After the September 1962 earthquake in the Qazvin region of Iran, Israel sent planning experts to assist Iranian relief efforts. A small project, the reconstruction of one village, led to a larger project initiated by the United Nations, in which a team of experts from Israel were sent to survey and plan the region devastated by the quake. This resulted in a comprehensive regional plan, and detailed plans for several villages. Israeli assistance to Iran was also intended to reinforce bilateral relations between the countries. The disaster offered an opportunity for demonstrating Israeli expertise in a range of fields including architecture, and to consolidate Israel’s international image as an agent for development. This article examines transnational exchange via professional expertise, using the participation of Israeli architects in the rebuilding of Qazvin as a case study, in order to demonstrate that architects were agents of Israel’s diplomatic goals. The architects had professional objectives, namely the creation of a modern plan for the region and its villages. At the same time, these objectives were intertwined with the Shah of Iran’s national modernization plan, and with Israel’s desire to become Iran’s ally in this drive for change and modernization, in the hope of promoting a different, more modern, Middle East.
The famine that befell Syria during the First World War was among the most tragic events in the region’s modern history. The article argues that the 1915 locust attack, which is often neglected altogether or given terse treatment as one among a laundry list of causes of the famine, was a critical factor which drove many across the region, especially in Lebanon and Palestine, to starvation beginning in late 1915. Given that the scale of the attack was far worse than anything Syria had witnessed in many decades, if not centuries; and that a huge percentage of the region’s major foodstuffs and sources of livelihood, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, fodder and a small but not insignificant amount of cereals, were devoured by the locusts, it is suggested that many of the 100,00–200,000 people that died from starvation or starvation-related diseases in the year immediately following the attack – that is, from November 1915 to November 1916 – can be attributed to the locust invasion.