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S. Ilan Troen
Contents:
  1. You might also like
  2. Land of Israel
  3. Bat-Zion Eraqi Klorman, Professor
  4. Conflicts of Quarantine The Case of Jewish Immigrants to the Jewish State

Because of the enormous rate of immigration, the absorption system was overwhelmed and it became impossible to evacuate the immigrants already residing there before new ships arrived. Although some people did manage to complete their processing and leave the camp in a matter of days, many others ended up staying in Shaar Haaliya for weeks or months. The camp became filled beyond capacity with thousands more people than it was intended to hold. When the cabins were full, people had to live in tents, which offered little privacy and flimsy shelter.

Shaar Haaliya was built to accommodate people, but at its peak it held between 10 and 12 people. Slowly, tents were brought down, staff laid off, and buildings closed. In only several hundred immigrants went through Shaar Haaliya, as opposed to the tens of thousands of previous years. The experiences and perspectives of the immigrants who went through Shaar Haaliya varied. In both archival documentation and oral histories, one can find many people who were infuriated and appalled by what they found there.

There are people, however, for whom the stay at Shaar Haaliya had little impact: in the scheme of their lives and their immigration, it played an uneventful role. There appears to be no consensus of feeling based on country of origin, age, or length of stay. Shaar Haaliya was officially closed in In its 13 years of operation, nearly immigrants passed through its gates, with the overwhelming majority— —concentrated in —, the beginning of the mass immigration.

As such, it has no parallel in Israeli history. Both Shaar Haaliya's fence and its police guard were controversial, but the fence was perceived as the more problematic of the two, as a bold, very visible image symbolizing oppressive containment. It is important to remember that Shaar Haaliya was opened only four years after World War II had ended and that Holocaust survivors made up a significant number of the immigrants to Israel.

Thus the notion of Jews being confined in camps had particularly ugly implications. Yaakov Meridor, a member of the Knesset Israeli parliament , publicly criticized the fence at Shaar Haaliya when, in , he said,. Does not the honourable minister feel that it is not in accordance with the honour of the Jewish state to be holding new immigrants behind barbed wire? The potential controversy that a barbed wire fence could cause was foreseen before Shaar Haaliya was opened.

Conflict in Israel and Palestine: Crash Course World History 223

In discussions held in by the leadership of the political party Mapai, 32 Giora Josephtal, who was head of the Jewish Agency's Immigration Department, addressed these concerns, saying,. Whether we like it or not, our processing camps will, to some extent, resemble the internment camps in Cyprus, and maybe even the internment camps in Germany.

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There is no way to process and examine the immigrants if they are not initially concentrated in closed camps. Jehuda Wallach and Moshe Lissak, eds. This justification was later echoed in a letter written by Kalman Levin, who was then director of the Absorption Department's Haifa office. In response to criticism of the fence, Levin wrote,. Because we are all opposed to the barbed wire fence [sic], which reminds us all of so much, but is there any alternative? In November , Yehuda Weisberger, director of Shaar Haaliya from to , wrote a letter to Kalman Levin defending a Shaar Haaliya policy that had been questioned in an article in the newspaper Davar.

In this letter he refers to the fact that neither the fence nor the police guards were able to prevent people from entering and exiting the camp:. This guard does not prevent the new immigrants, with the help of their families outside, from damaging the fences and sneaking out through the ruptures. In another letter that deals with the same problem, Weisberger suggests that the Holocaust survivors were predominantly to blame:. There are among them [the immigrants], particularly those who come from European countries, who [sic] are skilled at burglarizing fences, who manage to leave the camp through the holes, despite the guards.

A former Shaar Haaliya em-ployee recalled how the barbed wire and guarding of the fence could not prevent the flow of unregulated movement in and out of the camp. The penetrated fence was a particular frustration for the police. By August they requested that the Jewish Agency remedy the situation, insisting that without a proper, sturdy fence they could not be responsible for guarding the camp.

The first suggestion [to build a wall around the camp] is unacceptable to us as, I imagine, it also is for you. The barbed wire and police patrol were intended to keep the immigrants in place. Crawling under or over the fence to go into the city—for reasons that varied from entertainment to visiting family and trying to find a job—was widespread and was never punished. It would use barbed wire, which had a menacing image, but it would not go much beyond that, so that those people who wanted to did get out and were not penalized for it.

And then, of course, further complicating this equation were the people who felt sufficiently empowered by their place as immediate citizens in the Jewish state to openly defy the barbed wire, even though they were newly arrived immigrants. In the existing literature on the mass immigration, Shaar Haaliya is referred to in several ways: a processing camp, a transit camp, and an immigrant camp.

