audience as possible.

19The third practice was intended for those among the audience who wished to deepen their knowledge. They set up self-education groups to engage in in-depth study of specific topics, and to read and discuss texts with the help of the teacher-guides, with whom they conferred from time to time.

20The fourth practice was the founding of improvised museums of the natural environment known by the name «collection rooms», or «nature rooms.» These were established primarily in agricultural settlements and also served as places of study that would benefit agricultural work.

  • 13 One of the teacher guides, Ze’ev Vilnay, wrote the encyclopedia «Ariel» (Vilnay 1969-1984), which i (...)

21A small number of teacher-guides were involved in all four practices. Most were self-educated, or had a partial formal education in their spheres of activity. It was only after years of working for the Culture Committee that they found time to complete their formal education (Katz 1985). Later on some of them became academic scholars in their areas of specialty and wrote some of the basic books in «Knowledge of the Land»13. But at the time under discussion, their professional authority was based upon their dedication to self-education.

22Two main developmental trends characterized «Knowledge of the Land» in the 1920’s. One is its institutionalization as a specialized discipline in its own right. This could be seen primarily in the institutionalization of the role of the teacher-guide, and in the continual effort at mobilizing lecturers who specialized in specific areas such as archaeology, zoology, botany, geography, etc. While the teacher-guides did indeed enjoy professional autonomy, their work was carried out under the ongoing supervision of the Culture Committee’s board, and their periodic reports constitute a valuable source of information for the researcher.

23A second trend is the steady expansion of activity, at least up to the falling off that occurred due to shortage of finance toward the end of the 1920’s (an off shoot of the world economic crisis during those years). The regular reports indicate a growth in the number of all activities and in their participants, and show that the teacher-guides reached virtually every spot in which immigrants lived. In some of the later reports one discerns a tone that implies that «Knowledge of the Land» had become a routine and that its popularity was continually growing. Taking into consideration the harsh daily routine of many of the immigrants at that time, these two trends show us how determined was the effort to construct a sense of place, among the leaders of the Jewish Labor Movement of Palestine, and among a large part of the immigrants.

Cultural Appropriation of the Space

24The cultural appropriation of the space – Palestine – means transforming it into a national asset by marking it with Jewish cultural signifiers regarded as central by the national ideology. Calling Palestine by the Jewish traditional name «Land of Israel» was taken for granted among all immigrants and did not characterize exclusively «knowledge of the Land». Three other cultural signifiers were in use: the Old Testament; the Hebrew language; and Jewish history.

The Old Testament – «The Book of the Land»

  • 14 It should be noted that for many centuries the institutionalized Jewish religion considered the Hal (...)

25The Old Testament is one of the primary sources of the Jewish people’s identity, both in its own eyes and in those of others, and has thus become a national attribute. Furthermore, it is a central component of Jewish identity on the personal-emotional level as well, and has constituted an important baggage of associations for Jews who received a religious or traditional education in the Diaspora (Shapira 2004). All the leaders of the labor movement, without exception, regarded the Old Testament as an important source of inspiration and as the foremost source of legitimacy of the Jewish national movement (Shapira 1998).14

  • 15 See also: Gurevitch 1997; Neumann 2011.
  • 16 LMA – Labor Movement Archive.

26Thus, the Old Testament played a prominent part within the overall cultural endeavor of the Jewish Workers Organization - in the study of Hebrew, in the operation of libraries and even in performances of the workers’ theater (Shavit 2001). It was an ever-present element in all the hikes that took place and in numerous lectures. As one of the main historical sources for ancient Judaism, it was used in a variety of ways to identify the space with «the land of the Bible» - thus as the territory of the people of the Bible.15 The hiking routes mentioned in various documents indicate that they included many sites related to the biblical history of the ancient people of Israel, for example: Mount Tavor, Mount Carmel, Shekhem (Nablus), the Elah valley, Hebron, Bethlehem and many others. Whenever the hikers arrived at a biblical site or a spot where a biblical event had taken place the Old Testament was opened and the hikers (or the teacher-guide) read the appropriate section. For example, the guide David Barash tells of a hike that he led to Ashqelon and Ashdod during which, «Apart from the detailed explanations at each place we also read all that is told in the Old Testament about the land of the Philistines.» Of a different hike, which traced the course of Samson’s early life in the area of Tsor’ah and Eshta’ol, Barash says that «We read in the Old Testament everything related to Samson’s exploits and the fate of his family in this place» (LMA IV-142-1-48, 409-429).16

  • 17 Meaning – The valley of Jezre’el.

27The Old Testament was also frequently present in lectures, helping to identify Palestine as «the land of the Bible». A survey of the many lists of lecture topics (particularly in the teacher-guides’ reports to the committee’s board) reveals a large number of lectures dealing with the biblical history of Palestine and in particular with that of specific sites or regions in it, or lectures devoted to archaeological, botanic and ethnographic descriptions. Examples of such lecture topics are: «The Character of our Land and its Reflection in the Old Testament,» «The Residents [of Palestine] According to the Old Testament,» «The Climate of our Land and its Reflection in the Old Testament,» «The Valley in Biblical Times,»17 or «Jerusalem During the Time of the Kings of the House of David.»

Marking the Biblical Borders

  • 18 Joseph Braslavski had changed his surname to Braslavi and appears here in both names.

28Marking the Biblical borders of Palestine is a special case of the important role played by the Old Testament in the cultural appropriation of the land, but deserves special attention because of its symbolic and political significance, even though there was not much evidence for it. While on a hike to the upper Galilee, one of the teacher-guides noted that the territory of one of the ancient Hebrew tribes (located west of the spot where he stood with the hikers, in the area under the jurisdiction of the French Mandate over Lebanon) is situated «within the borders of our historic rights,» (LMA IV-142-1-40, 388). Another teacher-guide related in detail, in his memoirs, to a journey he made in eastern Trans-Jordan in 1924, with a delegation that sought to investigate the possibility of establishing Jewish settlements to the south of the Dead Sea, as part of a plan to establish a belt of far-flung border settlements that would demarcate the borders of the Jewish territory (Braslavski 1955-1956, volume 2: 65-72).18

29Likewise a good number of lectures dealt with areas lying outside Mandatory Palestine, and which were noted in the Old Testament as areas under Jewish rule, or which served Jewish interests during certain periods. Such lectures covered, for example, Petra and its vicinity, Mount Hermon, the Druze Mountain and the Golan Hights, or the sources of the Jordan River.

