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  • Liora R. Halperin (a1)


Two Arabic-speaking Jewish guards worked in the European Jewish agricultural colony of Petah Tikva soon after its founding, northeast of Jaffa, in 1878: Daud abu Yusuf from Baghdad and Yaʿqub bin Maymun Zirmati, a Maghribi Jew from Jaffa. The two men, who worked as traders among Bedouin but were recruited for a short time by the colony, offer a rare glimpse of contacts between Ashkenazi and Middle Eastern Jews in rural Jewish colonies established in the last quarter of the 19th century, colonies that are often regarded as detached from their local and Ottoman landscape. The article first argues that Zionist sources constructed these two men as bridges to the East in their roles as teachers of Arabic and perceived sources of legitimization for the European Jewish settlement project. It then reads beyond the sparse details offered in Ashkenazi Zionist sources to resituate these men in their broad imperial and regional context and argue that, contrary to the local Zionist accounts, the colony was in fact likely to have been marginal to these men's commercial and personal lives.

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1 Raab, Yehuda, ha-Telem ha-Rishon: Zikhronot, 1862–1930 (Jerusalem: ha-Sifriyah ha-Tsiyonit ʿal yede ha-Histadrut ha-Tsiyonit ha-ʿOlamit, 1988), 67.

2 See, for example, Eraqi-Klorman, Bat-Zion, Traditional Society in Transition: The Yemeni Jewish Experience, Brill Reference Library of Judaism, v. 39 (Leiden: Brill, 2014); and Eraqi-Klorman, , “ha-Yahas el ha-‘Aher’ be-Tarbut ha-Politit shel ha-Moshavah: Mikreh Rishon LeZion,” in Lesoheah Tarbut im ha-Aliyah ha-Rishonah, ed. Berlovitz, Yaffa and Lang, Yosef (Tel Aviv: ha-Kibbuts ha-Meʾuhad, 2010), 157–75. Yemeni Jews have particularly been noted as objects of attempts by European Jews to promote Jewish labor in Zionist colonies while continuing to pay the lower wages typically given to Arab workers.

3 Campos, Michelle U., Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2011); Gribetz, Jonathan Marc, Defining Neighbors: Religion, Race, and the Early Zionist–Arab Encounter (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2014); Bezalel, Itzhak, Noladetem Tsiyonim: ha-Sefaradim be-Erets Yisraʾel ba-Tsiyonut u-va-Tehiyah ha-ʿIvrit ba-Tekufah ha-ʿOtmanit (Jerusalem: Yad Yitshak Ben-Tsvi, 2007); Jacobson, Abigail and Naor, Moshe, Oriental Neighbors: Middle Eastern Jews and Arabs in Mandatory Palestine (Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University Press, 2016); Klein, Menachem, Lives in Common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron (London: Hurst & Company, 2014); Behar, Moshe & Benite, Zvi Ben-Dor, “The Possibility of Modern” Middle Eastern Jewish Thought,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 41 (2014): 4361.

4 See, for example, the introduction of Sefer ha-ʿAliyah ha-Rishonah, ix.

5 Yisrael Bartal has encouraged an interpretation of the proto-Zionist agricultural colonists that moves beyond a nationalist/Zionist framework and reads their productivization rhetoric in light of similar trends in Eastern Europe in the mid to late 19th century. Derek Penslar and Ran Aharonson have evaluated their agricultural and economic model in light of their French and German colonial influences. Gershon Shafir extensively evaluates the history of labor in the colonies in light of Ottoman developments, but does not consider cultural trends or personal interactions. Bartal, Yisrael, “Al ha-Rishoniyut: Zeman u-Makom ba-ʿAliyah ha-Rishonah,” in Lesoheah Tarbut im ha-ʿAliyah ha-Rishonah, ed. Berlovitz, Yaffa and Lang, Yosef (Tel Aviv: ha-Kibbuts ha-Meʾuhad, 2010), 1524; Bartal, , “Petah Tikva: Ben Shorashim Raʾayoniyim le-Nesivot ha-Zeman,” Katedrah 9 (1978): 5469; Aharonson, Ran, ha-Baron ve-ha-Moshavot: ha-Hityashvut ha-Yehudit be-Erets Yisraʾel be-Reshitah 1882–1890 (Jerusalem: Yad Yitshak Ben-Tsvi, 1990); Penslar, Derek Jonathan, Zionism and Technocracy: The Engineering of Jewish Settlement in Palestine, 1870–1918 (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1991).

