Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wall and Tower: The mold of Israeli Adrikhalut

Architecture and Adrikhalut

The Jewish settlement project over the past century in the "Eretz Israel" (The Land of Israel) has given birth to two architectural traditions: Eretz-Israeli Architecture, and Israeli Adrikhalut.
Eretz-Israeli Architecture refers to architecture made by Jews in the territories of Eretz-Israel (“The Land of Israel”, alias “Palestine”) before the declaration of The State of Israel. Israeli Adrikhalut is an architectural tradition of Hebrew speaking Jews in the territories of State of Israel, the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority after the declaration of The State of Israel.
The distinction between those two traditions is chronological and political, but also linguistic: the evolution from one to another required a sharp move from a European architectural culture to a Hebrew, invented one.
While the architect, as Loos said, is “a builder who learned Latin”, the adrikhal that already had forgotten his foreign languages, in many cases didn’t even speak Hebrew properly. And Hebrew too, was still something to invent.
Apparently, “Architecture” and “Adrikhalut” are synonymous and are in use commonly and sometimes simultaneously. Thus, the Technion in Haifa forms “Architects” and the Tel Aviv University forms “Adrikhals”, and in addition to the historical Union of Israeli Architects, there is today a new Association of Adrikhals (the famous IAUA). Despite their foreign origins, Greek and Accadian, and the fact that both of them are included in the Hebrew dictionary, the use of “Adrikhalut” is more common nowadays and is perceived as more “Hebrew” than the other. In a strange manner, the meanings of “Architect” and “Adrikhal” are quite opposite and reveal two very different agendas about the role of the architect and its relationships with the physical reality: while the Greec Archi-Tect pretends to be the proud “Master of the Tectonics”, the Acadian Ard-Heikhal is occupied in a much more humble role as the “Slave of the Palace”.

Masters and Servants
The uniqueness of the Israeli condition is revealed by the difference between masters and slaves, between Architecture and Adrikhlut. If any planned physical reality is produced in three dimensions, the political, the urban and the architectural, architecture is no less political than urban. Nevertheless, architecture’s relationships with politics depend on its ability to define itself independently as an autonomous discipline, to impose its own agenda and to realize it physically. While acts of modern architecture were being formulated throughout the western world under the illusion of their autonomy, and were structured in a complex relationship between architectural theory and architectural practice, in Israel they were governed primarily by their political circumstances and significances. Comparing the western architecture that had the luxury to cover the political under layers of books and manifestos, in Israel it is impossible to ignore its simple, concrete truths.
The most significant aspect of both Israeli architectural traditions, at once most evident yet so well concealed, is its political dimension. In Israel, just like war, architecture is a continuation of politics through other means. Every act of architecture executed by Jews in Israel is in itself an act of Zionism, whether intentional or not. The political program of ‘building the Land of Israel’ is a fundamental, albeit often latent, component of every building in Israel and the political facts it creates are often more dominant and conclusive than any stylistic, aesthetic, experiential or sensual impact they may have.
Renew, settlement and construction of the new Jewish State have been the declared central goals of the Zionist movement and that includes also its architectural traditions. The new architecture, the new house and the new town were the site and the tool by which the project of settling the Jewish People in the Land of Israel was realized. They were means of attaining territorial objectives, means of deterrence, an industry for the fabrication of political facts. Building the Land of Israel became the central value and key metaphor of the new national ethos: “we came to this land to build and to be built” – sang the pioneers of the twenties. In Israel, building is an educational tool, an official language, an ideology.
This dictated to the Eretz-Israeli architect and much more to the Israeli adrikhal, a paradoxical list of priorities, according to which, political ideology and architectural theory merge, depend on each other, confront one another, hide and are hidden one from the other. Every practicing architect in Israel is confronted with a situation in which distinctive ‘architectural’ dilemmas are infused with critical political implications.
From its inception, the Zionist movement used the means provided by modern architecture to create its places. Both of them were seeking a new place: the first needed one, and the latter strove to create one. As an extension of the European debate of modern architecture, Eretz-Israeli architecture had managed to keep a decent appearance of a normal, western modern architectural tradition. But inspite (and maybe because) this normal appearance, one must remember that in the Middle East, there is nothing more political than normality, and that normality, westhood and modernity have always been the Zionist movement’s most powerful strategic weapons.
Since the declaration of the State of Israel, architecture has been openly mobilized. The new Hebrew speaking “native” tradition, Israeli adrikhalut, had to provide answers for the political needs of the times (to conquer territories, to spread populations, to house immigrants) and, if possible, to proclaim itself as doing so. Israeli adrikhals at their best have been true servants of the palace, serving the Zionist project to a varying degree of integrity, humility, dedication and responsibility, as they attempted to allow political ideology to infiltrate through the architectural forms, and simultaneously enabled architectural doctrines to express themselves through programs inspired or even dictated by politics. In Israel, political ideology and architectural doctrine are dependent on one another and are in a constant and complex dialogue of justification and argumentation. The architectural dimension of architecture – that cultural or spiritual aura of the built object and the added value of the act of building – served at its best as a mere accessory, and at its worst as pure camouflage. In any case, the Israeli adrikhal never had much time to read - the theoretical debates of western architecture have been pushed to the sidelines, giving place for an intensive practice in which any reflexive activity could be considered as almost subversive. The “architectural” dimension of the architectural practice was transformed, in most cases, from the inspiration that imbues a building with meaning into an appendix, a superfluous addition that is used as a pretext, a justification, a cover-up.
Besides relinquishing the universal viewpoint held by Western architects (and Eretz-Israeli architects) that had been rooted in the dialectics between theory and practice, the defining essence of Israeli adrikhalut is rooted between politics and architecture; this is where its dilemmas, its blind spots, and its paradoxes are to be found. Israeli adrikhalut produces impressive architectural objects but lacks a reflexive, comprehensive view of itself; mobilized by the political ideologies it establishes facts cast in concrete that are inherently political, but entirely lacks political awareness.