30Not many explicit mentions were found regarding the inclusion of these areas in the Zionist claims, but on numerous occasions their Jewish past was mentioned, and this constitutes more than a hint at the demarcation of borders. However, one may also assume that the teacher-guides wished to familiarize the hikers and listeners with the wider region, and this is supported by the fact that lectures of this kind covered not only the geographic locations themselves but also their indigenous inhabitants – the Arabs.

Creating a Hebrew-speaking Space

  • 19 It should be noted that most of the Zionist immigrants were themselves in the process of acquiring (...)
  • 20 After the establishment of the state of Israel this became a formal practice initiated and sponsore (...)

31The creation of a Hebrew-speaking space was done through renaming various sites, by giving them Hebrew rather than Arabic names.19 This was done in two ways. One way was the use of ancient Hebrew names for sites on hiking routes instead of their clearly similar Arabic ones: for example, Arab villages and towns like Safuriyye, Jish, Buqei’a, Shafa-’Amr, Iqsal, Beit Jubrin or Ishdud were referred to by their ancient Hebrew names of Tsipori, Gush-Halav, Peki’in, Shfar’am, Ksulot Tavor, Beit Govrin and Ashdod (respectively).20

  • 21 See also: Ben-Tsvi 1923, Ben-Tsvi 1927, Broshi 1927, Vilnayi 1927a, Vilnayi 1927b.

32Another way of creating a Hebrew-speaking space involved the invention of a Hebrew name for new Jewish settlements to replace the Arabic names of their sites. This practice was to be found primarily in articles published in the Labor movement’s press. The preferred rule for it was clearly formulated in one of these articles (Ben-Tsvi 1927): a careful philological and historical investigation of ancient Jewish sources, and of inscriptions revealed in archaeological digs, in order to revive the ancient Hebrew form of the Arabic name.21

33In the above-mentioned article the author also articulated the rationale of this practice: «The redemption of the name goes hand-in-hand with the redemption of the land and the redemption of labor» (ibid). By this he meant to assert that the use of Hebrew names and the return to the land («redemption of the land») were two sides of the same coin, namely, national rebirth. In other words, the rationale for creating a Hebrew-speaking space meant that just as those returning to their homeland are expected to speak Hebrew, so too should the land itself become a «Hebrew speaker». It should become the cultural property of the nation by acquiring one of its definitive cultural attributes.

Putting Space into (Jewish) Historical Perspective

34As Katz (1985) has shown, «Knowledge of the Land» became a «Para-canonic scientific body of knowledge». This included an attempt, made by the teacher-guides, to develop a historical perspective of the land. However, their reports indicate that in fact it was a Jewish historical perspective that ruled this attempt.

  • 22 The identification of such sites is of course dubious, and debates among experts on this issue took (...)
  • 23 Other popular sites included Modi’in, Megiddo, Tsipori, Yodfat, Gush-Halav and the Arbel fortress o (...)
  • 24 The two occasions were the Samaritans’ Passover sacrificial ceremony and The Bar Yohai festivity.

35Hiking routes included mostly sites directly linked with Jewish history. These sites were of six types:22 sites in which important events in national history had occurred; sites in which important figures, such as the prophets, had lived; remains of synagogues from various historical periods; Jewish cemeteries; the remains of fortresses where Jews had fought in ancient times; sites of ancient Jewish towns and villages. Among the most popular sites were Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron and its vicinity, Mount Carmel, Mount Tavor or Capernaum.23 Two additional historic sites were visited on an annual basis on festive occasions – Mount Gerizim near Shekhem and the assumed burial site of Shimon Bar-Yohai, a famous sage of the post second temple era, in the Upper Galilee.24

36A particularly large proportion of the lectures given by the teacher-guides dealt with Jewish history of Palestine and focused on the same types of Jewish historical sites, with the addition of lectures on ancient Jewish villages in the Judean desert.

37Visiting such sites or learning about them aroused among the hikers/listeners a sense of admiration towards the ancient Jewish inhabitants of these sites. Writing in his diary about a visit to Capernaum, the teacher-guide David Barash affords us a glimpse of this feeling:

[…] We stood and talked for a while of the Jewish inhabitants of the place, who had cultivated excellent wheat and [built] wonderful synagogues by carrying stones from afar (in the area of Kfar Nahum there is black basalt stone and the synagogue is of limestone) and by carving such beautiful engravings. We also devoted time to the work implements, grindstone and others […] (LMA IV-142-1-48, 387).

On the visit to the ancient synagogue in Jish (Gush-Halav) he wrote as follows:

On the following day we visited the remains of the synagogue. The engraving of the eagle on the lintel of the synagogue here in the town of Yohanan caught the eye. The visitors could not believe that what they saw before them was indeed a Jewish synagogue. Only the Hebrew inscription consoled them […] At last we are in the Land of Israel, someone said […] (ibid, 388).

38Thus we can see here a complex and recurring practice of cultural appropriation, of marking space (Palestine) with three main Jewish cultural attributes – The Old Testament, the Hebrew language and the national history. This was done by rational thought and action as well as by associational thought, emotions and imagination. It was a complex practice of interpretation, by which the Zionist immigrants conferred meanings upon the newly-arrived space, made it familier to themselves and thus codified it as a national place. Conscious to their Jewish identity and collective memory, they imagined themselves thereby as natives of the place. The direct cultural and historical bond between themselves and the place, which was forged by these practices, generated within them a sense of the place – a strong and intimate sense of belonging to the place, familiarity and identification with it.

The Experience of Space

39«Place», wrote Tuan back in 1975, «is a center of meaning constructed by experience» (Tuan 1975b: 152). Right at the beginning of his article he declares (using Oakshot’s words) that «experience is a coverall term for the various modes through which a person knows his world» (ibid. 151), and makes a distinction between two modes of experience – the direct, sensory mode, and the indirect mode which uses the mind and more active senses. In both cases the experience is of the concrete, physical space – scenery, topography, climate, flora and fauna as well as man-made objects.

