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Of—Borders and Memories: Erased Boundaries in the Land of Israel

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Part of the Key Challenges in Geography book series (KCHGE)


There are many places in the land of Israel that used to be associated with the country’s borders, including sites of memory such as fortifications from all historical periods. Their presence in the landscape and various usage are appraised here from the author’s standpoint regarding the Israeli state’s national narrative. Border lines and their functions have changed over the decades, but their remains and relics can still be seen in Israel; they symbolize history and often have national significance. Hence the major questions discussed are: What is the dynamic of their remaining, or else their disappearance from the landscape? What are the factors playing a part in the preservation of a border after its erasure? A mixture of historical and current borders in the same territory, sometimes with only a few metres between historical and present lines, makes the memories of the past expressive. Memories stemming from the borders in Israel involve personal and national feelings and therefore, they also have a vibrant formal and informal educational significance. When discussing Israel, WWI centennial commemorations bring to consciousness the ending of Ottoman Empire rule in territories in Europe and the Middle East and succeeding geopolitics, the Balfour Declaration (1917) regarding a Jewish Homeland and the blueprint for British and French protectorate rule embodied in the Sykes Picot Agreement (1916).


  • Borders
  • Erased boundaries
  • Landscape
  • Symbols
  • National significance

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  2. 2.

    Encyclopedia Britannica. Establishment of Israel: The War of 1948. The Green Line, or (pre-) 1967 border or 1949 Armistice border, is the demarcation line set out in the 1949 Armistice Agreements between the armies of Israel and those of its neighbours (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

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  7. 7.

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    Regarding British forces in WWI, the Jerusalem War Cemetery was created after the occupation of the city in December 1917. It contains the graves and memorials of over 2,510 servicemen of the British Empire, of whom more than 100 remain unidentified. Within the cemetery stands the Jerusalem War Memorial which commemorates some 3,300 servicemen of the British Empire who died in Egypt and Palestine and have no known grave.

    Gaza War Cemetery contains the graves and memorials of more than 3,200 servicemen of WWI and some 210 from WWII. Nearly 970 of those buried in the cemetery remain unidentified.

    Heliopolis (Port Tewfik) Memorial is the largest WWI memorial in Egypt and commemorates nearly 4,000 servicemen of the Indian Army. The current memorial was unveiled in October 1980 as a replacement to the original memorial at Port Tewfik which was demolished, having suffered severe damage during the Israeli-Egyptian conflict of 1967–73.



    Regarding the Ottoman forces in WWI, in the six cemeteries located in Israel and Palestine area, over 6,000 soldiers are buried, who fell in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. Within the larger region the biggest of the three Turkish cemeteries in Syria is located in Qatma, which holds the remains of over 1,000 soldiers. In the cemeteries in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, over 3,000 Turkish soldiers are buried.

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  11. 11.

    See Satellite image- Israel’s border lines.

    Photographed by Astronaut Barry Wilmore.

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    See: JNF at “JNF is a nonprofit organization and United Nations NGO that gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people. JNF began in 1901 as a dream and vision to re-establish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere.”.

    See: Trees for the Holy Land.

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  15. 15.

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I would like to thank SHALMON, O. (2019), Head of the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel. Interview, May 2019. SREBRO, H. (2019), Former director general of the Survey of Israel. Interview, July 2019

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Correspondence to Tal Yaar-Waisel .

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Yaar-Waisel, T. (2020). Of—Borders and Memories: Erased Boundaries in the Land of Israel. In: O'Reilly, G. (eds) Places of Memory and Legacies in an Age of Insecurities and Globalization. Key Challenges in Geography. Springer, Cham.

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