The Big Map of the Empty Land


Yardeni holding part of the map Tiberia  area

A collector of ancient maps from Ramat Gan has an historical, treasure * A giant map prepared by a British survey mission at the close of the 19th Century, the scale is 1 to 63,000 * The map proves that prior to the first Aliyah [wave of Jewish immigration] the Land was meager and empty * It verifies the Zionist claim: “A people without a land to a land without people”

I have discovered a treasure that the Minister of Education is invited to examine: a map of the Land of Israel, one of a kind, the biggest map of its era. This is a map that was prepared by a British research mission, who conducted a survey of the Land of Israel during the period 1871 to 1878. The scale of the map is 1 to approximately 63,000. Each centimeter on this map whose size is that of a large room, represents 630 meters in real dimensions. On the basis of this map one can determine which settlements existed in those years and their size. According to these details it is possible to estimate the size of the population there. This map is the most important document, to my mind, to prove the Zionist claim:
.“A people without a land to a land without people”

When does history begin

Arthur Koestler, the Jewish author and thinker, wrote in “Promise and Fulfillment” that the question of who is right in the struggle for the Land of Israel depends on the question of what one takes as the starting point of the history of this land. A believing Jew begins his count with our Patriarch, Abraham and the promise he was given (“For all this land that you see, I will give to you and your descendants forever”). As to this claim one of the websites of the PLO says that “the Jews claim that in some bible they were promised the land”.

One can begin the history from the days of the Second Temple. Then it turns out that the Jewish population in the Land of Israel, according to various estimates, numbered some six million people. Relative to this claim the Palestinians have already said that the ancestors of the Palestinians – the Hittites and Amalekites – had a prior claim.

For our purposes, it would be important to begin the history precisely from the First Aliyah, and an examination of the question what the Jewish pioneers found here when they began to arrive in 1882. The claim is that the Zionists did not come to an empty land, as accepted by so many in the Israeli public domain. Not a few New Left historians and post-Zionists have contributed to this claim, which views the very establishment of the state as the “original sin” which needs to be atoned for. Even a Zionist historian such as Anita Shapira writes that Herzl was suffering from “color blindness” in his regard of the “native” population, “a view characteristic of European superiority and colonialism”

With this in mind, it is important to know who was here at the time of the First Aliyah and the population estimates.

No Palestinian People

In one of the PLO websites I found the claim that “The Palestinian People” numbered 529,500 souls at the end of the 19th Century.

Really a people?

No way, never was.
According to serious scholars (not PLO propagandists) it is accepted that in that period there was no Palestinian people, even theoretically. The population then in the Land of Israel was no different from Arab populations in the whole region – not in ethnic terms, not by language, and not culturally. Only the post-Zionist historian, Baruch Kimmerling (in his book “Palestinians, a People in the Making”) advances the creation of the concept “Palestinians” to 1831.

The rest of the scholars are in agreement that Palestinian nationalism, which differentiates itself from wider Arab nationalism, materialized only in the beginning of the 20th Century.
Who and what did the men of the First Aliyah find when they reached the Land?

A Focus of International Interest

In the second half of the 19th Century the Land of Israel became a focus of international concern. The 19th Century was characterized by impressive archeological discoveries – the deciphering of the hieroglyphics on the Rosetta Stone by the French scholar Champollion; the uncovering of the ancient archway in Jerusalem by the American scholar Robinson (after whom the arch is named); the uncovering of the tombs of the kings in Jerusalem by the French scholar De Sulcy; the discovery of the monument to Mesha, the Moabite king near Nachal Arnon, and more.

All of these turned the Near East, and the Land of Israel, in particular, into a focal point for visiting archeologists, geographers, statesmen, clergymen, and tourists. Among the visitors were the men of the Palestine Exploration Fund, a British foundation for researching the Land of Israel, which created the map we are talking about.

Mark Twain in the Land of Israel

Among the many tourists who came to the Land during that period was also the American author Mark Twain. Twain was here in 1867, fifteen years before the First Aliyah. He described his impressions in a book as follows:

…We arrived safely at Tabor Mountain…the entire way we didn’t see a living soul… There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country…the Land of Israel sits mournfully in sackcloth and ashes. Hovering over her is the spell of a curse that has blighted her fields and imprisoned her essence in chains. The Land of Israel is desolate and deprived of love. The Land of Israel no longer belongs to this world of action. She is dedicated to poetry and tradition, a land of dreams… Nazareth is forsaken…Jericho is cursed… Jerusalem…a village of the wretched…

After such a description it would seem that there is only one question remaining: who and what was there in the Land of Israel? Although not so in the view of Benny Morris, the New Historian (who has seemingly reversed his stance) who writes in his book “Victims” that “it is possible that he (Mark Twain) was prone to exaggerate”.