The Settlement Offensive
Although dated from the period of the Eretz-Israeli architectural tradition, the Homa Umigdal (“Wall and Tower”) settlements in the thirties were a first expression of a Jewish native architectural tradition, Adrikhalut. As an architectural phenomenon that was initiated and conducted almost “without architects”, in the service of political objectives Homa Umigdal was a true realization of the concept of Adrikhalut, and certainly the most direct answer to the palace’s demands.
Homa Umigdal was a response to the “Great Arab Mutiny” that outburst in Palestine/Eretz-israel in April 1936. The mutiny started with riots in Jaffa (9 Jews were lynched and dozens were wounded
[1]), followed by a general strike. It included economical measures such as the boycott of commercial and the banning of any real-estate transaction with Jews, and organized para-military activities. The “Great Arab Mutiny” was the most violent reaction of the local Arab population to the Zionist project and certainly a first political organized expression of a new Palestinian identity.
For the Jewish population and especially for the Zionist organizations, to whom the mutiny was known simply as “The Events”, the mutiny offered a golden opportunity to destroy the Arab economy and to progress even faster towards a Jewish state: in Tel-Aviv, the result of the Arab embargo on Jewish ships in Jaffa port was the erection of a new port while the boycott of commercial transactions of fruits and vegetables gave reason to the establishment of two new markets.
Facing the Arab resistance to Jewish settlement in remote parts of the country, and the growing difficulties to purchase lands and to settle them, the Zionist organizations elaborated a new strategy of a coordinated “Settlement Offensive” all over the country. The idea was to establish in the shortest period of time, a chain of new settlements that would create a Jewish continuum and define the future borderline of the State of Israel. This continuum took the form of the letter “N” placed in the valleys
[2]: from the northern point of the Jordan Valley to Beit Shean Valley, to the Yizrael Valley, and throughout the Litoral plain, to the Neguev desert. To realize the “Settlement Offensive” strategy, the main tactical tool was Homa Umigdal – Wall and Tower.

Wall and Tower System

Wall and Tower is a system of settlement seemingly defensive but essentially of offensive form invented in 1936 by the members of Kibbutz Tel-Amal, (today Kibbutz Nir-David) in Beit-Shean valley. The invention was attributed to the Kibbutz member Shlomo Gur,[3] and was developed and encouraged by the architect Yohanan Ratner.[4]
From the start, the objective of this communal and fortified type of settlement was to seize control of land that had been officially purchased by the KKL-JNF
[5] but could not be settled upon.
The system was based on the hasty construction of a wall made of pre-fabricated wooden molds filled with gravel and surrounded by a barbed wire fence. All in all, the enclosed space formed a 35m by 35m yard. Within this enclosure were set up a pre-fabricated wooden tower that commanded the view of the surrounding area and four shacks that were to house a ‘conquering troop’ of forty people. Between the years 1936 and 1939, some fifty- seven such outposts were set up throughout the country that rapidly developed into permanent collective settlements of the Kibbutz and Moshav type.
The primary tactical requirement for the Wall and Tower settlement had to meet several conditions: it had to be planned in such a way that it could be constructed within one day, and later, even within one night, that it could protect itself for as long as it would take for backup to arrive, and it had to be situated within eyesight of other settlements and with accessibility for motor vehicles.