40The contact with the concrete, physical space was of particular importance in the case of Zionist immigrants. Their initial sense of belonging was to an imagined land, and was nourished by the word – the biblical texts – and by various images, which were formed throughout a process of myth making during the long period of exile after the destruction of the second temple, and were part of their socialization. Thus, experience-based practices were essential for the constitution of a sense of place, and indeed, such practices appeared with great frequency. I am talking here about three types of experience: the bodily and the visual experiences, and the settler’s experience of his immediate environment.

The bodily Experience

41This type of experience is associated mostly with hikes. The members of the Culture Committee and the teacher-guides regarded the hike as learning through experience so as to complement what was heard in lectures or read in books. This approach is demonstrated by the content of a letter to «The Committee for Assisting Immigrants in the Land of Israel»:

[…] These hikes have a cultural value no less than the lectures about the homeland, since they clarify to the hikers and particularly to the new immigrants the concepts that they have acquired from the lectures as well as introducing the hikers to the country’s nature and its various sights (LMA IV-142-1-48, 568).

42Another expression of this view about the hikes is to be found in David Barash’s response to a woman hiker who had complained about the strenuous nature of the hikes:

The hikes led by the Culture Committee’s teacher-guides involve fatigue, expense and time. But in return for all this they aim to grant a tangible concept of the country’s regions (Barash 1926).

  • 25 This was the essence of the distinction drawn by Yosef Braslavski between the hike and written mate (...)

43The «tangible concept of the country’s regions» referred to by the writer were, presumably, natural phenomena and the special experiences they afforded, such as watching the sunrise from a high mountain peak, close observation of the flora (some hikes were defined as «botanic field trips») and of configurations of the landscape, as well as «those changing phenomena that meet the guide and the hiker on every hike.»25

44The general report to the Jewish Workers Organization’s third convention noted that many hikes passed through Arab villages or their environs and this served for the hikers as an opportunity to get to know the country’s native inhabitants (whose history and way of life were addressed in ethnographic lectures) (The Jewish Workers Organization, the executive committee 1927: 324).

  • 26 Here perhaps one may find the origin of the culture of arduous treks that characterized the first g (...)

45Hot weather that caused the hikers to perspire, and the long and often hilly routes, which were characteristic of a good number of hikes, added a dimension of physical effort to this experience.26 Hikes to the northern parts of the country, for example, included long and steep climbing on foot. Some hikes lasted nine, ten and eleven days, and included long treks on foot. An indication of the distance covered each day is provided by David Barash’s above-mentioned response: «[…] actually on the hike to the borders of the Negev we walked no more than 25 km. per day […]» (Barash, 1926). One should, however, remember that the participants in these hikes were generally not experienced hikers and the physical strain was felt by some if not by all of them. The woman hiker who had lodged the complaint to which Barash responded (see above) wrote as follows:

Here we find one of the comrades lagging behind. She is new to the country and has taken two bundles: a hand-carried suitcase and a large, heavy blanket. At the beginning of the way between Har-Tuv and Beit Jubrin she is in trouble […] if only they had announced in advance the approximate number of hours to be walked? If only this young lady had known that she would have to walk for eight hours with virtually no break? If only they had provided prior details it is likely that many would have chosen not to join [the hike].
There was not even one pack donkey, and how was it possible to do without one on such a long hike? Perhaps someone would have difficulty, perhaps someone would take ill, after all even the strongest and healthiest may fall ill (One of the hikers, 1926).

46The hikes were meant to provided various types of experiences, all of which combined to lend them an aura of an intimate acquaintance with the country; an acquaintance felt through body and senses but also through feelings, imagination as well as the intellect. The two points of view about hiking cited here show that seeing the hike as an experience of the concrete country was a principled approach among the teacher-guides, while some of the hikers found this experience a difficult one. Nevertheless, alongside the difficulty there was the experience of making personal acquaintance with landscapes suffused with symbolic potency in the eyes of the hikers. Both of these contributed to the construction of a sense of place.

The Magic Lantern – a Visual Sense of Place

  • 27 In his memoirs Braslavi mentions how he battled with the donkey he had hired to transport the magic (...)

47As an aid to their lectures, the teacher-guides used intensively a slide projector – a magic lantern. The magic lantern of the 1920s was a heavy and cumbersome device, especially for the traveling teacher-guide, who was obliged to carry his «work instrument» by himself on his travels.27 Apart from the instrument’s weight it required a power source that was not always available. Furthermore, slides could be obtained only in few places and their price stretched the low budget. Consequently, the teacher-guides themselves frequently took photos on their hikes and had them made into slides by a professional photographer. The slides showed mainly landscapes of the country, sites of historical remnants, typical trees, bushes and flowers, and also typical animals.

  • 28 See for example, LMA IV-142-1-48, 390-392; IV-142-1—20a, 128-133; IV-142-1—13, 474-480.

48But the magic lantern’s main value was the capacity to add some «color» – a visual dimension that was absent in lectures but present in hikes. In their regular reports to the Culture Committee board the teacher-guides generally made a point of mentioning which lecture was accompanied by a magic lantern, invariably noting the fact that it helped to attract a larger audience.28 This value was well phrased in one of the Culture Committee’s reports: «[…] the magic lantern is of considerable value in bringing to life the entire country for the comrades, wherever they may be» (No Author 1923: 4).

49The visual element provided by the slides, was vital and transformed the lectures into simulated trips. Watching them can thus be regarded as partly imagined partly tangible form of experiencing the space, as well as a substitute for those who could not join the hikes regularly. In conclusion, the efforts invested in institutionalizing the use of the magic lantern on a regular basis in fact constituted an effort aimed at expanding the visual experience of the land.

The Settler’s Experience of his Immediate Environment

50The hikes and lectures often took their participants and audiences to far-flung places. A different type of practice addressed the immediate geographical surroundings of a particular settlement. The collection room was most often used to provide such experience.

51The teacher-guide Shmuel Svorai was particularly involved with this practice and his devotion to the cause is evident in his regular reports to the Culture Committee board. He frequently visited settlements that were scattered over a large geographical area (considering the transport services available at the time this was not an easy matter), and would remain a number of days in each settlement. During his stay he would seek out people who agreed to dedicate themselves to collecting and handling the exhibits, and instruct them. Yet his main effort was to add new exhibits to the collection. He would wander around in the vicinity of the settlements, seeking for stones, collecting plants which he would later dry, catching insects and butterflies, preparing wind and rain gauges.