If Mark Twain exaggerates then a long list of travelers, Jews and non-Jews, who came to the Land of Israel during that period, are exaggerators and fabricators, since this description repeats itself endlessly,
With this in mind, there is great significance to the question, who were the inhabitants of the Land in that period and what were their numbers

How Many Were Here

This is not a question of statistics. Those who accuse us of settling in a land of a non-existent people, or that we dispossessed the “natives”, need to show us how many “natives” were here and where they were.
The answer to these questions is fair game to oriental whimsy and the pseudo-science that serve these visionaries.

Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the former President of Israel, one of the great scholars on the Land of Israel in the Ottoman Period, (in his book “The Land of Israel and its Settlement during the Ottoman Reign”) gives details on a number of populations in the Land of Israel in the first fifty years of Ottoman rule (1525-1573). He found in the Constantinople archives data that had been gathered by five censuses made for tax-collection purposes. In these censuses there were 45-50,000 tax-paying households. According to Ben-Zvi’s estimate these households would amount to about 300,000 souls.

This number says nothing about the population in the last quarter of the 19th Century. In the three hundred years that passed, the Land experienced quite a few upheavals – earthquakes, epidemics, locust plagues, raids by marauding bandits from the desert, and more. All of this during the rule of a thoroughly corrupt government that extorted the inhabitants to the very bone while not providing any services at all

Ben-Zvi does not mention any Arab population estimate during the First Aliyah and it is clear that he didn’t have a reliable source for such an estimate. Benny Morris says that the number was some 400,000 souls. Morris relies on the German geographer, Alexander Schulz, who wrote a book on the subject based on a variety of methods in order to arrive at a population number, lacking a reliable or authoritative source. Schulz, himself, notes (in an article he seemingly wrote after the publication of his book) greater numbers yet and small wonder he is a Palestinian favorite, who frequently quote him on their websites. Morris, in another context, also relies on the Scots scholar, Justin McCarthy, who is also generously quoted by the Palestinians. McCarthy lists very large numbers. He determines that in 1860 there were 411,000 Palestinians and in 1890 there were 553,000. Joan Peters, the author of “From Time Immemorial” estimates that at the beginning of the First Aliyah in 1882 there were about 141,000 non-Jews, and approximately one quarter of them were immigrants who had arrived in the Land in recent years, primarily during the Egyptian conquest. This occupation lasted from 1831 to 1840 during which the Egyptian conqueror initiated mass immigration from Egypt to the Land of Israel. These immigrants were brought to Gaza, Bet She’an, Nablus, Acre, and Jaffa.

Professor Moshe Maoz arrives at a much smaller estimate for the Ottoman period. In his article written for the book “The History of the Land of Israel” he notes that as a result of the actions of the Ottoman rulers and the poor hygienic conditions, the population of the Land of Israel was in a constant state of decline and during hundreds of years the number of Arabs did not exceed 100,000.

To summarize: There is, in fact, no well-founded estimate of the number of non-Jews in the Land of Israel at the onset of the First Aliyah, although it is reasonable to assume that the population was small. If the lowest estimate is correct, i.e., there were about 100,000 Arabs in 1878 (the year in which the survey of the British Expedition ended).

How the Map was Made

The Foundation of British Exploration of Palestine” created in 1865 by the elite of the British upper class of the time, Lords, academics, clergymen, and the very wealthy. The fund set up its goal to conduct researches in the fields of archeology, history, geography, and ethnography in what was then called “Palestine”.
The expedition numbered several dozens of people, among them expert cartographers, and heading it were well-known people: [Sir Charles] Warren, [Claude R.] Conder, [Horatio H.] Kitchener. The project was begin in 1871 and completed in 1878. The production of the printed map lasted several years, and when it appeared it became the most detailed precise map of the Land of Israel. Due to its size, the map was printed in 26 separate sections, in four colors, by lithography.

Imaginary Maps

Dan Yardeni is the owner of a copy of the map here in Israel. He is an engineer, manager of a start-up, and, in essence, loves the Land of Israel. He began to collect ancient maps of the Land of Israel in his youth and his workroom looks more like a wing in a museum than the office of a large company’s manager.

