Lydda Sub-District: Lydda and its Countryside During the Ottoman Period
During much of the Ottoman period, the subdistrict of Lydda (Lod) was a large administrative unit that stretched from the present-day city of Modi’in in the south to the present-day city of Elad in the north; from the foothills in the east, through the Lod Valley to the outskirts of Jaffa in the west. This area was home to thousands of inhabitants in about 20 villages, who had at their disposal tens of thousands of hectares of prime agricultural land. The changing balance of power between the economic strength of Lydda and the influence of the neighboring administrative center in Ramla governed Lydda’s degree of administrative autonomy. As an economic space, however, Lydda’s hinterland remained relatively stable throughout the Ottoman period. Lydda Sub-district was united with Ramla Sub-district in the early 16th century but by the early 18th century, it was reestablished within similar boundaries to those that existed in the early 16th century. Lydda’s proximity to the grain basket of the Lod Valley, its location on the mainland trade routes and its proximity to the port of Jaffa, all contributed to its economic prosperity even in times of security instability. Lydda’s economy relied on the olive industry (oil and soap), cotton cultivation and trade. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, Waqf officials and European merchants managed much of this economic activity, while from the late 18th century this role was played mainly by local urban merchants (similar to the situation in Nablus and other Levantine cities). The nomadic incursions of the 17th and 18th centuries depopulated some villages in Lydda’s area. During the 19th century, the defeat of the Bedouins by the Abu Ghosh peasant alliance, and the increasing control of the Ottoman state on its internal security, facilitated the renewed expansion of settlement in the lowlands by the inhabitants of the highlands, in parallel with the extensive settlement of immigrants from Egypt in the coastal plain. The development of Lydda thus accelerated, reaching its peak during the British Mandate period.