52Svorai trained those in charge of the collection rooms to roam in the vicinity of their settlements and look for exhibits. He brought maps, instruction material, magnifying glasses, storage boxes for insects, measuring instruments (such as barometers), and taught the volunteers how use all the instruments, make observations, record measurements in log-books he prepared for it and arrange the display (LMA IV-142-1-6).

53The experience of space involved in this practice was twofold: firstly, it was the experience of the volunteers who took care of the collection rooms and spent considerable time in getting familiar with their immediate space. It was also the experience of the many more who visited the collection rooms in order to learn about their environment. Moreover, the collection rooms assisted settlers by accumulating the knowledge and experience vital for their daily agricultural work.

  • 29 See for example, IV-142-1-6, 1071-1081; IV-142-1-10a, 1602-1603; IV-142-1-11a; IV-142-1-16a, 1130, (...)

54Another practice that afforded settlers tangible experience of their immediate surroundings and familiarity with it, took the form of hikes and short vehicular trips in the settlement’s vicinity. Most of these trips took place on the Sabbath and were held frequently. Thus, for example, workers from Haifa made trips to sites on Mount Carmel, but also to Haifa Bay and the Zevulun valley to the north-east, or to Caesarea, south of Haifa. Residents of the agricultural settlements in the Jezre’el and Jordan valleys hiked in the valleys themselves but also climbed Mount Tavor and went to Nazareth. The workers of Tiberias made trips in the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee and to the Arbel fortress. Vehicular trips and field trips set out from Tel-Aviv to several locations within a 20-30 kms. radius of the city.29

55The «Knowledge of the Land» endeavor thus included several recurring practices which were founded upon a physical and sensual experience of the space. The teacher-guides and the Culture Committee formed these practices and turned them into a regular and ongoing leisure-time experience, thereby stamping it with a clear and consistent significance of «being in place». The unmediated experience of the space instilled the individual with memories and sentiments that connected him to the tangible space and created a sense of belonging to it: the unforgettable colors of a landscape and a breath-taking natural phenomenon; an arduous trek; setting eyes for the first time upon things previously communicated only by spoken or written word; or the forging of a new personal and practical bond with natural phenomena in the vicinity of one’s own home.

Space as a Stage for Rituals

56The use of space as a stage for rituals combined the experience of space with the performative arousing of collective sentiments, either sentiments connected with the national collective and culture, or sentiments connected with the Labor movement and its ideology.

57There was indeed a clear ritualistic element present in every hike conducted by the Culture Committee, especially in the preparations for it. Large ads would appear weeks prior to the hike in the Labor movement’s press. The ads presented they route, explained the significances of its destinations, and invited people to enroll. The report to the third convention of the Jewish Workers Organization tells that «people would accumulate penny upon penny» long before the hike would take place (The Jewish Workers Organization, the executive committee 1927: 324). Hikers were also recommended to read specified books and articles about the sites in the route and were given a list of the necessary equipment items. All these present the hike itself as a ritual of the place. This view of the hike, however, is somewhat simplified and even self-evident. Apart from being a ritual of the place, the hike also served as an opportunity for partaking in other rituals. The fact that this other rituals were performed within the framework of a ritual of place, linked the content of the former with a sense of the place and added an experiential depth to the sense of place thus created.

The Hike as a National Solidarity Ritual

  • 30 The leaders of a successful Jewish rebellion against the Seleukian regime in Palestine at the 2nd c (...)
  • 31 The religious Memorial Day for the destruction of the first and second temples. For descriptions of (...)
  • 32 See, LMA IV-142-1-40, 2348-2349; No Author 1928; Braslavi 1973: 274-276.
  • 33 A festivity commemorating an unsuccessful Jewish rebellion against the Roman regime in the 2nd cent (...)

58A distinct type of hikes was held at the time of holidays, and was designated to relevant sites and festivities. One such hike was made to the assumed burial place of the Mackabim30 on the holiday of Hannukka commemorating their rebellion (a practice already prevalent among Jewish settlers at the end of the 19th century, see Berlovitz 1987). Further examples are provided by the Passover trips to Jerusalem and the encircling of the walls of Jerusalem on Tish’ah Be’av.31 An annual trip was also made to the Samaritans’ sacrificial Passover ritual on Mount Gerizim near Shekhem,32 and to the festivity of rabbi Shimon Bar-Yohai on Lag Ba’omer.33 This is a particularly interesting example since it not merely reconstructed a traditional Jewish ritual, but also constructed national solidarity among different generations and different sub-groups. This is shown in David Barash’s diary, were he writes during such a trip about a sense of continuation and solidarity the secular hikers felt with past generations and contemporary orthodox Jews who came to this festivity at the very same site (LMA IV-142-1-48, 388).

59This creates a clear tie between space, nation, history and the hikers. By taking part in this festive ritual as a part of the hike’s plan, a link was established between the hike as a ritual of place, the sense of place it establishes and the national solidarity symbolized by a popular-national tradition.

The Hike as a Movement Solidarity Ritual

  • 34 A local initiative, not to be confused with the American Labor Day.

60Since they included a large number of participants, the Culture Committee’s hikes presented a social occasion on which members of the Jewish Workers’ Organization from all parts of the country, or from a particular geographical area, could meet one another. A report published by the Culture Committee on the occasion of «Labor Day»34 in 1924 already noted that the hikes presented an opportunity for a «festive meeting» of workers from all parts of the country (No Author 1924: 14). In this respect the hikes served as rituals of solidarity within the movement. An example is to be found in a letter of Braslavi’s written in July 1923, in which he tells of a trip to Caesarea that numbered some 350 participants who arrived in groups by various means of transport from places up to 40 kms. away (LMA IV-142-1-10a, 1602-1603). The hikes took on added importance as solidarity-enhancing rituals, considering mobility difficulties in the 1920s: the lack of regular and frequent transport services, the high cost of those services that were available, and the duration of the journey, which entailed the loss of precious working days.

61Braslavi notes in his autobiography that hikes also served as an opportunity «[…] for ‘bondings’ and for ‘match-making’ […]» (Braslavi 1973: 264). This meant that hikes also served as a kind of courtship ritual for men and women hikers.