Quarantine is not to be found amid this variety of terms. In archival documentation, however, the quarantine can be found referenced directly and openly from many sources. The majority of the references to the Shaar Haaliya quarantine appear in documents that were written in criticism of Shaar Haaliya or in defense of the quarantine after it had been criticized. In response to a condemnation of Shaar Haaliya, Kalman Levin wrote a letter supporting how Shaar Haaliya was being run. In this letter he defended the issue of the enclosure:. The Shaar Haaliya camp has to be fenced and closed, as it is a quarantine.

Were [you] to know of the number of diseases that we are treating at Shaar Haaliya among the immigrants, and among them the number of contagious diseases, you would also think differently and you would say, along with us, that our government must close the camp in a thorough manner for the sake of the Yishuv 45 and for the sake of the immigrants. In September , Yehuda Weisberger responded to a complaint that the Absorption Department received from an immigrant who had gone through Shaar Haaliya.

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An August Jewish Agency report on Shaar Haaliya conveys the camp's purpose in the following manner:. The idea for a processing camp came in answer to two problems that the Absorption Department was considering in those days: how to turn the new immigrant into a citizen of Israel in only a few days, and how to protect the Yishuv from diseases that were likely to befall it as a result of this wave of immigration.

This position is reiterated in another document that was part of a wide-scale survey of the camp property. It opens with a statement explaining the necessity of the fenced-in, guarded premises:. One of the aims of the camp is the isolation of the new immigrant from the moment he arrives until after the medical examination, the results of which are received by the medical services.

The isolation is the only guarantee to protect the Israeli Yishuv from epidemics and disease that could have flooded the country as a result of the mass immigration. A article on Shaar Haaliya that appeared in the newspaper Haboker explains the medical role of the camp in the following manner:. They [the immigrants] are treated at least to the extent that the diseases are no longer contagious.

And when they leave they no longer pose a threat to their neighbours. A later article defends the quarantine by imagining the danger of a sick immigrant bringing disease into central Israeli cities:. Now, imagine if Shaar Haaliya were wide open and everyone could come and go as they pleased…. This would mean that an immigrant with active TB [could ride] to Haifa, or to any other place, on a packed public bus.

He does not disprove the argument but rather insists that it is insufficient to uphold the quarantine from a moral standpoint:. A wall is needed to protect the city from contagious diseases, also to protect the immigrants themselves. But the wall is a symbol that no explanation can negate: a symbol of division between peoples. A symbol that says: the state no longer believes that it can absorb the immigrants by way of the heart. She [the state] has given up her foremost, most holy responsibility: to penetrate into the heart of the person she is bringing to the land.

There are several interesting aspects to this statement. First, it is one of the few documents that challenges the health explanations presented by Shaar Haaliya officials. It raises the issue of the state's moral obligation to the immigrants by asserting that, regardless of the claimed health threat, the state was obligated to embrace the immigrants and putting them behind imposing barriers was unacceptable. Interestingly, it does not accept the threat of contagion as all-powerful. It proposes that contagion is not the only threat to a society: the alienating, isolating symbol of the wall was a threat in its own right.

What one finds in these documents is that the criticism of the quarantine tends to focus on the disturbing symbolism of people being fenced in. For their part, the defenders of the quarantine, primarily representatives of the Jewish Agency, addressed this negative association but would go back to the health threat as a factor that made the quarantine a nonnegotiable issue.

The theme that thus arises goes as follows: this is perhaps unfortunate, but it is unquestionably necessary. The health of the immigrants was a great concern for the Israeli establishment. The nascent Israeli health care system was overwhelmed by what was needed to care for the immigrants. Each immigrant group was linked to particular health problems:. Concentration camp survivors were vulnerable to tuberculosis; Yemenite Jews—to schistosomiasis mansoni and haematobium [intestinal and urinary parasites], malaria, trachoma and to tuberculosis; Iraqi Jews—to malaria and schistosomiasis haematobium; North African Jews—to trachoma, ringworm and tuberculosis.

Bat-Zion Eraqi Klorman, Professor

However, the fear of contagion was social as well as biological. Apprehension of immigrants is a widespread phenomenon. Even amid those who admire the person shaped by immigration, one can find acknowledgment that the process itself generally contains elements of insecurity and fragmentation. It is well documented that, alongside the euphoria of the establishment of the Jewish state, the Yishuv regarded the mass immigration and its immigrants with apprehension.