6 See Eraqi-Klorman, Bat-Zion, “Ha-Yahas el ha-‘Aher’ be-Tarbut ha-Politit shel ha-Moshavah: Mikreh Rishon LeZion,” in Lesoheah Tarbut Im Ha-‘Aliyah Ha-Rishonah, ed. Berlovitz, Yaffa and Lang, Yosef (Tel Aviv: Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Me'uhad, 2010), 157–75; Kaniel, Yehoshua, “Ha-Po‘alim ve-Irgunehem ba-‘Aliyah Ha-Sheniyah u-Kelitat ‘ole Teman ba-Moshavot (1904–1914),” Shorashim 9 (1996 1995): 114–22.

7 Hanley, Will, “What Ottoman Nationality Was and Was Not,” Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association 3 (2016): 277–98.

8 Shenhav, Yehouda A., The Arab Jews: A Postcolonial Reading of Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity, Cultural Sitings (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2006); Shohat, Ella, “Rupture and Return: Zionist Discourse and the Study of Arab Jews,” Social Text 21 (2003): 4974.

9 See Levy, Lital, “Historicizing the Concept of Arab Jews in the Mashriq,” Jewish Quarterly Review 98 (2008): 452–69; Gottreich, Emily, “Historicizing the Concept of Arab Jews in the Maghrib,” Jewish Quarterly Review 98 (2008): 433–51; Behar, Moshe and Benite, Zvi Ben-Dor, Modern Middle Eastern Jewish Thought: Writings on Identity, Politics, and Culture, 1893–1958 (Waltham, Mass.: Brandeis University Press, 2013); Goldberg, Harvey and Bram, Chen, “From Sephardi to Mizrahi and Back Again: Changing Meaning of ‘Sephardi’ in its Social Environments,” Jewish Social Studies 15 (2008), 165–88; and Behar, Moshe, “What's in a Name? Socio-Terminological Formations and the Case for ‘Arabized-Jews,’Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture 15 (2009): 747–71.

10 Veracini, , Lorenzo, . “The Imagined Geographies of Settler Colonialism,” in Making Settler Colonial Space: Perspectives on Race, Place and Identity, ed. Banivanua-Mar, Tracey and Edmonds, Penelope (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 190; Veracini, , Lorenzo, , “Settler Colonial Expeditions,” in Expedition into Empire, ed. Thomas, Martin (New York: Routledge, 2014), 59. See also Wolfe, Patrick, “Structure and Event: Settler Colonialism, Time, and the Question of Genocide,” in Empire, Colony, Genocide: Conquest, Occupation, and Subaltern Resistance in World History, ed. Moses, A. Dirk (New York: Berghahn Books, 2008), 102–32.

11 Peleg, Yaron, Orientalism and the Hebrew Imagination (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2005); Robertson, R., “‘Urheimat Asien’: The Re-Orientation of German and Austrian Jews, 1900–1925,” German Life and Letters 49 (1996): 182–92.

12 Almog, Oz, The Sabra: The Creation of the New Jew (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2000); Ben-Tsvi, Yitshak et al. , eds., Sefer ha-Shomer: Divre Haverim (Tel Aviv: Devir, 1957).

13 Shapira, Anita, ha-Maʿavaḳ ha-Nikhzav: ʿAvodah ʿIvrit 1929–1939 (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University; Ha-Kibbuts Ha-Meʾuhad, 1977), 102–3.

14 Khalidi, Rashid, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 100.

15 Kaniel, Yehoshua, “ha-Vikuah ben Petah Tikva le-Rishon LeZion ʿal ha-Rishoniyut ba-Hityashvut u-Mashmaʿuto ha-historit,” Katedrah 9 (1978): 2653.

16 Zerubavel Haviv, “ha-ʿArvit be-Vet ha-Sefer ha-ʿAmami” Ha-Boker, 2 July 1946, 2.

18 Beinin, Joel, “Knowing Your Enemy, Knowing Your Ally: The Arabists of Hashomer Hatsa‘ir (MAPAM),” Social Text 28 (1991): 100121; See also Halperin, Liora R., Babel in Zion: Jews, Nationalism, and Language Diversity in Palestine, 1920–1948 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2015), chap. 4.

