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Al-Sheikh Muwannis: Transformations in the Arab Countryside between the Mountainous Interior and the City of Jaffa, 1750-1848 


Al-Sheikh Muwannis, where Tel Aviv University was later established, was one of four villages founded in the Ottoman period next to the shores of the Sharon (along with the villages of Ijlil, Al-Haram Sidna ‘Ali and Umm Khalid). The article traces the village's history within its social and spatial contexts. At the historiographical level, the establishment of Al-Sheikh Muwannis as discussed in the article demonstrates that the expansion of settlement in the southern Sharon was the result of the internal expansion of the core settlement by residents of the mountainous highlands of Samaria, and not by Egyptian ‘penetrators’ as previously claimed. Furthermore, the article outlines the complex relationships that developed between the original village population, new migrants, and nomadic populations camping on its lands; relationships that were exploited to further the growth and crystallization of Jewish settlement in the Yarkon Basin and around Tel Aviv. The close proximity of al-Sheikh Muwannis to the countryside of the Sharon and to Tel Aviv-Jaffa, led to the development of a space expressing architectural, social, linguistic and technological concepts derived from both countryside and city alike. The rich and complex picture presented in this paper can provide a framework to understand the development of other villages like al-Haram Sidna ‘Ali, Jalil, al-Jammasin, Sumayil (al-Mas‘udiya) and Salama.

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