Tel Amal
The first Wall and Tower outpost was erected at the site that later became Kibbutz Tel-Amal in the Yizrael Valley.
[6] The members of the kibbutz had formed a community in Tel-Aviv and were searching for land on which to settle. When several of them arrived at Kibbutz Beit Alfa, they realized that the members of that kibbutz wanted to establish another settlement east of their own, where there was a large Bedouin encampment, so that it would not be the most remote settlement. Although the land surrounding Kibbutz Beit Alfa had been bought by the KKL-JNF from Arab landowners in Beirut, it was being used by the Bedouins as their pasture grounds every winter and could not be settled upon. The members of Kibbutz Tel-Amal set up an encampment near Beit Alfa and began to cultivate the land. With the outbreak of the Arab Rebellion of April 1936, their attempts at settling the land were thwarted when the Bedouins set fire to their camp. These attacks led the people of Kibbutz Tel-Amal to initiate lengthy discussions with the residents of Beit Alfa and other settlements in the area regarding possible defense methods against the Bedouins, who were armed with ‘shiny British rifles.’ A formula was devised for the erection of four shacks surrounded by sandbags. This promptly developed into double walls built as molds and filled in with gravel up to the height of the windows. ‘In addition to that we aimed to erect observation posts in the corners’ – so wrote one of the members, Yehezkel Frenkel, ‘and near the huts to dig defensive fortifications.’[7] The solution generated two objections: the first declared that this does not provide sufficient defense in the area in between the huts, the second, voiced by the carpenters, maintained that the walls would not withstand the pressure of the gravel. Following further calculations it became apparent that with little additional cost it might be possible ‘to surround the huts with a yard and around the yard erect a wall and an observation tower with a light projector… [to] make a double mold and fill it with gravel.’ Shlomo Gur went to consult Yohanan Ratner, and returned with a ‘a drafted plan of a rectangular wall with four defensive positions at its corners’ (Frenkel). The proposal was transferred to the Regional Committee, which accepted the idea and declared that ‘we are at the beginning of a new era of fortified walls, in spite of our neighbors’ dismay.’
Following the success of the Tel-Amal experiment, Wall and Tower operations were carried out throughout the country. Tel-Amal did not remain for long the farthest outpost – Kibbutz Sdeh-Nahum was set up and within a year dozens of such outposts were set up throughout the country, ‘sometimes seven outposts in a single night,’ recounts Gur, who participated in the organization of some fifty such operations. The nocturnal expeditions were always assisted by existing settlements in the area, and were coordinated by the Zionist Leadership.

Sustainable Occupation

From any possible military or political aspect, the historical importance of the settlement offensive and of the Wall and Tower settlements was immense: there is no doubt that without those 57 Wall and Tower outposts spread in strategic places in Galilee, the Jordan Valley, Yizrael Valley and the Neguev, the fate of the state of Israel in 1948 would have been entirely different. The Wall and Tower outposts set along the “N” plan materialized the borderlines of the State of Israel until 1967 and shaped its only consensual form.
The success of the settlement offensive defined the state’s strategy in the days to come. Settlement has became one of the IDF’s main missions and soon after the army’s constitution in 1948, Ben-Gurion created a special military unit (“NAHAL” - Pioneering Fighting Youth) combining combat military activities and settlements tasks all over the country. As he explained to the soldiers in the new unit’s inaugurating parade, the strategy was clear: “Not with silent stone fortifications but with the labor and creation of a living human wall, the only wall that is able to resist the enemy’s weaponry. The only sustainable occupation resides in building.”

Although as a metaphor, the Wall and Tower project holds a mythical status in the ‘general history’ of the State of Israel, despite the active role this metaphor plays as a symbol of sacrifice, dedication and heroism in the civic education of every Israeli Jew, and despite its current incarnation in the tragic chronicles of our times – Wall and Tower is blatantly absent from the canon of Israeli architecture, which has been busy over the past few decades with fabricating a dubious narrative of the ‘Tel-Aviv Bauhaus’ and with the selective historicization of the ‘White City.’ While putting all its efforts into canonizing the Israeli International Style, Israeli adrikhalut has ignored not only one of the most architectonically unique elements of the thirties, the only one that is entirely relevant to its situation today, but also the sole element that received international acclaim in the thirties.

It is therefore not surprising that in 1937, one year after the establishment of Kibbutz Tel-Amal, a model of Wall and Tower was chosen for the Palestine/Eretz-Israel Pavilion at the World Exposition in Paris – the one remembered in architectural history as the exposition that granted the golden medal to the German pavilion of Albert Speer.
There are many similarities to be found between the idea of Wall and Tower and the modern pavilion – a building type most familiar to us from international fairs and Expos. The modernist canon is packed with pavilions and prototypes whose technology holds the potential of aggression, invasion and intrusion: the ready-made houses of ‘Voisin,’ Le Corbusier’s prototypes – the ‘Citrohan’ (1920 – 1922) that was meant to ‘travel’ to various types of landscapes, and the ‘Cabanon’ (1950) at Cap Martin, with which he was able to intrude into the life of Eileen Gray; the colonial residence machines of Jean ProuvĂ© – the prefabricated, demountable ‘Tropical House’ (1949) and ‘the House of the Lone Settler in the Sahara’ (1957); the various prototypes of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion (1928-1945), his Geodesian Domes and, later, in the sixties, their move from the hippies’ communes in California to the battlefields of Vietnam.
Like the pavilion, Wall and Tower is characterized by its mobility (or potential mobility), by careful logistic planning, by prefabrication and the possibility of rapid construction and dismantling, and most notably, by an assertive, dominant and spectacular presence. However, while the pavilion, as a ‘rhetorical’ building-type, a platform for ideas and manifestos, was a ceremonial expression of modern architecture’s industrial utopia – a kind of allegory of prototypes – the Wall and Tower project was a concrete implementation of it. Wall and Tower is what happens when you let the pavilion escape from the architectonic zoo, when you allow the prototype to freely multiply itself: it turns into the ultimate machine of invasion.