19 Zerubavel Haviv, “Ha-ʿArvit be-Vet ha-Sefer ha-ʿAmami,” ha-Boker, 2 July 1946, 2.

20 Mendel, Yonatan, The Creation of Israeli Arabic: Political and Security Considerations in the Making of Arabic Language Studies in Israel, Palgrave Studies in Languages at War (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); Eyal, Gil, The Disenchantment of the Orient: Expertise in Arab Affairs and the Israeli State (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2006); Jacobson and Naor, Oriental Neighbors.

21 Petah Tikva was particularly active in producing such volumes, in part because of its contested status as the “first” colony. (Rishon LeZion, founded four years later in 1882, also claims this distinction.) On the politics of local memory volumes see Lang, Yosef, “Sefarim ve-Yovlot: Petah Tikva Mitmodedet ʿim ʿAvarah” in Lang, Le-Fetah Tikvah (Petah Tikva: Oded Yarkoni Petah Tikva Archive, 2012), 1050.

22 Yisrael Bartal, “Petah Tikva: Ben Shorashim Raʿayoniyim le-Nesivot ha-Zeman,” 161–75.

23 Jean O'Brien has suggested that this trend is typical of the New England settler colonists recalling their 17th-century origins from the vantage point of the 19th century; O'Brien, Jean M., Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians out of Existence in New England, Indigenous Americas (Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 2010).

24 See, for example, the nearly ten-page list of “firsts” in the 1948 anniversary volume of Petah Tikva; Trope, Eleazar, Reshit: Li-melot 70 Shanah le-Fetah Tikvah (638–708) (Petah Tikva, 1948), 3645.

25 Raab, Esther, “la-Av,” cited in Jacobs, Adriana X., Strange Cocktail: Translation and the Making of Hebrew Poetry (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 2018), 56, translation by Harold Schimmel.

26 Raab, ha-Telem ha-Rishon, 68–69.

27 Raab, 68–69.

28 Smilansky, Moshe, Perakim be-Toledot ha-Yishuv (Tel Aviv: Devir, 1939), 2:97.

29 Zerubavel, Yael, “Memory, the Rebirth of the Native, and the ‘Hebrew Bedouin’ Identity,” Social Research 75 (2008): 315–52. See Hemda Ben-Yehuda's story “Havat bene rekhav.”

30 Raab, ha-Telem Ha-Rishon, 69.

31 Smilansky, Perakim be-Toledot ha-Yishuv, 2:98.

32 Ibid., 97.

33 Raab, Ha-Telem Ha-Rishon, 67.

34 Ben-Ur uses this term to describe the experience of Levantine Jews who came to America and found that the denial of shared ethnicity cost them jobs and led Sephardi immigrants to found new newspapers and institutions to serve their needs. This recognition failure was real (not simply a result of prejudice): Ashkenazi Jews genuinely did not recognize their coreligionists as Jews. Ben-Ur, Aviva, Sephardic Jews in America: A Diasporic History (New York: New York University Press, 2012), 108–9.

35 Smilansky, Perakim be-Toledot ha-Yishuv, 2:97.

36 See Schechter, Natan, “Pogrom Petah Tikva 1886,” Keshet He-Hadashah 6 (2003): 137–52.

37 Avigur, Shaul and Dinur, Ben Zion, eds., Toledot ha-Haganah, Mahadurat ʿAm ʿOved., vol. A part 1, ha-Sifriyah ha-Tsiyonit (Tel Aviv: Maʿarakhot, 1954), 75.

38 Smilansky, Moshe, Mishpahat ha-Adamah, book 1 (Tel Aviv: ʿAm ʿOved, 1951), 40.

39 Idelstein, Avraham Shapira (Sheikh Ibrahim Mikhah), 1:41.

40 Hadani, ʿEver, ed., Meʾah Shenot Shemirah be-Yisraʾel (Tel Aviv: Y. Tsʾetsʾik, 1954), 106.

41 Zerubavel, “Memory, the Rebirth of the Native, and the ‘Hebrew Bedouin’ Identity.”

42 Cited in Schreier, Joshua, Arabs of the Jewish Faith: The Civilizing Mission in Colonial Algeria, Jewish Cultures of the World (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2010), 12.

43 Doumani, Beshara, Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700–1900 (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1995), 34.

44 Ibid., 55.

45 Ibid., 92–93.

46 Greene, Ann Norton, Horses at Work: Harnessing Power in Industrial America, 1st ed. (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2008), 5.

