Jewish National Fund's Iconic Blue Box Sends One-State Israel Message

Map Includes Occupied West Bank in Jewish State


By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published January 02, 2014, issue of January 10, 2014.
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Yoffe would not say whether the lack of a Green Line on the blue boxes signified opposition on the part of the JNF to a two-state solution. “I’m not going to get into a political discussion with you,” Yoffe said.

The JNF, a semi-governmental Israeli organization, owns 13% of all land in Israel within the Green Line. The vehicle by which the Jewish Agency purchased land for Jews to build a state before Israel was established in 1948, JNF touts its historic role in its mission statement, noting that “the organization has planted over 210 million trees, built over 100 dams and reservoirs, developed over 250,000 acres of land, and created more than 400 parks throughout Israel enhancing the quality of life for all of Israel’s citizens.”

But the group, which raises $50 million annually through its U.S. fundraising arm, has been at the center of several controversies in recent years. It has drawn attention for its efforts to force Bedouin villages off JNF-owned land, which have resulted in the repeated bulldozing of Bedouin towns. JNF has also drawn criticism for its continued refusal to sell or lease its land to non-Jews, including Arab citizens of Israel.

The blue boxes, however, remain iconic. The group has redesigned the box periodically since it was first manufactured in the early 1900s. The current version depicts a socialist-realist-style square-jawed worker with a shovel and a stark blue-and-white map. The map is partially obscured in the only image of it available online. A full view of the map provided by Yoffe showed that the borders it depicts leave out Gaza but envelop the West Bank.

The JNF’s blue boxes have long been used as a propaganda tool. In a 2003 article in the academic journal “Israel Studies,” Haifa University professor Yoram Bar-Gal reported that the first blue boxes to include maps in their design, produced in 1934, depicted a borderless area that reached from the Mediterranean into Lebanon and Jordan.

Bar-Gal wrote that the map’s expansive claim was presented on the box in order to “transmit a political message, to which not only adults were exposed, but also the millions of children in the Hebrew educational system, who contributed their coins at special fundraising ceremonies.”


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