Petitions

I came across a lot of these petitions in the archives, dealing with everything from pleas for tax relief to expressions of support for the appointment of a particular mukhtar. The Arabic word for 'petition' ('arida) comes from the same root as the word 'wide' ('arid), and boy did these guys take both seriously. The petitions are always the same: horizontal composition with anywhere from a dozen to more than fifty thumb prints at the bottom. Sometimes they consist of multiple pages taped together. The show of force that they perform – I can just imagine one of these unrolling off a bureaucrats desk and onto the floor – is really inseparable from their materiality.

This particular petition is also pretty fascinating. There was a drought in 1963, and it seems to have hit the fruit farms around Jericho pretty hard. Jericho agriculture is rain-fed, and this petition details the multiple sources of water that a certain group of people depend on: the UN supplies of water to the camps; the municipality that supplies homes, hotels and workshops; and cisterns from some urban project. These sorts of files go to show that the kinds of class relations and agrarian politics in the Valley – which depended on irrigation, higher concentrations of financial investment, and waged harvesting – were (and are) very different than what was taking shape in the highlands of the West Bank. 

 Israel State Archives, MGA 39/11.

Israel State Archives, MGA 39/11.