Wall and Tower: Advancing Zionism in Tough Times

The British Mandate of Palestine started in 1920 and ended in 1948. In this era, the Jewish people faced many challenges as well as created the conditions to thrive when their time for sovereignty came. At the beginning of the British Mandate, the Jewish people had much hope as well as much to be thankful for. The British were supposed to be the catalyst to create a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, fulfilling the promise of the 1917 Balfour Declaration. In the end, the British were the catalyst, though reluctantly, and in the face of the very goals they originally set out to achieve.

In the era before World War I, the Jewish people were coming back to their ancient homeland in great numbers. After two millennia in exile from their land, the time finally came to return. As the numbers of Jews living in the Land of Israel increased, so did the anger of the Arab community whom lived in the British Mandate of Palestine. The Arabs felt that they were losing their control to a people that they saw as western colonialists. In 1936, the Arab community increased their pressure on the British Mandate with constant revolts, which included murdering hundreds of Jews as well as hundreds of British soldiers, leading the British government to appease the demands of the Arab leaders in the White Papers of 1939.

During the Arab Revolt, due to the British Mandate’s aim to keep the peace, the Jewish people were unable to build new communities as well as induce further migration of Jews to the Land of Israel. The Jewish people were determined to overcome these obstacles, this was the start of the Wall and Tower system. The innovation of this method is attributed to Shlomo Gur, founder of Kibbutz Tel Amal (present-day Nir David). In building new communities for the Jewish people, they were able to overcome the illegality by identifying a loophole in the British rule. The British occupation still had references to Turkish Ottoman rule, the Jewish people identified that one was not building illegally if there was a wall around the village as well as one roofed home.

In the years prior to the Arab Revolt, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) had legally purchased land where the Jewish people could be safe as well as mark continuous territory where the Jewish people could build their future state. The Wall and Tower method was an active way to continue this process as well as the pattern to establish an official Jewish entity in their historic homeland during tough times. In this era, building these villages were not just dangerous due to the British colonial government, but they were also vulnerable to local Arabs whom would band together to attack the neighboring Jewish towns. The early Israeli defense organization “Haganah” served as the protection for these newly-built towns against many attacks during the Arab Revolt. They not only guarded these communities with their soldiers, but also implemented barbed wire, observation towers and outside guard towers, all in the intent to keep the Jewish community safe and secure.

By May 1939, after three years of enduring an infamous Arab Revolt, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was Neville Chamberlain and his government had issued a solution. While the White Papers of 1939 had calmed down the Arab Revolt, it greatly impacted World Jewry. It set limits on Jewish immigration, just before World War II, trapping millions of European Jews inside Nazi Germany and the surrounding countries in which the Nazis occupied. In 1941, Hitler approved the mass murder of the Jewish people in concentration camps, and by 1945 when World War II ended, two-thirds of European Jewry (six million Jews, a third of World Jewry at the time) had become corpses and dust in a land that they once thought was enlightened. This was also the end of the Wall and Tower system, unable to produce in a stricter British Mandate, one that keep a close eye on the Jewish residents.

In the end, the Wall and Tower method proved to be a great success for the Jewish people under the British Mandate of Palestine in tough times, using this formula fifty-seven times to produce more towns for more Jewish families. While most of these fifty-seven communities were built in northern Israel, some built in Israel’s southern region, a place that people saw as uninhabitable had many Jews convinced that they could help the desert bloom. Israeli towns like Nir David, Ein Gev, Sde Eliyahu and Negba all still exist today. There is also a model of the Wall and Tower method, placed in the Land of Israel Pavilion at the 1937 World Exposition in Paris. Though, in hindsight, the historical notation that more was not done to pressure the British government to approve more Jewish immigration and communities in the Land of Israel, especially in the era before the Holocaust. At the time and still to this day, there is much room to build in the promised land, the Land of Israel.