Returning for a Visit: Rural Migrants and Social Change in Mandatory Palestine

Returning for a Visit: Rural Migrants and Social Change in Mandatory Palestine

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Na’ama Ben Ze’ev

The article examines aspects of urbanization in Palestinian society under the British Mandate by observing connections rural migrants in Haifa maintained with their villages of origin. The first section reviews three factors that influenced the frequency of visits: connections with family members who remained in the village of origin, the maintenance of rights to property in the village, and road infrastructure and the means of transportation. The second section presents several changes generated by material culture brought back to the village by rural migrants. Based on this analysis I argue that rural migrants were extremely important agents in the transition of Palestinian society to modernity. They distributed information, material culture, and practices perceived as “urban.” At the same time, their lives illustrate the dominance of kinship relations in the village. This tension between aspects of urbanization—as part of the transition to modernity—and continuity of the patriarchal social order, was part of the Palestinian experience of “being modern.”