Wall and Tower almost allegorically expresses the characteristics and dilemmas of the Israeli built environment, revealing the tensions between its simultaneous impulses and internal contradictions. It is the site of all the Israeli oxymorons – ‘offence through defense,’ ‘intrusive siege,’ ‘the camp as a home,’ ‘introverted expansion,’ ‘permanent temporality,’ ‘house-arrest.’ The figure of the oxymoron is carved deep into the genetic code of the Zionist project itself and has accompanied it since Theodor Herzl wrote the novel Altneuland (‘The Old New Land’) and since the concrete translation into Hebrew (the living dead language)
[9] of his vision into the city of Tel-Aviv. Not to mention the fact that the figure of the oxymoron stands at the root of the concept of Israel as a ‘ Democratic Jewish State.’

Wall and Tower is the program and the mold of Israeli adrikhalut. As the metaphor of the Israeli practice of fait accompli, Wall and Tower is the fundamental paradigm of all Jewish architecture in Israel, and it germinated all the future characteristics of Israeli adrikhalut as well as, to a large extent, of the Israeli City: hasty translation of a political agenda into the act of construction, occupation of territory (surfaces) through settlement (points) and infrastructure (lines), the high priority given to the buildings’ security functions and military capabilities (both defensive and offensive,) and informed use of modernity – organization, administration, prefabrication, logistics, and communication.
As time went by and new settlements were founded using more sophisticated means, the two essential functions of Wall and Tower – fortification and observation – held fast and repeated themselves on every scale. They dictated the location of the new settlements on the peaks of mountains and hilltops and the technological effort of the Israeli space program. They molded the entire landscape as a network of points, as an autonomous layer spread above the existing landscape, transforming the country by dividing it not according to natural, territorial and cadastral divisions, but according to dromological divisions, according to the speed of transportation and the lines of infrastructure. Thus we find in the Occupied Territories today two countries superimposed one on the other: on top, ‘Judea and Samaria,’ the land of settlements and military outposts, bypass roads and tunnels; and underneath, ‘Palestine,’ the land of villages and towns, dirt roads and paths. Ultimately, the essence of Wall and Tower had a decisive influence on the way Israelis perceive the space in which they live, which in turn maps out the values themselves: the observers versus the observed, a Cartesian ghetto versus a chaotic periphery, a threatened culture versus ‘desert makers’ (in the words of Ben-Gurion), city versus periphery, future and past versus present, Jews versus Arabs.
The cross between hasty settlement through military or para-military means in civilian camouflage, seclusion of ideologically homogenous community behind fortifications and panoptical observation on the surroundings has repeated itself countless times since the days of Wall and Tower. The ‘settlement point’ system has been implemented in national master plans throughout Israel’s history, such as the plan drawn up in the seventies for Judaization of the Galilee, and the current “spontaneous” expansion of settlements in the Occupied Territories. In all these cases, a large degree of ideological and social homogeneity was retained – whether through an existing core of founders, or through mechanisms that filter new residents according to social or economic criteria. Whatever the reasons for this homogeneity – security, ideology, or economy – the repetition of this settlement pattern, in which there is a distinct congruence between geographic area and social status, ideology or ethnic identity, has been one of the most prominent characteristics of the built Israeli landscape.