Yardeni is a fascinating walking encyclopedia. A collector of an amazing range of maps and Judaica, and thoroughly knowledgeable in the field. Most of the ancient maps of the Land of Israel, he tells me, are really not maps in the ordinary meaning of the word. They are not exact, contain artistic elements and, quite often, based on imagination. For instance, he has a map by a cartographer named Pontius from the 17th Century that depicts drawings of historical events from various periods. The cartographers of that time did not really know the land. Thus, one of the maps depicts a river connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Sea of Galilee. On another map we see that the Jordan [River] has a source named Dan and another named Jor. The cartographers assumed that if for one section of the Jordan there was a source named Dan, then the second source must be called Jor.
The British Survey map “I acquired in a bookstore in London at a bargain price. They didn’t appreciate its importance or value. Today it is worth many thousands of dollars”, said Yardeni.


What we Learn from the Map

The uniqueness of the map is that the British surveyors marked with great accuracy the borders of every settlement and noted in special colors the populated sections of the settlement. It is possible through this map to ascertain the size of each settlement in the Land during that period, from the Litani River in the north and as far south as Beer Sheba.
The map represents by cartography what Mark Twain described in a literary form: a desolate arid wilderness, almost empty. Using a ruler it is a simple matter to determine the size of each settlement. When examining the villages we see that their areas are tiny. The largest of them are 150 by 100 meters. They comprise barely two rows of houses. The color legend indicates that Acre, for example, was then only partially inhabited. Entire areas were empty of people, exactly as we had learned in school, and likewise the Jezreel Valley and the Jordan Valley and all the areas that the Jewish pioneers later brought to life. (Benny Morris, in his book, says that the Zionists that redeemed the Jezreel Valley deprived land from the Palestinians for their development)..
Haifa is marked on the map by a rectangle of three by seven millimeters. Each millimeter represents 63 meters in actual terms. This means that the Haifa area was 190 by 440 meters in size. The German Colony is outside the Haifa perimeter, and each house is exactly drawn
Nazareth was then a little larger than Haifa. Its shape is in the form of a gourd whose longer end is 600 meters and its smaller end some 300 meters. Even Tiberias is larger than Haifa – 300 by 600 meters. “Greater” Jaffa was only a little town – 240 by 540 meters. Shekh Munis, where the Tel Aviv University now stands, was a tiny village 90 by 180 meters. So, also, Usfiyeh, Yehud, and many other villages.

Jerusalem, within its walls, was, in fact, large – 1000 by 1000 meters. There was nothing outside the walls, and we know (not from the map) that within its walls there was always a Jewish majority.





מפה click


Tr: Joseph Schachter. Items in brackets added for comprehension. July 6, 2006

The Logic in Madness, Column of October 15, 2005

Makor Rishon [Primary Source – An Israeli Weekly]

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19 Responses to The Big Map of the Empty Land

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  4. kobi gavish says:

    can i find somewhere numbers that compare the population in israel – from the jordan river to the mediteranean sea – arabs and jews from 1800 till our days?

    thank in advance

    kobi gavish

  5. yshai kalmanovitch says:

    interestingly enough in 1948 we have very reliable numbers that indicate that the palestinian population was counted with approx. 1 million and the jewish population with 600,000. this was already after several very massive jewish immigration waves since the beginning of the 20th century, but with no reports whatsoever on similar immigration waves of arabs. maybe they were teleported? somehow i doubt it, one should also use a bit logic and see how ridiculous those claims are. one should also know the cities which are described in this article – if one can call such a pack of nonsense an article – to know that the messures given here are completely unrealistic. and this is yet without mentioning the claim, that no-one can find other than a parody, that during the time of the second Temple there were 6 million jews living in palestine – probably much more than the population in the whole world that time. but, of course, logical thinking and far-right jewish nationalism have very little to do with each other.

  6. Christine says:

    If this is true, how come there are 8 million Palestinian refugees, who say they were forced off their land?

    They have to come from somewhere!

    Why are there settlements in the West bank, if the land is empty of people?