62A somewhat different type of movement solidarity ritual may be seen in the fact that every hike departing from urban areas (Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa) to the northern valleys and Galilee regions incorporated visits to the movement’s agricultural communal settlements. These settlements did indeed provide convenient over-night shelter as well as logistic assistance. However, the meeting between urban workers and agricultural settlers constituted a meeting between two disparate groups of members of the same ideological collective that attached considerable importance to generating solidarity among its members.

63Thus, apart from being itself a ritual of the place, the hike provided an opportunity to associate place and solidarity rituals. By this way the experience of place was fused with collective sentiments, cultural and ideological baggage of the hikers. At the same time, the conflation of place experience and other rituals gave these rituals a spatial flavor and established them in place, producing and reproducing a sense of place.

Studying the Space

  • 35 One may argue that the code of experience is likewise meant to facilitate this capacity – not neces (...)

64This headline compiles practices of accumulating knowledge about Palestine by way of study. «Being in place» means, among other things, to be well acquainted with it, until this acquaintance turns the place into a taken-for-granted reality. The Jewish immigrants to Palestine, however, for whom acquaintance with the country was by no means taken for granted, needed to acquire it. Study presented a way for it, deeply ingrained in the Jewish heritage. The meaning of study in this context is gaining a sense of place through achieving the intellectual capacity to «decipher» the meanings of various spatial phenomena.35

65In a meeting of the Culture Committee, one of its members provided a definition of the necessary link between study – the production and accumulation of knowledge – and the generation of a sense of place:

[…] We should be guided by European science in our investigations, but we must take this road ourselves. We shall research our land and our language according to the same scientific procedures by which the mountains and rivers of England were measured, the nature and climate of Germany were studied and the tongues of these lands were investigated. But we ourselves shall study it: with our body and our soul shall we return to that which has been studied of our country by others. Everything must be studied by us. This is the true education and this is the meaning of dwelling in the Land of Israel (No Author 1924: 24).

66In addition to defining the objective of studying Palestine and defining the way to do this (self-education through scientific research), the speaker cited here – one of the prominent intellectuals of the Jewish Labor Movement at the time – asserts that it is this self-education which constitutes the basis for a sense of place. The author of an article published in 1925 in one of the movement’s magazines defined the link between study and sense of place even shorter, by way of a slogan:

«There can be no affection without knowledge. Ergo: knowledge of the homeland, affection for the homeland, intimate bond with the homeland – these are one and the same» (Lev 1925).

The Lectures as a Study arena

  • 36 See, Katz 1985.

67The situation in which a lecturer speaks to an audience of listeners hardly requires symbolic interpretation; this is study par excellence. However, study was also undertaken by the teacher-guides, who were mostly self-taught.36 While working as teacher-guides they spent a considerable amount of time looking for new, relevant reading material, to enrich their lectures. These two types of study, though discussed here separately, were strongly interconnected.

68The audience of these lectures comprised of workers engaged in hard physical labor, who were often too fatigued to listen attentively. But the lecture presented one of the few ways of escaping temporarily from the arduous daily grind. It was considered an evening of entertainment to which the listeners looked forward to. This was frequently noted in the teacher-guides’ reports in addition to mentioning the interest displayed by the audience and the many questions raised during and after the lectures (Braslavi 1973: 239-248; LMA IV-142-1-6, 1070-1081).

69It was the motivation and involvement of the listeners that drove the teacher-guides to invest systematic efforts in their self-education, in addition to their own personal desire for knowledge. In addition to the field studies they conducted on their own, the teacher-guides read any book or journal they could find in the libraries that existed at the time – mainly the National Library in Jerusalem (which became part of the Hebrew University after its establishment), and the Sha’ar Zion library in Tel-Aviv. Also, from time to time the teacher-guides consulted with academic specialists in the Hebrew University.

70In one of his reports (LMA IV-142-1-40, 2353-2354), one of the teacher-guides describes the difficulties he tackled while looking for new literature, gathering extensive information from many different sources in order to establish «Knowledge of the Land» as a new and integrative discipline of the study of Palestine. He urges the Culture Committee board to establish a comprehensive library of the subject within the central library of the Jewish Workers’ Organization, and thus afford the teacher-guides better accessibility to reading material. A library, he argued, would enable him also to «stimulate the comrades» to read and study on their own.

71However, the teacher-guides did not rely on their own knowledge, but tried their best to recruit specialists in various subjects such as Botany, Zoology, Geography, Ethnography, History and Archeology. These lecturers were to be found mainly among the academic staff of the young Hebrew University, but also outside of it.

  • 37 For details of the topics included in each category see Shavit 2001: 233-237.
  • 38 Three tentative explanations may be offered for dealing with these topics. One refers to the theory (...)

72The significance of studying the country as a code of sense of place is likewise indicated by the breadth of topics covered by the lectures. Upon surveying the numerous reports compiled by the teacher-guides we can divide their topics into nine categories.37 The first includes general lectures dealing with various descriptive aspects of Palestine. Such lectures were few in number relative to more specific ones. The second category comprises comprehensive descriptions of a particular region, a city, a mountain, a river, or the surroundings of a settlement. This type of lecture was the most popular, and such lectures addressed the environs of the place where they were given. The third category of lecture topics was archaeology, covering sites and findings of archaeological digs in Palestine. Lectures on the biblical history of Palestine belong to the fourth category and these addressed a wide variety of disciplines – archaeology, nature, history and so forth. These lectures too were fairly popular, although less so than those dealing with a particular region or location. The fifth category comprises topics that addressed the Jewish history of Palestine after biblical times, focusing on the Jewish history of various sites or the entire land. The lectures which dealt with the non-Jewish history of various regions and locations in Palestine comprise another category. Most of them addressed ancient history, the most recent era being the Second Temple period (approx. 520 b.c.-70 a.c.). The seventh category includes lectures on natural phenomena in Palestine and covered a variety of topics – climate, flora, geology, natural resources and water. Ethnographic lectures comprise the eighth category and dealt with various aspects of the lives of the Arab inhabitants of the country.38 The ninth category includes lectures on regions which lay beyond the borders of Mandatory Palestine and regarded by the Zionist movement as a legitimate object of its demands, but which it had in effect conceded: eastern Trans-Jordan or the area south of the Litany River in today’s South Lebanon. These lectures were relatively rare.