The Wall
Although it never had recognized borders, the State of Israel never seized to search for them in order to define itself geographically and socially. The history of Isarel is paved by a huge number of plans detailing possible borderline scenarios. The map of the State of Israel bares different representations of this quest: the pre-1948 “historical” international borderline, the 1949 temporary borderline, armistice green line, the 1967 cease-fire purple line, the 1974 forces’ separation blue line, the 1996 Peace Borderline. The physical expressions of those borderlines could varie from the barbed wires of Jerusalem’s demarcation line, to the “Fatma gate” of the “Good Fence”
[10], from the bunkers of the “Barlev line”[11] to the electronic “separation fence” that is today under construction in the West Bank. A similar desperate quest for borders, limits, contours and separations characterizes also all the other scales of Israeli landscape and built environment. If the phenomena of gated communities is a relatively new to most of the western countries, in Israel it is quite normal to find villages, town and cities surrounded with a physical borderline: walls, fences and barbed wired fences, not to mention the symbolical “Eruv” borderlines defining the limits of the “Shabat zone”.[12] This impulse is even seen in the architectural scales - in urban environments (Tel Aviv, for example) where almost every building is surrounded by a fence enclosing a yard which very often remains unused and neglected, and even in the Israeli middle class suburbia that unlike its American model, is characterized by the drastic separation of the private.
Much has been said and written about the link between external threats on the State of Israel, whether real or imagined, and the formation of social unity and national cohesion. In Wall and Tower, we are shown exactly how this link is established: the priorities of the Wall and Tower outposts stipulated that first the wall was to be built, then the observation point and only at the end, the houses themselves. In total contrast to its ambitions of expansion, the Wall served in fact to perpetuate the ghetto mentality and the impulse of enclosure. The seclusion within the wall separates the settlement from its new environment and defines the new community not only as those who choose to live ‘inside,’ but as those who are under potential threat from outside. Shlomo Gur himself admitted that one of the reasons that Tel-Amal searched for land on which to settle was in order to prevent the dismantling of the kibbutz. This same principle holds true on a global scale as well, since the State of Israel’s self-definition depends on the fact that it was established first and foremost as a shelter for Jews threatened with extermination by the Nazi regime. The organization of Israel’s land is also based on this principle, as the degree of communal unity is directly connected to the imminence and intensity of external threats.

The Point

As a strategy, Wall and Tower realized the impulse for expansion through territorial conquests by establishing new ‘settlement points,’ a term that in itself hints at the fact that the ‘point’ on the map was more important than the ‘settlement’ itself. The location of the settlement as part of a greater strategic plan was of greater importance than its actual existence, and the location was determined according to optimal vantage points.
In Wall and Tower, the settlement point on the map is indeed a point within a strategic network of points. The Wall and Tower network was spread out in such a way that every outpost had eye contact with another, enabling the Towers to transmit messages through Morse code using flashlights at night and mirrors during the day.
The settlement point was first and foremost an observation point: erecting the Tower was the whole point.

The Tower

The Tower was the spearhead of industrialization and modernity not only because of its logistical and technological characteristics, but also because it transformed the entire environment into an object under the scrutiny of industrial and instrumental observation. This vantage point had its own accompanying technologies such as the binoculars and the light projector, and was organized as a systematic project that had to be managed and manned. Beyond the military implications of this vantage point, in terms of Virilio’s ‘I see, therefore I kill,’[13] The constant panoptic observation policed by the vantage point of the ‘tower’[14] determined the overpowering relations between the Wall and Tower settlements and their surroundings even before the actual cultivation of the land and its economic exploitation through agriculture or development.
As an initiative whose intention was to organize the logistics of the gaze, Wall and Tower transformed, literally from one day to the next, the territory, which it occupied. Henri Lefebvre characterized the agrarian time and space as a heterogeneous combination of variables such as climate, fauna and flora, while claiming that the industrialized time and space tends towards homogeneity and unity.
[15] Despite the fact that the landscapes where the Wall and Tower outposts were located have always been an agrarian frontier, this organized observation point was sufficient to transform the territory into a industrialized space. Only a few such panoptic observation points had the power to unify an entire agrarian region – to eradicate, through the strategic threat, the complex economic and cultural differences that distinguished between the Arab Bedouins, farmers and urban population in the thirties. The very instrumentalization of the territory through the gaze invested the landscape with scenarios and schemes, threats and dangers, infuses places and objects with tactical possibilities, and situates them within a strategy and unifies them into one ‘political’ space.[16] It transformed the landscape into a battlefield, a scene of conflicts, a frontier – in other words, into a city.

The Camp and the Domain
As an almost dimensionless point in space, Wall and Tower is more an optical instrument than a place - an all-seeing eye that cannot see itself. But nevertheless, with its Wall, its Tower and its four shacks, Wall and Tower is a rough draft of a place.
Regardless to its resemblance to the European medieval urban imagery, Wall and Tower sketches in the most concrete manner the very scheme of the Israeli place: the Camp and the Domain.
Used by all the settlement organs, the term the Camp and the Domain expresses the scheme of the Israeli place as a division of the settled territory between two main functions - lands to be settled upon physically, and lands to be exploited. This term has shaped the Israeli attitude towards territory: the military logic that resided at the basis of the territorial relationships between the Camp and the Domain can be only compared to the economical logic that created divisions between the Urban and the Rural elsewhere. The concrete translations of the Camp and the Domain concept on the ground, either in the form of a Kibbutz or in that of a Moshav, imposed architectural solutions where the Camp is perceived as a coherent unified entity surrounded by the vast unbuilt Domain cultivated collectively (in the Kibbutz) or separately (in the Moshav). But above all, this division, which was very characteristic to the rural settlements, is at the very basis of one of Israel’s biggest social injustice: unlike other Western countries, where the social structure is based either on the social tradition (Europe) or on the economic practice (USA), the Israeli class system was based on the distribution of the country’s most precious resource - land. In that sense, the settler may be placed on the summit of the social pyramid. If in the first days of the State of Israel his prestige was only political and symbolical, soon enough it could be translated to material forms. Even today, the question of the Domain - who owns it, and what to do with it – seems no less complex and problematic than the question of Israeli borders, and it is still a source of one of Israel’s biggest debates.