    • #1) 8 million (or the more realistic 4-5 million – worldwide) come out of nurturing some 400.000 refugees (maybe +-200.000, I dont have the actual numbers here) from 1948 in UNWRA camps, far above average life style level, for the last 70 years. Its just a matter of population growth maths. Fertility among the refugees has always been very high, as it was the only prospect in life, given the fact that the host countries adamantly denied integration of them, although they were the same Arab kin like all the people around them, many related to the big families there. It was a political decision of the Arab states since 1948, to use these refugees as a weapon against Israel. One could easily write long stories about these ill-fated people, which were bred and educated to hate Israel like dogs. I personally met one last year whose family had been in Syria for 60 years, as a refugee.
      #2) most of the refugees had not been forced off the land by the Jewish fighters, but by Arab propaganda to leave in order for their brethren who attacked the newborn state Israel, consisting of many tiny settlements, in 1948
      #3) a big majority of Arabs stayed 1948 in Israel, lived a far superioir life standard than their Arab brethren in neighbouring countries, have full citizen rights in Israel, enjoy freedom of movement and access to information, while some of them hate Israel either, feeling and beeing discriminated (as their integration is a very difficult task given Israels situation in the middle East).
      #4) population in the west bank, even today, is concentrated in Arab cities like Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin. Outside these cities, the West Bank (or Judaean mountain range, to call it geographically correct) is still an area with sparse and mostly tiny Arab and Jewish settlements, given the arid climate and topographical setting which does not fit well to extensive farming but rather to special crops and vegetables.
      #5) Arab population grew in parallel to the Jewish Aliyah, as the Jewish refugees from zarist Russia, Poland and elsewhere built a thriving economy which had plenty of opportunities for getting income and even fortunes for hundreds of thousands of Arabs from neighbouring countries, which easliy slipped into the British Mandate territory using their wide large family bonds as common in the Arab society. Jews were blocked entry by the British since the early 30s, but not Arabs, as far as I know.
      Hence its reasonable to assume that starting from the 1882 wave of Jewish immigration, numbers of Arab immigrants grew rapidly and soon outnumbered the small – according to this obviously “British correct” survey map – native Bedouin and Fellache community. As did the jewish immigrants, who came to a land where maybe the same number of Jews libed in Jerusalem, Safed, Jaffa and Haifa as Arabs, Druse, Cherkessians, Roma and others at the time
      #6) I recomend reading the article of Diana Muir on the meaning of “a land without a people” in the ME quarterly at This has never meant “a land without people” (dt. menschenleer), but a land without a nation to build it and maintain its historical remains and character. I will translate it into german soon.
      #7) in todays discourse, nobody should ask Israel to integrate these “conserved refugees”, while Israel has integrated a similar number (some 800.00 if I remember correctly) of refugees from Arab states in 1948-1950, which left assets there numbering in the billions of $ in order to save their naked lives. A fair solution would be to compensate Israel for this integration indirectly by a fund fed by the evaluation of these assets (at least those Arab countries who have profits from oil should easily be able to do so), and to finance integration of the Palestine Arab refugees into the Arab countries by these funds. This program would be far better for these countries than the current financial flow of means from European Car owners who buy gasoline from the Saudis (in the end) and this way help finance Syrian islamistic militants.

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  9. Avinoam says:

    Shalom Kobi

    You can find this information in 2 books:
    From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters
    The Claim of Dispossession by A. Avneri

    Both excellent books with fascinating new information about the ME history and purchase of lands & populations.

  10. Eitan says:

    Hey Ze’ev,

    I’m the one who left the comment about editing your YouTube presentations. Please connect to me via FB or email. My e-mails address is: My FB name is: Greg Divinsky. It’s my name in English. Please delete this comment after you have read it. Thanks in advance!

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  13. David Elazar says:

    Mis-quote: `It verifies the Zionist claim: “A people without a land to a land without people” ` This is not a Zionist claim and should read as follows “A Land without a People for a People without a Land”. The “a” is very important as “a People”means “a Nation” and not “inhabitants”. See the article A Land without a People for a People without a Land

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  15. Je vais vous dire que ce n’est guère incohérent !

  16. Dear Zeev,

    despite all quarreling and uniformed, ideology-driven futile disputes over numbers long ago, this map could speak for itself and for the point you made – if it was available online in a common lingua franca. Unfortunately, the PEF website notes it has this map, but does not publish it. Maybe someone would be able to see it when visiting London, but it seems to be unavailable to the public.

    The map link provided at the end of your article points to a well equipped interactive map, quite professional, but its in Hebrew, which most people outside Israel cannot read, let alone understand.

    It would be a great contribution, if you could find someone who helps in at least an english or possibly French version. I would like to help with a German version then. This material made available via Wikipedia would be the most straightforward way to counter all these lies circulating in worlds public opinion, fed by all sorts of people with their own agenda, which are not dedicated to the cause of Eretz Israel.

    I have translated your article into German, maybe you would like to put a link to it on your Website, please contact me.

  17. Beth Burnham says:

    It’s my understanding that the Jews who live in the Gush Etzyion area of what is also called the West Bank purchased that land legally from the Arab owners, is that shown on these maps? Either way, the millions of Palestinians ought to decide to live in Peace with their Jewish neighbors and stop sending bombs into Israel and choose peace above warfare and find ways to create a democratic society, not ruled by Islamist extremists. Just my .02 though I find it sad that Jews will forever have to be on the defense about Zionism when it’s been part of the Jewish people and tradition for so many thousands of years.

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