Department of Geography, Haifa University, Israel
In: Tartakover, D., (Curator), A Trip Across the Country, Games from Mr. Barlevy’s Store, Eretz Israel Museum, Tel -Aviv, (Catalogue) pp. 43-45
As a patriotic ritual and an educational experience, the Tiul (trip) figured prominently in the curricula of Hebrew schools and the activities of Zionist youth movements. The idea of designing a trip across the country as the basis for a board game was first implemented in the 1920s, more than two decades after a tour of the land first became part of the Zionist educational agenda.
Throughout the game, the players are continually exposed to the map and internalize its contours and details. In this sense, playing the game acquaints the players with the map. Touring the country amounts to learning the map. In this capacity, the map is more than simply an aspect of the game; it is the message. It is particularly significant, with regard to the matter at hand, that a map functioning as a visual metaphor and cartographic text of the Hebrew homeland underpins the tour of the country facilitated by the game. There are six different versions of the map, since it was periodically altered to correspond to the changes taking place in the political geography and geography of the settlement of Eretz Israel from the 1920s to the 1960s. No less importantly, the map was adjusted to reflect the changes that occurred in the topography of the Zionist myth of Eretz Israel. Each of the maps is an historical document reflecting the geographical conditions prevailing at the time of its creation, as well as the perspective of its creator. Moreover, the maps characteristically emphasize certain elements that express their latent educational message.
The first map, visually sparse as compared to later maps, was introduced in the late 1920s. The other maps are based on the one created in 1936 by Zeev Vilnay especially for this game. Thus, the map that represented the Eretz Israel of the 1940s was simply an updated, more graphically rich version of Vilnay’s original map. This is also true with respect to the game maps created after statehood. Vilnay’s map also determined the basic structure of the trip’s route: it began in Jerusalem and ended in Metulla, with 125 stops along the way. In this regard, it is significant that Jerusalem is marked “1”, since this indicates that it was emphasized as the symbolic center of Eretz Israel. The maps of A Trip Across the Country illustrate various versions of the Hebrew Eretz Israel. Most of the settlements shown on them are Jewish, while the Arab geography of Mandatory Palestine and the State of Israel after 1948 is limited primarily to the large Arab cities that were an inseparable part of the transportation routes, and, as such, were points of reference that could not be ignored. The Arab villages that do appear on the maps are the ones of importance to the Jewish history of Eretz Israel. The fact that the maps are “Hebrew’ is evinced not only by the use of the Hebrew language; but also by the strict use of the historical Hebrew names of places and sites.
An important political aspect of these maps is the manner in which the borders of the country are marked. The history of the map of Eretz Israel resects the tension between Eretz Israel as defined by the mythical terms of God’s promised borders”, a nostalgic perception of a glorious national past, on the one hand, and the recognized political borders that define the land as a political-administrative unit, on the other. The inclusion of the eastern side of the Jordan in the area of Eretz Israel was a major issue. Another important development was the inclusion of the Negev within the borders of the map of Eretz Israel after the establishment of the State. The map formulated in the late fifties had to delineate Israel, not Eretz Israel. As such, it represented the cartographic and political reality of the pre-1967 period: Israel within the green line. The territory beyond the boundary line was empty of settlers and sites. The symbolic-historical link to the territory known as. “the West Bank”, was manifested also in the names Judaea and Samariya, geographic designations rich in historical-biblical associations.
Particular importance was given to the iconographic aspect of the map. Places were marked not only by name, but also by iconographic representations that expressed the essence and significance of the represented place. Thus, for example, Jerusalem is represented by the traditional image of David’s Tower. Tel Aviv, the city that was a consummate expression of Hebrew revival, was represented on the 1940s game map by the city emblem, which itself was an official representation of “the first Hebrew city”. The iconographic representations of a place reflected its myth. This was particularly striking with regard to sites that were milestones in the mythic geography of Zionism. Tel-Hai, for example, is marked on the game maps by the statue of a roaring lion, which, since its unveiling in 1934, has become the symbol of Tel-Hai and the heroic story behind it.
The iconography of the map of A Trip Across the Country provides a great deal of information, not only about settlements and sites, but also about the Zionist perception of the land – both Hebrew and indigenous. The indigenous areas are considered to be “undeveloped; their transformation into a “Hebrew” land required settlement and development. As a result of developmental processes, the ‘proper Zionist landscape is portrayed as progressive and modem. The Hebrew village is represented on the map by water towers and houses roofed in red tiles. Beyond the iconographic representation of major Arab cities such as Nablus or Acre, the indigenous areas are illustrated primarily with stereotypical images such as palm trees, camels and Bedouins. In summary, the maps of A Trip Across the Country were more than simply game boards. They represented the Hebrew map of Eretz Israel as it was developing. The map was a Zionist text, not intended to create an “objective” picture of the geography of (Eretz) Israel, but rather to present the proper Zionist perspective of the time. Furthermore, these maps tended to clearly represent the Zionist consensus of their time. They combined Zionist consciousness and an educational process, and their importance lies in the fact that they provided a visual image of Zionist Eretz Israel that would eventually become – as it does in the game – a mental image of the Hebrew homeland.