‘The camp is your home – guard it well’ – this slogan, posted in countless Israeli military bases, can be seen as the essence of this program. If the camp is our home, and if it must be guarded, the fate of the camp’s residents is to become prisoners of their own gaze.
The efforts of settlement involved a series of tasks, some of which were military and tactical, while others were civilian and strategic. This dualism was expressed in slogans such as ‘one hand on the plough, the other on the sword.’ Despite the military means often used, a civilian appearance has always been, and still is, one of the Zionist Enterprise’s most important strategic objectives. This is the reason why Wall and Tower and the later mechanisms of settlement left the status of the place and the residents themselves in doubt. In every type of politically motivated settlement enterprise in the country, whether or not backed by the institution, there exists a paradoxical mixture of a civilian and military operation: a military operation, camouflaged in civilian clothes, recruited civilians under the patronage of the army.
‘Civilianization’ is the transformation of the soldier into the pioneer – who is able, if need be, to change his clothes and transform back into a soldier at any time – and the transformation of the camp into a home is the description also assigned to the transformation of the para-military outpost into a permanent settlement. This is the reason why the apparent preservation of normality, of routine civilian life, has always had to be backed by military and tactical operations, which in the long run demand much higher funds than the act of settlement itself: in Israel, the mundane is a strategic weapon.

In Homa Umigdal, the image is one of ‘work in progress,’ a permanent construction site, a production line. The hyperactivism of transformation and construction was in absolute contrast to the passivity of the land. The Land of Israel was a virgin land to be possessed. The land of Israel was perceived as a clean slate, a tabula rasa, as raw material awaiting the sculptor. This perception lived on in the State of Israel, which became a place of perpetual motion from the temporary to the permanent and back again, a place whose core essence was not its permanency but movement and change. If one day the ‘right of return’ is granted to the Palestinians, it is very doubtful whether the returning refugees will find their way home – that is, if it still exists. Contrary to the illusions of permanency with which we are usually provided by urban and pastoral landscapes, and contrary to the static impression left by historic settlement patterns, the new Israeli settlement pattern has always been perceived as a dynamic process, focused on its power to transform rather than on becoming a permanent reality. Modern Zionism was fused by the inspiration of the industrial and colonial initiatives of the nineteenth century. If compared with Herzl’s vision of ‘The Canal of the Seas’-– the construction of a man-made canal which was meant to replace and eventually close off the Suez Canal – Wall and Tower was a humble act of industrialization of the environment, the large-scale operations came later. The State of Israel initiated immense transformations in the geography of the country: seas were dried up, roads were laid down, a network of infrastructure was spread out, ports were dug, forests were planted, deserts were made to blossom, towns and cities were founded. In Israel, every view of the landscape is merely a single frame taken from one continuous documentary film. Every photograph is only a coincidental image in an endless saga. In the same way, every built object is perceived according to its circumstances; always as a single coordinate on the long path of construction or ruin.

Trojan Horses
Wall and Tower initiated an original tradition of local Trojan horses, machines of infiltration and other types of ambulatory, temporary, political and hyperactive objects: the tent in the outpost and the mobile home in the settlements. These banal objects are ostentatious not because of the way they look, but rather because of their outward display of their potential for mobility, expansion and transformation; because they threaten to transform the temporary into the daily, the daily into the permanent and the permanent into the eternal; because of the way they represent all these possibilities in the landscape in order to transform the land itself into an arena of struggle and power.

There is no doubt that the mere appearance of new settlements was a spectacular event, an act of creating something from nothing, a spectacle of light
[17] – the nocturnal and daylight signaling, the trajectories of tracer bullets and the echoes of explosions. Shlomo Gur saw in his invention only a prosaic answer to the problems of the new settlement: in his interview with Ariela Azulay he claimed to be indifferent to the their visual effectiveness. The type of interpretation done here would be entirely alien not only to the axiomatic perception he had of his system, but also to his character as a ‘man of action.’ But from the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the simple fact that in many of the Wall and Tower settlements operations, Gur himself was accompanied by the photographer Zoltan Kluger and his team from “The Oriental Company of Photography”.[18] Kluger’s wages where paid by the “Keren Hayesod”.[19] In addition to that, the Wall and Tower settlements of Ein-Gev and Massada/Shaar Hagolan were the subject and the location of the first Hebrew Technicolor film ever shot in Israel, “Spring at Galilee”, by Efraim Lisch (13 minutes, 1939),[20] that was produced and financed by the KKL-JNF. In a similar manner, the KKL-JNF financed and promoted the first Hebrew Opera “Dan the Guard” that celebrated the first days of the Wall and Tower settlement of Hanita. The opera was based on Sh. Shalom’s play “Shootings at the kibbutz” (1936) and was adapted in 1939 by the composer Marc Lavry and the newly immigrant writer Max Brod (!). The opera was performed 33 evenings in Tel Aviv in 1945.