47 Doumani, Rediscovering Palestine, 203.

48 Ibid., 131.

49 Fattah, Hala Mundhir, Politics of Regional Trade in Iraq, Arabia and the Gulf, 1745–1900 (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1997), 8889.

50 Ibid., 168–69.

51 Bashkin, Orit, New Babylonians: A History of Jews in Modern Iraq (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2012), 2021.

52 Fattah, Politics of Regional Trade in Iraq, 168–69.

53 Mikhail, Alan, The Animal in Ottoman Egypt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 156.

54 Shva, Shlomo, Ho ʿIr, Ho Em (Tel Aviv: ha-Hevrah ha-Amerikaʾit-Yisreʾelit la-Moledet, 1977), 158.

55 Raab, ha-Telem ha-Rishon, 67.

56 Smilansky, Perakim be-Toldot ha-Yishuv, 2:97.

57 Raab, ha-Telem ha-Rishon, 68.

58 Kolatt, Israel, “Religion, Society, and State during the Period of the National Home,” in Zionism and Religion, The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry Series 30 (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1998); Anita Shapira, “Religious Motifs of the Labor Movement,” in Zionism and Religion, 251–72.

59 Vaʿad ha-Yedidim le-Hotsaʾat Zikhronot shel Avraham Shapira, Letter to religious Jewish community institutions, 13 February 1939, Petah Tikva Archive 003.002/12.

60 One of the earliest uses of this term in Hebrew comes from 1903, Y. Goldfarb, “Wilad al-Miyetah,” Ha-Tsofeh, 18 Nisan [15 April] 1903, p1. It becomes standard in authoritative Zionist accounts about the history of Jewish settlement and the development of militaristic Jewish organizations. See, for example, Slutsky, Yehuda, Kitsur Toledot ha-Haganah (Jerusalem: Misrad ha-Bitahon-ha-Hotsaʾah la-Or, 1978), 11.

61 Esther Raab, “Sihah be-Tivʿon, 12 December 1980,” cited in Adriana X. Jacobs, Strange Cocktail, 58.

62 Bartal, “Petah Tikva,” 161–75.

63 Koskoff, Ellen, ed., “The Bowed Fiddle: Rebāb,” in The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, vol. 2 (New York: Routledge, 2008), 779.

64 Kark, Ruth, Jaffa: A City in Evolution, 1799–1917 (Jerusalem: Yad Yitshak Ben-Tsvi Press, 1990), 183.

65 Lehmann, Matthias, Emissaries from the Holy Land: The Sephardic Diaspora and the Practice of Pan-Judaism in the Eighteenth Century (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2014), 207–9.

66 Bussow, Johann, Hamidian Palestine: Politics and Society in the District of Jerusalem 1872–1908 (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 241–42.

67 Kark brings data suggesting a population of thirty to sixty Jewish families in the 1840s and early 1850s, and starting to climb beyond 1,000 only in the mid-1870s; Kark, Jaffa, 147–50.

68 Campos, Ottoman Brothers, 163–64; LeVine, Mark, Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv, and the Struggle for Palestine, 1880–1948 (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2005), 50.

69 Shva, Ho ʿIr, Ho Em, 148.

70 Raab, ha-Telem ha-Rishon, 65.

71 Harizman, M. (Mordekhai), Gevurat Rishonim: Toldot Yisud Petah Tikvah u-Meyasdehah (Jerusalem: ha-Histadrut ha-Tsiyonit be-Siyuaʿ Mosad ha-Rav Kuk, 1945), 105.

72 Elkayam, Mordekai, Yafo-Neveh-Tsedek: Reshitah shel Tel-Aviv: Toledot ha-Yishuv ha-Yehudi be-Yafo me-Reshit ha-Meʾah ha-19 (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense, 1991), 121–22. See also context on Nabi Rubin in Klein, Lives in Common, 89.

73 Klein, Lives in Common, 90.

74 Harizman, Gevurat Rishonim, 105.

75 Shva, Ho ʿIr, Ho Em, 148.

76 Constanze Kolbe, “Crossing Regions, Nations, Empires: The Jews of Corfu and the Making of a Jewish Adriatic, 1850–1914” (PhD diss., Indiana University, 2017), 105–53.

77 Harizman, Gevurat Rishonim, 105.

78 Ibid., 148.



  • Liora R. Halperin (a1)


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