73Such a broad variety of topics signifies the great effort of the teacher-guides to expose their audience to a thorough knowledge base about the place. It testifies for the importance they attributed to study as a way of deepening the acquaintance with the place.


74The above-mentioned description of a teacher-guide’s difficulties in his own study efforts brings out also the need he and his colleagues felt, to train all those who were especially interested in «knowledge of the Land» beyond what they could acquire from popular lectures. This feeling brought about the practice of self-education in the form of small study groups. However, it should be noted that the collection rooms discussed above had also an aspect of self-education, but this took the form of a hands-on experience.

75A glance into the study pattern of these groups is provided by two sources. The first is the report submitted to the third convention of the Jewish Workers Organization (The Jewish Workers Organization, the executive committee 1927: 323); the second is the exchange of letters in January 1928 between one of the teacher-guides and the general secretary of the Culture Committee in which they discussed setting up study groups in four settlements (LMA IV-142-1-40, 2368-2374). From these sources it can be learned that these were groups of «interested individuals» coming from several settlements, who attended monthly lectures delivered by a visiting teacher-guide, and spent the remaining time studying on their own using professional literature. The teacher-guide decided on the lecture’s topics together with the group’s members, according to their areas of interest, and while staying with them he would prepare a list of books that they would purchase jointly, or would ask the Culture Committee’s central library to purchase or lend out.

  • 39 The phrase «interested individuals» was mentioned in various reports in the context of particular h (...)

76«Taking an interest» is a key phrase in understanding self-education as a building block of study as a code of sense of pace. It denotes the most inquisitive individuals, those who went beyond attending lectures and participating in hikes.39 In both forms of self-education – collection rooms and study groups – we find a study practice conducted by amateurs tutored by a teacher-guide who was himself self-educated. But the working pattern in both forms was of a scientific nature, and stressed the importance of systematic inquiry.

The Hike as Study

77On various occasions teacher-guides expressed their opinion that the hikes were not intended for pleasure only but also a means of serious study. The aim of hikes was «to grant a tangible concept of the country’s regions» (Barash 1926). The participant was expected to acquire initial knowledge of the route and its destinations prior to the date of the hike. The list of necessary items for a hike almost always included (along with the Old Testament and items such as a bag, water canteen, blanket etc.) a note book and a pen for writing down the teacher-guide’s explanations along the route.

78Study was integrated into the hike in numerous ways. There were special hikes for «interested individuals» which included preparatory or concluding lectures (by the teacher-guides). In other hikes the teacher-guides would give lectures en route. In all hikes participants were required to consult recommended books and maps. The reading material was chosen by the teacher-guides and referred to various sites in the route, to the region toured and to the historical periods that the hikers could learn about during the hike. It included Encyclopedia entries, books written by travelers of Palestine (Jewish and non-Jewish alike), and books and articles written by professional researchers of Palestine. It covered all disciplinary areas which were included in «Knowledge of the Land». Such reading lists that were distributed among the hikers before setting out and upon returning might have included ten or more items. It is worth noting that the reading material did not emphasize Zionist literature.

79Instructions distributed by Braslavski to the participants indicate the concept of the hike as a study arena:

We have very little time before starting on our hike and our preparation should therefore be restricted to reading primary sources […] the participants should not and cannot rely entirely on memory, it is necessary to revise and study all the information and memories related to each place or region we shall pass on this hike. The participants should prepare short notes on each place and each region. As well as comments and questions that may be raised during the reading. This preparation will enrich the hike. The discussions will have more substance. […] In any event the nature of the bibliography will become apparent once I have contacted the participants and ascertained their requirements and the extent of their interest and devotion to knowledge of the homeland. In any event I shall pass on to them a bibliography of general books on the Land of Israel that provide the basis for study of the research literature on the country (LMA IV-142-1-40, 2280)
The participants will take notes during the hike. Every evening we shall try to review the details learned during the day. Time does not permit us to hold a lecture prior to the hike. General lectures will be given during the course of the hike or in the evenings […] (
ibid., 2282).

80An example of a detailed bibliography is to be found in a letter that Barash sent to the participants in one of the hikes for «interested individuals.» Prior to setting out he demanded that they read thirteen chapters in several travel books and nine encyclopedia entries, and also bring with them, as a matter of course, a map and the Old Testament. Only upon completion of the hike «shall we schedule a meeting of several days in Tel-Aviv in order to summarize what we have seen and to draw up a detailed bibliography.» (LMA IV-142-1-48, 385).

81On hikes for «ordinary» participants the study took the form of lectures held by the teacher-guide at various sites along the route. These were of a somewhat eclectic nature and presented basic information on the site’s Jewish and general history, touching upon archaeological significance, economic aspects, natural habitat and indigenous population. Preparatory lectures were at times held at the places where the hike was to set out – settlements or the Culture Committee’s city branches.

82To conclude the issue of study it can be said that almost all «Knowledge of the Land» practices included conscious element of study but produced also additional codes of sense of place. One of them (self-education groups) was aimed at study only. The presence of an element of study in most of the practices, and especially within experience that is essentially sensual in nature, such as a hike, testifies to its power as a code of sense of place.


83The aim of this article was to analyze one of the mechanisms by which modern Jewish nationalism endeavored in the 1920s to turn the «wandering devotee» into a «local patriot» – to re-invent Palestine as a homeland and produce a sense of place among its immigrants. Although these immigrants believed they were entitled to see Palestine as their homeland it was not a homeland for them in an autochthonic nature. This is why I used Anderson’s expression «alchemic change» to describe this process. Indeed, inculcating among immigrants - spatial strangers - a new spatial habitus cannot be seen otherwise but as an endeavor to create an alchemic process, especially under circumstances of a developing political struggle over the territory in question, while the rival is an autochthonic population, whose sense of place had been reproduced through generations.

84The production of a sense of place among Zionist immigrants was – intention- ally or not – a part of the national struggle over territory which was starting to develop in the years under discussion here. Zionism could not have had any future unless it established among the immigrants a sense of place, equivalent to the Arab one. This means, a structure of feelings, social and cultural knowledge, which relates to what it envisioned as the national place. The mechanism to do this was to practice a «synthesis of located experience» (as Walter puts it) which will imbue space with a complex of meanings and turn it into place, or «place-work» (Gieryn 2000). In this article I clustered these meanings – some were invented and some, reproduced – under four codes: The place as a part of national history and culture; the place as a source of concrete experience; the place as a stage for rituals; and the place as an object of study and investigation. Each one of them codifies the intimacy and familiarity with the place which characterize people of the place.