The Mold
However, as is usually the case in Israeli architecture, the actual object is much more powerful than any image or metaphor. The real spectacle of Wall and Tower did not stem from the way it looked but from what it was, from what it did. It was, first and foremost, a wall; beyond the fact that the wall was a program, and was destined to become an ‘ideology,’ it was a plain wooden mold of 20 centimeters filled with gravel. The wall was a premonition of things to come, because whoever is able to fill the mold with gravel will not hesitate to fill it with other materials. Beyond the fact that it was an ad-hoc protective wall, whose job it was to prevent infiltration of unwanted visitors and to provide protection from bullets, the wall was a technological presentation and a logistic tour de force: it was the promise, the non-explicit threat of the concrete.

[1] My Grandfather, the late Benjamin Plascow, was always proud to remind me that he had been the first wounded of the “Events” of April 1936. He was stubbed in his chest in Jaffa Road on his way back from his work in Jaffa port. A tin cigarette box (which is today one of my family’s dearest objects) saved him from a much more serious injury.
[2] In that respect, see Rafi Segal and Eyal Weizman’s essay “The Mountain”, where they describes the Zionist and Israeli settlement project as a continual move from the valley to the mountain.
[3] Shlomo Gur-Gerzovsky (1913-2000) was a founding member of Kibbutz Tel-Amal and became a sort of national ‘project manager’ following his success as the founder of Homa Umigdal. Before the establishment of the State, he was responsible for planning the defense constructions of many settlements including those of the Old City in Jerusalem. Following the establishment of Israel, he was charged with the country’s first Grands Projets: the Hebrew University, the National Library and the Knesset building in Jerusalem.
[4] Yohanan Ratner (1891-1965), a trained architect and a former Red Army officer, was the chief architect and strategic planner of the Hagana, the pre-state predecessor of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF.) He later became a general in the IDF. As a member of the central command during the War of Independence, Ratner was the only general who received Ben-Gurion’s permission to retain his non-Hebrew family name. Later he served as Dean of the Faculty of Architecture in the Technion in Haifa. As a teacher and dean in the 1950s, Ratner was considered a reactionary and one of the more ardent opposers of modernist architecture.
[5] Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (Jewish National Fund) was established in 1901 during the fifth Zionist Congress in Bazel, in order to purchase land in Palestine - Eretz-Israel for the Jewish people. This organization became the most important factor in the land system of the country and untill today: KKL-JNF is the main proprietor of lands in the State of Israel, and owns more than 90% of them. As an organ of the Zionist movement, KKL-JNF became one of the state’s most important instruments to make sure that lands in israel would remain under Jewish (and no “Israeli”) ownership.
[6] The account of settlements and the quotations come from a conversation between Shlomo Gur and Ariella Azoulay, the main points of which were exposed in Azoulay’s book: Ariella Azoulay, How does it look to you? Tel-Aviv: Babel, 2000, pp.27-35; 10 Years, a Tel-Amal booklet,1946, p.30; Yehezkel Frenkel, ‘How we arrived at Homa Umigdal’ in 40 years to Homa Umigdal, a Tel-Amal booklet, p.21; Shlomo Gur, the man behind Homa Umigdal (a monologue recorded by Zeev Aner in The days of Homa Umigdal, editor: Mordechai Naor, Idan Series, Yad Ben Zvi Press, Jerusalem 1986, pp. 47-50.
[7] Yehezkel Frenkel, ‘How we arrived at Homa Umigdal’ in 40 years to Homa Umigdal, a Tel-Amal booklet, p.21.
[8] David Ben Gurion, a speech in front the soldiers of the NAHAL soldiers, 13 November 1948. An army for defense and building in On Settlement – an anthology, 1915-1956 , p. 104 , Hakibbutz Hameuhad, Tel Aviv, 1986.
[9] Altneuland was published in 1902. In this futuristic novel, inspired by the tales of Jules Verne, Herzl follows the adventures of a young Jewish intellectual from Vienna, Dr. Friedrich Lowenberg, who meets a mysterious character by the name of Kingscourt. Lowenberg and his companion decide to dissociate themselves from the decadent European lifestyle, and settle on a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean. On their way, they pass through the Land of Israel and find it in a state similar to the one Herzl found during his historic visit to Palestine in 1898. After ten years on the island, Lowenberg and Kingscourt decide to resume their travels. They return to the Land of Israel and discover ‘Altneuland’ – the old-new land that had been built and settled according to Herzl’s program in his book The Jewish State. The first translation of Altneuland was edited by Nachum Sokolov and was published in 1904 under the biblical title Tel Aviv, borrowed from the Book of Ezekiel. This is what perhaps made Tel-Aviv, which was set up five years later in 1909, into the only city in the world to be named after a book.
[10] The “Good Fence” is the title that was given to the borderline between the State of Israel and the “security belt” of South Lebanon since the Litany operation in 1978 up to the IDF retreat in 2000.
[11] The defensive fortification line along the Suez canal, conceived in the late sixties by the IDF chief of staff, general Haim Barlev.
[12] The “Eruv” is a religiuous symbolical borderline made of a wired line that contours every village, town and city in Israel. The “Eruv” defines a unified zone in which one can carry personal things during the Shabat.
[13] In this connection, one cannot ignore the work of my teacher, Paul Virilio, especially his book Guerre et Cinema, Cahiers du Cinema – Editions de l’Etoile, Paris, 1984 (War and Cinema, London and New York: Verso, 1999).
[14] See Roland Barthes’ renowned text ‘The Eiffel Tower’ and Michel Foucault’s book Discipline and Punish for more on the way observation from a tower ‘intellectualizes’ a landscape. Ariella Azoulay links this birds-eye view to another project of Shlomo Gur: in 1937, Gur took a series of photographs of the roofs of Jerusalem’s Old City, in order to plan the defense of the Jewish Quarter. Azoulay, who gives a detailed description of these photographs in the introduction to her published conversations with Gur, interpreted them as a model of ‘the official eye of the State of Israel’ (Azoulay, How does it look to you? p.28.) The mythological slogan spontaneously invented by a tired IDF soldier a moment after conquering the Hermon Mountain in 1973, who called it ‘the eyes of the state,’ should also be noted in this context.
[15] Henri Lefebvre, ‘Espace et Politique’, in Henri Lefebvre, Le Droit a la Ville, editions Anthropos, 1968, p.207
[16] This is a concrete example of Lefebvre’s claim ‘a landscape that has undergone instrumentalization becomes a political landscape’ – Lefebvre, Espace et Politique, pp. 277,278.
[17] See Paul Virilio’s explanation of the link between the light projectors of anti-aircraft defense mechanisms during the Second World War and the emblem of 20th Century Fox, as well as other spectacular expressions such as Albert Speer’s Cathedral of Light in Nurnberg.
[18] For A detailed account on Kluger’s activity during the period of Wall and Tower, see: Oded Yedaaya Towards a Social Fuction: on Zoltan Kluger’s Photography in the period of Homa Umigdal, Kav 10, July 1990, pp. 13-19. According to Yedaaya, Kluger was born in Hungaria in 1895 and emmigrated to Germany in the Twenties, where he worked in the Berliner Illustriert Zeitung. In 1933 (or 1934) he emmigrated again to Palestine/Eretz Israel with another photograph Nahman Schiffrin and together they established “The Oriental Company of Photography”.
[19] The Keren Hayesod (The Foundation Fund), today known also as “Keren Hyesod – United Israel Apeal” is part of the Jewish Agency. Founded in the Zionist Congress in London on July 1920, The fund is one of Israel’s largest fund raising organization and is active all over the world except the USA.
[20] In order to really appreciate the effort of the KKL-JNF in producing Spring in Galilee, it is important to remember the technological competition that took place in the same period between the American Technicolor and the German Agfacolor. The first German color film Die Goldene Stadt by Veit Harlan (the director of The Jew Suss) was shown to the public only in 1943. Virilio, Guerre et Cinema, pp. 10-11.

