1913: Seeds of Conflict

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Explore an overlooked moment in pre-WWI Palestine when people's identities overlapped, and Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities intermingled freely. Few could contemplate the conflict that would engulf their region for the next century.

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About the Show

"1913: Seeds of Conflict" looks at the moment of transformation when Ottoman rule in Palestine was still strong, the identities of Jerusalemites were fluid, and few could imagine the conflict that would dominate the region for the next century. Until now, scholars have focused on the British Mandate as the matchstick of the Middle East conflict. Breaking new ground, this film focuses on the moment when Arab and Jewish nationalism first made contact, and the seeds of conflict were first sewn.

Our story’s setting is Ottoman Palestine, a colorful society being pulled between medieval and modern influences, with community alliances built on personal ties. The district of Jerusalem (later southern Palestine) is sensing growing nationalism and perceived threats to Ottoman sovereignty by European "foreigners." Zionism, the European-based movement for a Jewish homeland, and Arab nationalism are the forces that propel our narrative.

We explore this seminal moment in history through the eyes of those who helped shape it first hand.

Through the diaries of our characters and fresh scholarship on the period, we come to better understand and feel early 20th century Palestine. There’s a land boom afoot, as Jewish Zionists and Christian pilgrims eagerly buy up property. The outrageous prices they pay fuel absentee landowners’ willingness to sell. The result pulls the land out from under the feet of tenant farmers who work on it just as their ancestors have for generations. They are suddenly thrown off by Jewish Europeans who understand neither their language nor their culture. These "fellahin" (peasants) are the first Arabs to clash with the Zionist settlers. Their experiences promote a new Arab national consciousness.

Meanwhile, the prosperity of Ottoman Jews is a welcome contrast to the persecution, pogroms, and anti-Semitic violence that is driving European Jews, in growing numbers, to seek refuge in Palestine. Devoted equally to his Ottoman citizenship and his Jewish identity, Albert Antebi is forced by 1913 to choose between the two. The overlapping identities Jews have comfortably held are becoming suddenly mutually-exclusive.

"1913: Seeds of Conflict" is an admittedly-arbitrary glimpse that captures the Palestine of a hundred years ago. Scholars are looking at it as the key to understanding what has happened since and to rethink issues that, today, seem so mired and intractable.

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