Hebrew University’s Botanical Garden: a Source in Scientific Knowledge Creation in Mandatory Palestine


  • Mona Bieling The Graduate Institute, Geneva




Mandatory Palestine, Zionism, Botany, Mobility, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Frontier Making


This primary source commentary analyzes a letter (dated 28 July 1929) sent by Alexander Eig, botanist and custodian of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s herbarium, to Judah Magnes, chancellor and later first president of Hebrew University. This letter, which discusses the creation of a botanical garden connected to the university, shows how the emerging Jewish community of botanists at the newly established Hebrew University was carving out space for itself in the international community of botanical experts. Moreover, the letter exemplifies the importance of people’s mobility in creating botanical knowledge, as well as the movement of plants, seeds, and other specimens, and highlights interaction between scientific institutions as an important aspect of nation-building. Mandatory Palestine’s position as the “Holy Land,” as well as its location across Middle Eastern and Mediterranean environmental spaces, made Jerusalem a unique and attractive center for botanical knowledge creation, as was recognized early on by the Jewish botanists in question.

Author Biography

Mona Bieling, The Graduate Institute, Geneva

Mona Bieling is an advanced PhD student and teaching assistant in the Department of International History and Politics at the Geneva Graduate Institute, Switzerland. Her research interests lie at the nexus of environmental, global, and colonial history. More specifically, she explores how landscape changes under the British Mandate for Palestine influenced the power relations between the Mandate Government, the Zionist movement, and the local Arab Palestinian population. Previously, Mona worked as a research assistant for the SNF-funded project “The Myth of Homogeneity. Minority Protection and Assimilation in Western Europe, 1919–1939.” Email: mona.bieling@graduateinstitute.ch


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