Resilience of Public Spaces: A Case Study of the Colonies in Ottoman Palestine, 1878-1918


  • Marina Epstein-Pliouchtch TU Technion IIT & Western Galilee College, Akko
  • Talia Abramovich



"Moshavot" were a new form of colonies established by immigrants, mainly from Eastern Europe, to Ottoman Palestine from the late 19th century to the early 20th. The paper will explore the initial four decades of these colonies, from the founding of the first one in 1878, to the beginning of the British Mandate in Palestine, in 1918. During these forty years, the colonies were exposed to processes of radical change and modernization: the industrial revolution, political and cultural developments under Ottoman rule, and the social transformations wrought by World War I. 
The huge impact of these processes was particularly marked in the colonies' public spaces. To cope with the physical and functional changes wrought by the exigencies of the war, as well as an influx of immigrants and other demographic changes, these spaces required functional flexibility, adaptive design, and structural resilience. Planned and designed as modern spaces, they were characterized by broad boulevards, large administrative buildings, and landscaped promenades, all of which exhibited a strong capacity for resilience. The paper will examine the vigour and robustness of these early modern public spaces from three perspectives: their planning and construction; the functions they served; and how they changed over the course of these four decades.
According to researchers of urban space such as Lewis Mumford, the resilience of public spaces is predicated on the ways they are created and defined, and the extent to which they evoke a sense of ownership and belonging in the communities they serve. In the colonies we have studied, public spaces were vibrant local centres for a multi-cultural population, whose wide-ranging ethnic, religious and national roots could be seen in wide French-style boulevards, with Ottoman-style civic buildings and water fountains, sebils, and in synagogues designed, apparently, by Templar German architects. 
In this paper we will discuss the characteristics that gave these public spaces their diverse, multi-cultural nature, and those that contributed to their robust physical and spiritual strength. On the basis of new, as yet unpublished archival evidence, we will present a few case studies of public spaces (parks, civic institutions, etc.) in the colonies of Palestine which thanks to their innate vitality managed to survive this volatile and stormy period of history.


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