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Mawat Land


Mawat (or Mewat) So-called “dead”, unreclaimed land. It was sand dunes, and  hilly, scrub woodland and grazing areas. It constituted about 50 to 60% of the land in Palestine at the beginning of the mandate (1921). It belonged to the government. Private individuals could purchase and register this land as their own for its unreclaimed value under the Ottoman empire, but it was just as easy to simply cultivate it.( Stein, Land Question, pp. 12-13). Communities and individuals often expanded their land land holdings "informally" by cultivating or using such land in Ottoman times, and this practice continued under the British. It is hard to justify the estimate of only 50-60%, since the Beersheba/Gaza district alone accounted for 46% of the land area of Palestine. It was almost all government land. Additionally, large areas of the Judean desert and the Jordan valley area were uncultivated and uncultivatable and were very likely not owned by anyone. The Hope-Simpson Report (page 32 has this to say about Mewat:

    5. Mewat.

Mewat has a certain importance in that its area, which is not yet determined, may be considerable. It is the waste land (which has not been left or assigned to the inhabitants or held by Kushan) at such a distance from the village site, that the voice of a man shouting there cannot be heard. This has been interpreted by judicial decision as one and a half miles. The land is vested in the Government. Cultivation with permission entitles to the issue of a title-deed (Kushan) free of charge. Cultivation without permission under the old Mohammedan law entailed payment of the unimproved value. Now, under the provisions of the Mewat Land Ordinance of 1921, any person breaking up Mewat land with-out permission is treated as a trespasser.

The area of Mewat will only be finally determined when the settlement operations now in progress are completed


Ottoman land ownership laws and the status of land ownership in Palestine were crucially important in the history of Zionism, because of Zionist attempts to purchase land, Arab and British attempts to block them, and subsequent claims by Arabs that they had "owned" most of the land in what is now the State of Israel.

Synonymsand alternate spellings:  Mewat

Further Information: See The Land Question In Palestine, 1917-1939 by Kenneth W. Stein, University of North Carolina Press, 1984; The Land Question in Palestine; Buying the Emek; Palestine's Rural Economy, 1917 - 1939;Arab Revolt  Zionism and Its Impact;  Mulk; Miri; Mahlul ; Waqf; Matruka; Mawat; Musha'; jiftlik

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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Mawat Land