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Redeem the Land
Artist: Unattributed
Circa 1940

This poster shows a vast, dry, featureless plain partially under cultivation and leading the eye forward to a cornucopia. The deep, dark furrows left by the plow indicate the rich potential of the land. The sumptuous fruits and grains can almost be tasted.

The caption translated from Hebrew reads, “Redeem the Land,” a reference to the objective of introducing modern tilling, fertilizing, and farming techniques in order to develop the agricultural sector of the Zionist economy in the yishuv (Hebrew: community) period, 1918-1948. In this poster, lush fruits and grains are presented as the inevitable result of “redeeming” the land.

The six fruits shown are those mentioned in the biblical description of Palestine: “a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey.” (Deuteronomy 8)

Even before 1918, to encourage aliyah (Hebrew: emigration) the Zionist movement began to produce and distribute romantic, evocative, and exquisitely designed posters. The purposes were: (1) to attract Jewish immigrants from all corners of the world to become farmers in Palestine; (2) to promote Palestine as a destination for both Jewish and non-Jewish tourists; and (3) to solicit donations for the purchase of land and other critical nation-building objectives.


This particular poster was designed to encourage donations to the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the Zionist agency responsible for acquiring land in Palestine prior to Israel’s independence in 1948. After independence, the activities and responsibilities of the JNF were taken over by the new government of the state of Israel.

Professional artists and advertising agencies, including artists from Israel’s premiere art school, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, were commissioned to design these posters. They were printed in many languages and distributed to Jewish organizations and travel agencies around the world.

Like many of the posters in the recruit Zion genre, this one demonstrates a solid, sophisticated grasp of modern design principles as well as brilliant use of the visual metaphor as storytelling device.

The promotion of emigration to Palestine was the subtext for all recruit Zion posters. Since few people would want to emigrate to a barren land or one that was heavily populated by hostile indigenous people, these posters had to show that the land of Palestine was both empty of people, as in this poster, and phenomenally fertile, as indicated by the tilled soil and vines bursting with fruit.

Unitary Democratic Non-Sectarian Palestine

These two principles are embodied in the classic propaganda slogan calling Palestine “a land without people...for a people without a land.” All recruit Zion posters had as their design brief the reinforcement of this misleading and historically inaccurate marketing slogan.

A recurrent graphic feature of the recruit Zion poster genre is the absence of indigenous Palestinians. There is also a parallel absence of Jewish people in the posters, but the intent of that design decision is to reinforce the idea that the land literally was empty, waiting only for Jewish immigrants to step into the picture to fulfill the Biblical prophecy of return and redemption. In the few posters that do depict Palestinians, they are portrayed as anonymous cultural stereotypes providing, at best, superfluous visual embroidery.

This practice of ignoring the other is usually, but not always, reciprocated by contemporary Palestinian poster artists and their allies. See for example Unitary Democratic Non-Sectarian Palestine.

© 2003 Liberation Graphics. All Rights Reserved.


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Questions for A New
Democratic Discussion

1) What agriculture existed in Palestine before the yishuv period? How did agriculture change as a result of aliyah?

2) If Palestine was “a land without people,” then why did the Zionists need funds to buy land and who, exactly, were they buying the land from?

3) What was the actual population of Arabs, Christians, and Jews in Palestine in the period before the yishuv (1918-1948)? How did this demographic change as a result of aliyah?

4) If Palestine was a land “for a people without a land,” what countries did the Zionist immigrants come from? What were conditions like for them in those countries?

5) If the Palestine of 1940 was as appealing as it is made to appear in this poster, then why were posters needed to attract people there?



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