Cite: Ben-Bassat, Conflicting Accounts of Early Zionist Settlement: the Colony of Rehovot and the Bedouins of Khirbat Duran

Ben-Bassat, Yuval. “Conflicting Accounts of Early Zionist Settlement: A Note on the Encounter between the Colony of Rehovot and the Bedouins of Khirbat Duran.” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 40.2 (2013): 139-48.




By comparing a recently discovered rare petition sent to Istanbul in 1890 by the Bedouins of Khirbat Duran to protest the establishment of the Jewish colony of Rehovot, some 25 kilometres south-east of Jaffa on Palestine’s central inner coastline, to accounts written by Rehovot’s first colonists, the article explores claims of land ownership rights by the two sides. Beyond this unique perspective on the early Zionist–Arab encounter, these differing accounts highlight some of the underlying reasons for strains in the relationships between the two populations in Palestine at the end of the nineteenth century. Agrarian and social developments in Palestine in the decades preceding the beginning of Zionist activity in the 1880s ought to be examined in order to better contextualise both the source materials and the events involving the two populations.

We understood that after we had bought the land, paid its price, and received title-deeds from the government, we were the land’s sole owners and no one else had a say [on this matter]. Thus, we did not want the Bedouins, they and their wives, children and herds, to come and occupy our land. (Eliyahu Levin-Epstein, the head of the colony of Rehovot in 1890).

The farm, which was in our hands from [the time of our] fathers and forefathers was taken from us by force, and the foreigners do not want to treat us according to the accepted norms among the farmers and according to human norms. (The Bedouins of Khirbat Duran in a petition to Istanbul, 1890)

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