People feared that the immigrants would alter the ideologies, burden the economy, corrupt the culture, bring crime and poor morals, and spread disease. Moreover, the Shaar Haaliya office of statistics, which recorded, listed, and concentrated information about the immigrants, sought to diminish this perceived threat to society by analyzing and quantifying it. People came into Shaar Haaliya as unknown masses and left registered, examined, and vaccinated. These thoughts, then, generate the questions, if it was just an issue of general control, why was there any reference at all to a quarantine?

And why was there such a heavy reliance on the health rationale to defend Shaar Haaliya? Some perspective on this can be gained by understanding the place of medicine in Zionism as well as the power of medical authority. Medical science was trusted and respected in Zionist ideology. In their conceptualization of the Jewish state, early Zionist thinkers had envisioned an honored role for medical science. Shaar Haaliya's Israel was born in a context of 20th-century medical power. Thus, when the Shaar Haaliya officials turned to medical explanations, they were relying on a known, trusted, and prominent authority.

The state officials who used the medical rationale in defense of the quarantine were themselves part of the environment that was feeling threatened and disoriented by the unknown that the immigrants embodied, and as a result they took refuge in the health rationales they were espousing. Despite the administration's insistence that the reason for the enforced separation was medical, the untenable nature of the medical claims, in light of the broken fence, suggests that the reasons for the enforced separation at Shaar Haaliya were, in fact, emotional: the reaction evoked by a fear of the influence of immigration expressed and understood as the fear of contagion.

The conflicts surrounding the Shaar Haaliya quarantine were born of the mass immigration. The absorbing society's fear of the immigrants and infection—an international theme—was exacerbated by the speed and intensity of the Israeli scenario. This scenario arose from the creation of the Jewish state and the subsequent immigration of hundreds of thousands of Jews from hugely divergent cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Understanding the environment of change and fear that surrounded Shaar Haaliya offers insight into the anomalies of the Shaar Haaliya quarantine, a quarantine that, although known to be compromised, was steadfastly insisted on.

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The desire to isolate these immigrants in a quarantine stemmed not simply from the desire to isolate the diseases but also from the combined fear of disease and the immigrants themselves. Quarantine is a cross-cultural, temporally enduring phenomenon. An ancient and basic act of separation, it continues to capture imagination, although its format is continuously reworked to suit the demands of changing historical periods. Understanding the contradiction of the Shaar Haaliya quarantine can help further understanding of the complexities involved in the use of quarantine.

On the one hand, one finds the indignation aroused by its symbolism and implementation. There is no easy way to approach or understand the quarantine at Shaar Haaliya. It is the ambiguity and tensions that this subject exposes that make it so interesting. This is not a clear-cut case of quarantine policy, its implementation, and the state's control over new immigrants. Shaar Haaliya is more indicative of a state's attempts at controlling an unprecedented wave of immigration in the context of a new and privileged from of citizenship that, in so many ways, defied control.

Various people took the time to comment on earlier drafts of this article, and I am grateful to them. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Am J Public Health. Published online February. Rhona D. Seidelman , PhD. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Received September 19, Abstract Shaar Haaliya—Israel's Ellis Island during the mass immigration of the s—is a case study that challenges the historian's understanding of the concept of quarantine. According to public health experts, no quarantine was necessary, nor was one implemented during the mass immigration: During [the mass immigration] no cases of quarantinable diseases were reported in the country nor were any registered in Israeli vessels.

Although the procedure was subject to adjustments over the years, the main components of the processing system appear to have been constant: reception and registration, finding and settling into accommodations, medical examinations, customs declarations, army arrangements, and final housing assignments.

In discussions held in by the leadership of the political party Mapai, 32 Giora Josephtal, who was head of the Jewish Agency's Immigration Department, addressed these concerns, saying, Whether we like it or not, our processing camps will, to some extent, resemble the internment camps in Cyprus, and maybe even the internment camps in Germany.

Year Israel Shaar Haaliya … 97 99 23 14 10 17 36 55 … 69 …. Open in a separate window. In this letter he refers to the fact that neither the fence nor the police guards were able to prevent people from entering and exiting the camp: This guard does not prevent the new immigrants, with the help of their families outside, from damaging the fences and sneaking out through the ruptures. In this letter he defended the issue of the enclosure: The Shaar Haaliya camp has to be fenced and closed, as it is a quarantine.

It opens with a statement explaining the necessity of the fenced-in, guarded premises: One of the aims of the camp is the isolation of the new immigrant from the moment he arrives until after the medical examination, the results of which are received by the medical services. A article on Shaar Haaliya that appeared in the newspaper Haboker explains the medical role of the camp in the following manner: They [the immigrants] are treated at least to the extent that the diseases are no longer contagious.