85When talking about codes, sense of place or habitus, we talk about durable and reflexive processes of production and reproduction which cannot be shrinked into a period of time as short as the one discussed here. In Pred’s words – sense of place is a process of becoming. One should see the analysis in this article as pertaining to an initial stage of this process. The same could be said on another larger context of the practices described and analyzed here, namely the endeavor (which the culture committee, was one of its agents) to create and revive – actually, to invent (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983) – a Zionist culture. In addition to «Knowledge of the Land», this endeavor included Hebrew teaching, book-publishing, and an active involvement in the cultural production of the time (literature, music, dance, theatre and plastic arts.)

  • 40 See, Doleve-Gandelman 1987; Almog 2000; Benvenisti 2000; among others.

86Though the question whether this endeavor proved to be a long-term success or not is outside the limits set for this article, it should be noted that «Knowledge of the Land» did establish itself as an integrative discipline of knowledge and study in several socializing institutions. The next generations of immigrants as well as the locally-born were raised in the light of the codes described here, as was shown in numerous works.40 Thus, we can say that sense of place as a process was interwoven into larger institutional processes.

87However, one important reservation must be made. Though I showed here the beginning of a process of becoming concerning a sense of place, the boundaries of the place itself has never been defined in a clear and agreeable manner, and the political struggle over this matter continues until these days, between Jews and Palestinians as well as within the Jewish society of Israel. This means that we are dealing with a sense of place in a space which became social despite its fluid geographical and political definitions.

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Gurevitch, Zali and Gideon Aran. 1991/2007. «On Israeli and Jewish Place – an Israeli Anthropology.», p. 22-73 in On Israeli and Jewish Place, Zali Gurevitch. Tel-Aviv: Am Oved.

Niv, David (ed.). 1983. Rosh Pina at One Hundred (1882-1982). Rosh Pina: Rosh Pina Local Council assisted by the Society for Restoration of the Founders’ Settlement.

Prawer, Ehud. 1992. The Road of the Knowledge of the Land Hike 1888-1918. A Thesis submitted for M.A. Degree. Jerusalem: The Hebrew University.

Sand, Shlomo. 2012. When and How the Land of Israel was Invented? Or Yehuda: Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan, Dvir – Publishing House.

Shavit, Ya’akov. 1997. «Culture and Cultural Situation: Fundamental Strands in the Development of Hebrew Culture in the Period of the Second Immigration Wave.», p. 343-366 in The Second Immigration Wave – Studies, eds. Bartal, Israel, Ze’ev Tsahor and Yehoshua Kaniel. Jerusalem: The Yitshak Ben-Zvi Institute.

Shavit, Zeev. 2001. The Cultural Practice in the Jewish Palestinian Labor Movement During the 1920s: First Steps in the Production of Cultural Hegemony. Ph.D. Thesis, Jerusalem: The Hebrew University.

Vilnay, Ze’ev. 1969-1984. Ariel: Encyclopedia for the Knowledge of the Land of Israel. Tel-Aviv: Ha’Sadeh Library.

Yanait Ben-Zvi, Rachel. 1959. We are ascending; Life Chronicles. Tel-Aviv: Am Oved.

Yiftachel, Oren and Batya Roded. 2003. «Boundless Homeland: The Ethnicization of Israel/Palestine in Hebrew Popular Music.» Pp. 7-67 In Motherland/Mcdonald’s: Trends in the construction of Space and Culture in Israel, Oren Yiftachel, Batya Roded and Uri Ram. Beer Sheba: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Negev Center for Regional Development.

Primary Sources (all Items in Hebrew)

Barash, David. 1926. «About the Hikes.» Davar 270: 3.

Ben-Tsvi, Yitshak. 1923. «On the Correction of Names.» Pinkas B (6): 139-140.

Ben-Tsvi, Yitshak. 1927. «Determining the Name.» Davar Supplement 550: 3-4.

Broshi, Azriel. 1927. «Locating the Biblical Mitspah.» Davar 606: 3, 626: 3, 721: 3.

The Jewish Workers Organization, the executive committee. 1927. Report to the Histadrut’s Third Convention. Tel-Aviv.

Lev. 1925. «On the Culture Council.» Davar 107: 2.

No Author. 1923. «Report of the Central Culture Committee.» Pinkas A: addendum A.

No Author. 1924. «Cultural work in 1924.» Pinkas C: special addendum.

No Author 1928. «Excursion to the Passover Sacrifice of the Samaritans.» Davar 888: 4.

One of the Hikers 1926. No Title. Davar.

Vilnay, Ze’ev. 1927a. «Akhnifs – Sarid.» Davar 530: 3.

Vilnay, Ze’ev. 1927b. «Gabatha.» Davar 542: 3.

LMA (Labor Movement Archive) Files

Section IV-142-1: file numbers 6, 10a, 11a, 13, 16a, 18, 20a, 40, 48.

Section IV-142-2: file numbers 14, 27.

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1 The naming of this geographical space is a complicated issue by itself, to which I cannot refer here. The name I shall use in this article is Palestine, as it was known at the time discussed here.

2 Williams developed this concept in several books. Pred cites the following definition of it:
«A ‘felt sense of the quality of life at a particular place and time: a sense of the ways in which the particular activities’ combine ‘into a way of thinking and living.’« (Pred 1983: 54).

3 Sand has doubts as to the similarity between the biblical place and the Zionist one (Sand 2012). However, Zionist rhetoric did not have any doubt on this issue.

4 For a critical analysis of the production of Palestine as a national place, see Sand’s (2012) recently-published book.

5 The direction Jewish sense of place in Israel has taken place in recent decades shows that religion and religious tradition have not ceased to be strong factors in the process of its reproduction.