Notes on the essay
a) The origin, the insights, the writing and the research for this essay began in the mid 80's within the framework of a simple 2nd year project on vernacular architecture at the Ecole Specpiale d'Architecture (Paris).
since 2002, The essay has been published in numerous books and publications in English, French and Hebrew.
It appeared in English for the first time in 2002 in "A Civilian Occupation" a catalogue edited by Rafi Segal and Eyal Weizman for the Israeli presentation at the UIA congress in Berlin. Shortly before the distribution, the catalogue was censored by the Israeli Association of Architects and the 7000 printed copies of the catalogue were scrapped. (For a review of the catalogue and the coverage of this "affair", see Alan Riding's NY Times article from August 2002 "Are Politics Built into Architecture?") The catalogue was republished a year later, in 2003, with two new prefaces by Paul Virilio and me under a form of a small book by Babel (Tel Aviv) and Verso (London), in French by Babel and Les Editions de L'Imprimeur (Paris), in the catalogue of the exhibition "Territories" curated by Eyal Weizman and Anselm Franke at the KunstWerke art institut of Berlin, and in the book "Cities of Collision" edited by Philipp Misselwitz and Tim Rienietz and published by Birkahauser in 2006. The Hebrew version of the essay appeared in "Sedek" Magazine #2 in 2008.
b) All the photos were taken by Zoltan Kluger between 1936 and 1939