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He does not disprove the argument but rather insists that it is insufficient to uphold the quarantine from a moral standpoint: A wall is needed to protect the city from contagious diseases, also to protect the immigrants themselves. All of them helped create these nuanced and multi-hyphenated identities that characterized Iranian Jews—and in a way, still do. Reflecting back on it, I am not sure that I knew at the beginning that one of the missing pieces of this story is the aspect of minorities—but I was excited to study this new angle.

My training also brought me into the major debates of the rejuvenating subfield of Jewish studies in the Middle East. J: Who do you hope will read this book, and what sort of impact would you like it to have? I am also hoping that Iranian Jews in Israel, and other Iranian Jewish diasporas, would find this account enriching. I hope that Iranians in Iran and abroad would find this analysis of their national story useful, allowing additional voices to be heard and illuminating parts of their histories that—for social, cultural, and political reasons—have been unearthed until now.

This is something that I have already seen beginning to happen on my book tour. Folks of Iranian-Jewish heritage, first- or second-generation immigrants from Iran, tell me how they relate to the stories I tell; each adds another story that could have entered the book.

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Conflicts of Quarantine The Case of Jewish Immigrants to the Jewish State

The story of the third world usually gives prominence or even ideological monopoly to the decolonized nations of Southeast Asia. I am not necessarily disagreeing with that analysis, but I think that the Middle East played a greater role than the anecdotal piece it received in the grand historiography. My second project focuses on Iranian-Jewish diaspora communities, especially in the United States and Israel.

J: You tell a story of centuries-long journey for integration and you underscore the immense cultural attachment and Iranian national identity and pride. Yet the overwhelming majority of the Iranian Jewish community left Iran after the revolution. So, did this project fail? If they felt so attached and part of the society, why did they leave?

And it is a journey—not a linear steady development—and if there is one thing I want the reader to take from this book is that understanding Iranian-Jewish history is not black and white; it is not a story of persecution and redemption, but rather it is a story that always existed in the middle. It is the story of the hyphen between identities and ideologies. There were two waves of Jewish emigration out of Iran.

The first was in to , when about a quarter of the Jewish population of Iran left, mostly for the newly-established Israel. The Jews who left in the first wave were—broadly speaking—the poorest and the neediest of the Jewish communities. For them, immigration to Israel could offer some kind of redemption—be it religious, national, financial, or cultural. As I show in the book, even this was very complicated, as some returned to Iran at some point in the future. The second wave was profoundly different in sociological terms. By the s, the vast majority of the Iranian Jews were part of the upper middle classes and the elites.

We also see that they left for the same places that the non-Jewish Iranians of the same socio-economic class moved to and much fewer to Israel. This is not to say that, as Jews they did not face increasing dangers and discrimination, but the fact that we see today a community in Iran that is still substantial unlike any other Middle Eastern country suggests that we cannot read their history in the same terms that we read Jewish histories of other societies. During this period of extensive migration to Israel, even as Iran served as a base for that considerable effort, Zionist and non-Iranian Jewish officials were hardly concerned with the complexity of Jewish Iranian identity.

Could Iranian Jews be proud, patriotic Iranians while practicing Jewish traditions? Could they be sympathetic to Zionism and to Israel at differing levels? For all Iranians, and Iranian Jews in particular, identity categories were not mutually exclusive in contrast to what had been expected by Israel and modern Zionism. The percentage of Iranian Jews choosing the Zionist option was relatively low, and those who did immigrate envisioned that they would see an elevation in their status by doing so. The slowdown of immigrants prompted Zionist organizations to investigate and analyze this unexpected turn of events.

Ultimately they arrived at the identity issue. Despite life in Iran being comfortable, they [Iranian Jews] went to Israel and were going to forget the bitterness of the Galuth [exile]. After two thousand and four hundred years of exile, and after 24 hundred years of suffering and tears, they were drunk from excitement and did not pay attention to obstacles, betrayals, and deeds of pocket-picking… Unfortunately today the excitement has dissipated and their fiery nationalistic and religious feelings that were a source of endless power and energy have faded.

Beyond the serious accusations targeting Jewish Agency officials and Israel accusations upheld by corroborating evidence , Levy lamented the loss of this rare opportunity to keep Zionist fires kindled in the hearts of Iranian Jews. The rest of the report also bears examination.

With that in mind, it is interesting to turn once again to Abramovitch, the JDC observer, whose report contradicts this assessment. In fact, he describes a heightened emphasis on Hebrew language acquisition and Judaism education among Iranian Jewish youths:. We can point to a whole series of achievements. My recent tour of the provincial towns has been an unexpected pleasure.