Nahalal, c. 1937
This photograph appears in an album of photographs of the Land of Israel by photographer Shmuel Joseph Schweig. The inscription on the front of the album suggests that it was given as a gift to Roger Williams Straus and his wife by the director of Keren Hayesod (United Israel Appeal) on the occasion of their visit to Israel in February 1937.
The photograph shows the moshav (village) of Nahalal around 1937 with a few roads, some small one-story houses, and trees. Beyond the moshav is the flat land of the Jezreel Valley that is situated in the north of Israel. The area surrounding Nahalal seems to be uninhabited.
Moshe Dayan was born in Kibbutz Degania and moved to Nahalal with his family when he was six years old. Growing up on a farm, agriculture and land preservation was a large part of Moshe Dayan’s identity. He learned at the agricultural school for which Nahalal became known and worked as a farmer before pursuing his military and political careers.
Nahalal was the first moshav ovdim, workers’ cooperative settlement. Founded in 1921 and named after a biblical city, the moshav was designed by the well-known architect Richard Kauffmann in a series of concentric circles: the inner circle contained the public buildings, the next circle comprised the family homes, and, finally, in the outer circle were the farms and gardens. Nahalal was founded by pioneers who had arrived in Israel at the beginning of the twentieth century. Some of the founders originally came, like Dayan’s family, from Degania, the first kibbutz. Many families were seeking an agricultural life which, in contrast to the kibbutz where children were raised in communal dormitories and members ate in communal dining rooms, would allow them to maintain the nuclear family structure.
The development of agriculture in Israel began in the nineteenth century with the rise in Jewish immigration. Agriculture was a major part of the Zionist ideology of the immigrants, but in the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century most of Israel was unfit for farming. Mark Twain, after a visit to Israel in 1867 described the land as:
A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.
Much hard work was needed to improve the conditions and turn Israel into a flourishing country. Many of the immigrants at the time came from modern European cities and had no agricultural experience whatsoever. They found living off the land too difficult, and many fell prey to malaria or forsook the Zionist dream and returned to Europe. Ultimately, however, with a lot of determination and perseverance, they succeeded in turning the landscape into arable land and today Israel is a global leader in modern agriculture.
For more information
Jewish Studies teachers could use this source when teaching about the life of Moshe Dayan or settlement in Israel in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. This photograph of Nahalal could be presented when discussing the pioneers, immigration, and agriculture in Israel before the establishment of the state.
Geography teachers could use this photograph when teaching about the geography of Israel, in particular the Jezreel Valley. When teaching the general curriculum, this could also be shown in discussions about the differences between continents (Europe and the Middle East) and about the way in which people can influence the natural environment.
What can you see in this picture?
Describe the houses, the roads, the trees and vegetation, and the scenery in the background.
From what you can see in the picture, where do you think Nahalal is located?
How did you come to this conclusion?
Nahalal was a moshav or agricultural village that was established in 1921.
Who established this moshav and who lived there?
This photograph was taken in the 1930s, when Nahalal was about ten years old.
What do you think Nahalal and the surrounding area looked like when it was first founded?
Why was farming so important to the pioneers in Nahalal and other places in Israel at that time?
Moshe Dayan’s family moved to Nahalal from a kibbutz when it was first founded.
Why do you think the Dayan family moved from a kibbutz to a moshav?
What is the difference between these types of Israeli settlements?
Look at these pictures of Nahalal. What more can you learn about early life in Nahalal?
Nahalal was the first moshav in Israel and one of the first agricultural settlements in Israel.
Do you think it is still important to settle new areas in Israel? Why or why not?
What is life like in Nahalal today?
Look up Nahalal on Google Earth and compare the modern-day moshav with this photograph and with other historical reports about the moshav on the internet.