6 See also: Wuthnow et. al. 1984, Wuthnow 1987, 1992.

7 Some of the hikes were considerably daring considering the security conditions on the roads at the time.

8 See also, Yanait Ben-Zvi 1959: 3-246; Berlovitz 1987; Berlovitz 1996: 167-198; Y. Shavit 1997: 359-360.

9 See, Ben-Yehuda 1970: 114-131; Niv 1983: 173-179; Prawer 1992.

10 One has to see this institutionalization also as part of the growing propensity of the Jewish Labor Movement of Palestine (which stood behind the Jewish workers organization) to emphasize the nationalist aspects of its doctrine. This propensity was a strategy in the movement’s efforts to establish itself as a hegemonic force in the Jewish community of Palestine, and was studied by many scholars, for example: Ben-Porat 1986; Shafir 1989; Sternhell 1997.

11 The term «teacher-guide» was coined by Katz in order to describe the complex role fulfilled by these people (Katz 1985).

12 For a more detailed description of this, and the other practices, see Shavit 2001: 188-255.

13 One of the teacher guides, Ze’ev Vilnay, wrote the encyclopedia «Ariel» (Vilnay 1969-1984), which is one of the most comprehensive books of «Knowledge of the Land». Braslavski wrote in 1955 a 4 volumes book in the subject (Braslavski 1955-1956).

14 It should be noted that for many centuries the institutionalized Jewish religion considered the Halacha – the codex of religious law written in the first centuries a.c. – to be the most important religious writings. Zionism, being a mostly secular movement, adopted the Old Testament as the most important national cultural asset and considered it to be the main source of Hebrew language and ancient national history.

15 See also: Gurevitch 1997; Neumann 2011.

16 LMA – Labor Movement Archive.

17 Meaning – The valley of Jezre’el.

18 Joseph Braslavski had changed his surname to Braslavi and appears here in both names.

19 It should be noted that most of the Zionist immigrants were themselves in the process of acquiring the Hebrew language.

20 After the establishment of the state of Israel this became a formal practice initiated and sponsored by state authorities, see Benvenisti 2000: 11-54.

21 See also: Ben-Tsvi 1923, Ben-Tsvi 1927, Broshi 1927, Vilnayi 1927a, Vilnayi 1927b.

22 The identification of such sites is of course dubious, and debates among experts on this issue took place already in the period under discussion.

23 Other popular sites included Modi’in, Megiddo, Tsipori, Yodfat, Gush-Halav and the Arbel fortress or the Galilee village of Peki’in, where Jewish families still lived at the time under discussion.

24 The two occasions were the Samaritans’ Passover sacrificial ceremony and The Bar Yohai festivity.

25 This was the essence of the distinction drawn by Yosef Braslavski between the hike and written material in his proposal to publish a hiking leaflet (LMA IV-142-1-40, 2666).

26 Here perhaps one may find the origin of the culture of arduous treks that characterized the first generations of native-born Israelis, and of the ethos of physical effort as a condition for achieving tangible and even intimate experience of the space, which dominated this culture (Gurevitch & Aran 1991/2007; Almog 2000).

27 In his memoirs Braslavi mentions how he battled with the donkey he had hired to transport the magic lantern along the road ascending from Tiberias, when it refused to continue on the journey (Braslavi 1973: 271-272).

28 See for example, LMA IV-142-1-48, 390-392; IV-142-1—20a, 128-133; IV-142-1—13, 474-480.

29 See for example, IV-142-1-6, 1071-1081; IV-142-1-10a, 1602-1603; IV-142-1-11a; IV-142-1-16a, 1130, 1742; IV-142-1-18, 48-49; IV-142-1-20a, 131; IV-142-1-40, 2298-2300, 2339, 2351; IV-142-1-48, 409-429, 504.

30 The leaders of a successful Jewish rebellion against the Seleukian regime in Palestine at the 2nd century b.c., that ended with the establishment of a Jewish dynasty in Palestine, lasting about two hundred years.

31 The religious Memorial Day for the destruction of the first and second temples. For descriptions of these excursions see LMA IV-142-1-40, 2300, 2348-2349; LMA IV-142-1-48, 501; LMA IV-142-2-27, 677-678.

32 See, LMA IV-142-1-40, 2348-2349; No Author 1928; Braslavi 1973: 274-276.

33 A festivity commemorating an unsuccessful Jewish rebellion against the Roman regime in the 2nd century a.c., which terminated with the destruction of the second temple and a massive deportation of Jews from Palestine. Bar-Yohai was a famous rabbinical scholar who legitimized the rebels’ leader.

34 A local initiative, not to be confused with the American Labor Day.

35 One may argue that the code of experience is likewise meant to facilitate this capacity – not necessarily through the intellect but rather intuitively – to «decipher» various phenomena within the space.

36 See, Katz 1985.

37 For details of the topics included in each category see Shavit 2001: 233-237.

38 Three tentative explanations may be offered for dealing with these topics. One refers to the theory (popular at the time discussed here) that the life-style of the country’s Arab inhabitants may provide an indication of the way of life of the Jews in biblical times. This theory was a part of a more general stand that saw the Arab inhabitants as an example for «people of the place» and a «true» sense of place. A second possible explanation invokes the oriental charm found by the European immigrants in the Arabs’ way of life. This attitude is a part of the orientalist production of the east and the Muslim world as an exotic other, an attitude which was critically described so well by Said (1978) and demonstrated by Mitchell (1988). The third is that since Arabs comprised a majority of the country’s population, the teacher-guides considered it imperative to gain knowledge of them and their culture, either as foreseeing an inevitable confrontation or from the necessity for co-existence. For a more general discussion of these stands, see Eyal 2006: 33-61

39 The phrase «interested individuals» was mentioned in various reports in the context of particular hikes and of study groups and collection rooms, to characterize the participants.

40 See, Doleve-Gandelman 1987; Almog 2000; Benvenisti 2000; among others.

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Référence papier

Zeev Shavit, « The Production of a Sense of Place among Jewish Immigrants in Mandatory Palestine »Diasporas, 20 | 2012, 59-84.

Référence électronique

Zeev Shavit, « The Production of a Sense of Place among Jewish Immigrants in Mandatory Palestine »Diasporas [En ligne], 20 | 2012, mis en ligne le 01 novembre 2012, consulté le 02 avril 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Zeev Shavit

Dr. Shavit teaches at the sociology department of the Western Galilee College in Acre. He is the co-author (with Prof. Ephraim Ya’ar) of a two volume book about Israeli society (Trends in Israeli Society), and the co-writer of four of its articles. He specializes in the sociology of Israeli society, the sociology of place and ethnic relations.

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