Pre-war Cowpaths in Palestine Are Today Magnificent Roads
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Pre-war Cowpaths in Palestine Are Today Magnificent Roads

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The sum of more than £955,958 was expended by the Palestine government on the construction of new roads in the country, according to the Commercial Bulletin.

Previous to the World War, the article states, there was not a single first class road in the country.

“The Jaffa-Jerusalem road was only second class,” continued the Bulletin. “It had been constructed on light foundations and could not stand up under heavy traffic.

“Between Beersheba – Hebron-Jerusalem, Jerusalem-Nablus-Jen-in-Nazareth, Jerusalem – Jericho, and Haifa-Nazareth-Tiberias, there were lightly metalled routes with little or no bottoming, which were often impassable in the wet season. For the rest Palestine was served by unmetalled tracks formed by animal transport and quite unsuitable for wheeled traffic.

“During the World War, the Turkish authorities improved the Rosh – Pinna – Tiberias – Nazareth-Haifa and the Nazareth-Jenin-Nablus roads but did practically nothing in Southern Palestine.


“Immediately following the occupation of Great Britain the British military administration expended large sums in converting the routes between Beersheba-Hebron – Jerusalem, Jaffa – Jerusalem-Jericho-Jordan River, and the Jerusalem-Nablus into roads that would withstand the passage of heavy army lorries. Following the military administration the government of Palestine maintained a policy of road improvement.

“The net work of trunk highways has undergone a rapid development both in the steady increase of its mileage from year to year and in the improvement of standards of construction which were gradually adopted.

“These measures have enhanced the agricultural and the trade potentialities of the country and facilitated the maintenance of public security in some of the remote areas previously inaccessible during certain periods of the year.

“In twelve years, the mileage of main roads open to the public for traffic in all weather has been more than doubled. In 1921, the mileage was 450 kms., and in 1933 it was 1,015 kms.

“Notwithstanding the improvements carried on by the military authorities, much had still to be done if the roads of Palestine were to sustain the motor traffic which came into existence during the following years.


“Over a period of twelve years from 1921 to 1933—the expenditure of government on construction of new roads, and improvements to existing roads was £955,958; and on maintenance including plant, machinery, transport and overhead expenses, it was £809,260.

“Maintenance includes periodical resurfacing, asphalting and resealing, upkeep of bridges and culverts, and directional and danger signs; and assistance in the form of blasting material, bridge-work and technical advice towards the making of village roads.

“It also includes government’s share in the cost of maintaining sections of arterial roads within municipal areas.

“The shares of government and municipalities in this case are based upon traffic censuses.

“Between 1926 and 1928, a number of roads were constructed to provide relief for the unemployed; and again in 1933 road works have been put in hand for benefit of villagers rendered destitute by failure of their crops.

“After the disturbances of 1929 some small roads to Jewish settlements were constructed on grounds of public security from funds provided jointly by government and the agencies concerned; and government contributed towards the cost of two roads from villages to railway stations the cost of maintenance remaining the responsibility of the villages.

“Considerable lengths of village roads have been built, and rough tracks improved in many parts of the country by the villagers themselves. Such works are undertaken either by voluntary labor—generally made available during the periods of the year when there is little agricultural work to be done—or by participation in the form of cash or labor under the village roads and works ordinance. This ordinance provides for the payment by each taxable male inhabitant of a sum of £1 per year or the equivalent in working days, to be applied to village roads or other public works.

“Village road works are generally undertaken on the initiative of the district commissioners and with the administrative and, to some extent, material assistance of government. Villagers readily appreciate the great benefit which they derive from roads passing through their lands and connecting their habitations with urban markets, main roads or the railway stations, and they show considerable keenness in executing these works. Village roads, though naturally of a comparatively low standard both in regard to width and type of construction, represent a valuable addition to the network of communications throughout the country.

“Road revenue, consists, directly of license fees under the road transport ordinance and import duties on petrol and oil, automobiles, etc.; indirectly, better roads, in so far as they promote general prosperity and facilitate development, mean larger receipts from taxation of all kinds. Over a period of twelve years—1922-33—the revenue from license fees, excluding the share payable to the municipalities in respect of vehicles the owners of which reside in municipal areas, was £181,546; and from customs dues £1,745,059.

“The following are figures of motor vehicles (including motor cycles) other than vehicles of the garrison operating in the country yearly from 1922 to 1933:

Year No.

1922 400

1923 600

1924 1924

1925 1754

1926 2306

1927 2318

1928 2627

1929 2677

1930 3186

1931 3843

1932 4381

1933 6126

“Census taken in 1926 and again in 1930-1931, indicate a general increase of about 100 per cent in volume of the motor traffic over that interval of time.”

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