Off the Beaten Track: Walls and towers

Shavuot is certainly around the corner and it's nowhere more evident than in the North.

By JOE YUDIN
May 17, 2012 17:20
3 minute read.
Wall and Tower settlement

Wall and Tower settlement 370. (photo credit: Joe Yudin)

 
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Joe Yudin owns Touring Israel, a company that specializes in “Lifestyle” tours of Israel.

Driving through the Jezreel Valley and the Galilee these days is a sight for sore eyes indeed. The wheat has been harvested and the straw bales line the countryside as far as the eye can see.

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The smell of pink garlic is ripe in the air and swaths of bright green standout between the golden fields as the sunflower stalks point straight up towards the sun, waiting for their yellow faces to begin their grandiose annual dance skyward. The kibbutznicks, moshavnicks and their hired hands till the soil and images of the early pioneers spring from memory.

Shavuot is certainly around the corner and it's nowhere more evident than in the North.

Our founding fathers envisioned a labor force building the modern state with their bare hands devoted solely to the challenges at hand, and with immigration to Palestine at its peak after World War I many Arab laborers from around the Middle East made their way to Palestine looking for work created by this Zionist dream.

In the 1930’s the Halutz or Pioneer movement which had begun in Eastern Europe spread throughout the Jewish world and 34,000 Jews actually immigrated to Palestine to begin to work the land.

In 1935, due to Arab pressure and crisis in Europe, the British ruling government began to drastically cut back on the numbers of Jews allowed into the land despite the League of Nations mandate “to create a Jewish national home in Palestine”. With the outbreak of the Arab Revolt in 1936 the pioneers provided the Haganah, or defense force, with most of their part time soldiers to carry out the defense, sometimes offensive in nature, of the Jewish settlements around Palestine.

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By 1937 with the persecution of the Jews of Nazi Germany and with the Great Depression in full swing, “illegal immigration” to Palestine, which was organized by these pioneers and their left wing mother organizations, rose to a grand scale. The kibbutzim and moshavim became the center of training for the pioneers and the Haganah, as well as ideal places for storing weapons in hidden slicks.

The revolt did not stop the pioneering spirit and they continued to build new kibbutzim, albeit under fire. During the 1936-39 Arab Revolt, the Jewish National Fund began purchasing land mostly in northern Palestine but also in the southlands with specific political and strategic goals in mind, to create as former Director-General of the JNF, Abraham Granot stated, “existing facts” on the ground on land that might have otherwise been given to the Arabs by the Royal Commission in 1937.

It was decided that prefabricated  “Wall and Tower” (also known as “Tower and Stockade”) settlements would be erected in the middle of the night on Jewish owned land because of an old Ottoman law on the books which prohibited the demolition of roved structures on landowners property. Double wooden walls were erected around a 35 by 35 meter space with a tower at its center. The walls were filled with gravel and slots were made in the wood in order to fire out of the fortress and defend the position in the midst of the fields to be plowed. Fifty two new kibbutzim were created this way, and each new one was built within sight of another.

The best example of these Wall and Tower settlements is at Tel Amal which is now on the grounds of Kibbutz Nir David in the Beit Shean Valley.  For Tel Amal take road 71 east from Afula to HaShita Junction and turn right onto road 669. Follow that straight to Kibbutz Nir David. Other nearby attractions are Gan HaShloshah, Nahal Kibbutzim, Gan Garo, Beit Alpha Synagogue, Mt. Gilboa Scenic Route and the Beit Shean National Park.

Joe Yudin became a licensed tour guide in 1999. He completed his Master’s degree at the University of Haifa in the Land  of Israel Studies and is currently studying toward a PhD.

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