The British Mandate (1317-1948)

Timeline date: 
Pre-colonial

 

 

 

 

The British Mandate (1317-1948)  
 
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The city of Nazareth continued to grow during the British Mandate period, although its distance from the center of economic activity on the coastal plain and the growing number of prosperous Jewish settlements put it at a disadvantage.
 
 
Nazareth during the Mandate
 
In 1917, at the tail end of the First World War, the British conquered Palestine from the Turks. Palestine and Trans-Jordan were declared a British Mandate under terms set out by the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations. According to the Mandate, the British were in charge of developing the land and preparing its residents for independence.
 
 
 
In reality, however, the British failed to invest resources in developing the region and, by adopting a policy of allowing Jewish immigration to help create a Jewish state, exacerbated tensions between Palestine’s Jewish and Arab inhabitants. During this period, two separate economies emerged: a mainly Arab economy, dependent on agriculture; and a Jewish one aided by the flow of European capital and immigrants.
 
 
 
During the 1920s Nazareth’s growth slowed, compared even to that experienced by some other Arab towns. Hardest hit along with Nazareth were other mountain cities such as Safed, Jenin, Nablus and Hebron, which had no industry and poor access. They were also far from the coastal plain, where most economic activity was concentrated. Development of industry, services and capital was increasingly in the hands of Jewish immigrants to Palestine. This gave an advantage to Arab cities located near Jewish settlements, such as Jaffa, Ramla and Lydda.
 
 
 
During the 1930s, Nazareth grew again when the British made it an administrative and pilgrimage center. By 1947 its population had reached 17,000. The town’s economy was based on agriculture, pilgrimage and small industries.
ty and prosperity to the area. The Umayyad dynasty renovated the coastal cities and roads, and venerated Jerusalem, making it the third holiest city in Islam and building the al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock mosques there. In 712 the Umayyads established the city of Ramla (close to today’s Tel Aviv) and made it the capital of the district of Palestine, one of three local districts.
 
 
 
Jews and Christians were usually tolerated. Given a special status, el-Dhimmi, or the protected, they were allowed to live independently, according to their faith, as long as they paid a special tax.
 
 
 
The fall of Nazareth
 
Despite a general atmosphere of tolerance, policies changed from caliph to caliph. At this time Nazareth had two main holy centers: the site where St. Joseph’s Church is located today, and the neighboring site of the Byzantine Church of the Annunciation (today where the Latin Basilica of the Annunciation is to be found).
 
 
 
Of the two, the Church of the Annunciation was the grandest. The evidence suggests that in the early period of Arab rule the Christians had to pay large sums to the Muslim rulers in order to maintain the church’s existence. Eventually both sites were abandoned and almost completely destroyed.
 
 
The State of Israel (1948)  
 
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Nazareth today is the largest Arab city in Israel, and the political-cultural center of the country’s Arab minority. The city’s holy sites, Arab market and authentic restaurants attract domestic tourism as well as tourists from all over the world. In 2000 the city center was given a facelift in anticipation of the arrival of many pilgrims and visitors to Israel for the visit of the Pope.
 
 
Nazareth facing the Future
 
With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the city’s growth has continued erratically. Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel, is an administrative and economic center for the Arab population of the Galilee, as well as a political-cultural center for the Arab minority in general. During the 1948 war, many neighbouring Muslim villages were attacked by the new Israeli army and their inhabitants fled to Nazareth for safety. As a result, the city’s religious composition has changed dramatically; today its 80,000 inhabitants are 70% Muslim.
 
 
 
As the year 2000 approached, the city center and surrounding holy sites were renovated, and Nazareth prepared for an influx of pilgrims. Pope John-Paul II visited the city and held mass in the Church of the Annunciation on 25 March 2000 – the Christian Feast of the Annunciation, or the anniversary of the Immaculate Conception.
 
 
 
The city, a major cultural and tourist asset in Israel, draws thousands of domestic and foreign tourists each year, interested in the history, religion, culture and special beauty of the place. The city is seeking to increase the number of tourists by investing in development and promoting new tourist-friendly projects.