2 Friday, -Mardi 26, -1976
THE DETROIT JEWISH -NEWS:
Refusal to Perpetuate the Desert, a Major
Factor in Arab Animosity to Jews Who Have
Made the Wilderness Blossom Like a Rose
Palestinian Contrasts—Zionists Who Made the Land
Blossom and Those Who Would Perpetuate the Desert
Literal reading of the Bible and Prophecy caused fun-
Why the calamitous assignations to Jews in theological
damentalist interpretation of the desolation of the Holy fundamentalism?
Land between the destruction of the Second Temple in the
What were the historical conditions that affected the
year 70 and Israel's return to statehood in 1948 as the pun- religious communities in Jerusalem?
ishment to Israel for transgressions. Through the ages,,
Was there a special status for Jews in the Holy City?
however, the transformation of the "land of milk and
honey" into a wasteland was due to the hordes who in vary-
A significant study of "Palestine Before the Zionists"
ing periods lived, in small numbers, in the Land of Promise in Commentary Magazine, by Prof. David S. Landes of Har-
vard, provides the answers to many of the confusions that
Tourists to the Holy Land in the century preceding Is- have been injected into an issue that is so clear -in relation
rael's rebirth have described the plight they had witnessed. to Jerusalem as the Jewish City of Peace and as Israel's
The most revealing description of what had happened to the capital. Here are a few excerpts from Dr. Landes' article,
once luxuriant land was by Mark Twain.
taken at random:
In 1867, a generation before Dr. Theodor Herzl organ-
Christian visitors in particular saw in it the hand
ized the modern political Zionist movement, Mark Twain
of God: the fulfillment of ancient prophecy, as Man-
reported on his visit to Palestine and described the Holy
ning put it; or, as Catholics preferred, the visitation of
Land as follows:
dread judgment on the Jews:
Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I
Besides, is there any reason to be surprised that a
think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are
fertile land had become sterile after so much devasta-
barren, they are dull of color, they are unpictur-
tion? Jerusalem has been taken and sacked 17
esque In shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts.
times; millions of men have been slaughtered within its
Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it
walls, and this massacre still goes on, so to speak; no
broods the spell of a curse that has withered its
other city has suffered such a fate. This punishmenit, so
fields and fettered its energies. Where Sodom and
long and almost supernatural, declares a crime with-
Gomorrah reared their domes and, towers, that sol-
out parallel, one that no chastisement can expiate.
emn sea now floods the plain, in whose bitter waters
no living thing exists — over whose waveless sur-
face the blistering air hangs motionless and dead ---
As poor, then, as Jews were in_ the shtetlach of
about whose borders nothing grows but weeds, and
Eastern Europe or the rnellahs of North Africa, the
scattering tufts of
Jews of Jerusalem were poorer. Their quarter was
cane, and that
"by a long shot the most somber and unhealthful
part of the whole city"—a labyrinth of narrow, fil-
that promises re-
thy alleys and dark, fetid hovels. It was here that
freshment to parch-
the city shambles was located—the place of slaugh-
ing lips, but turns to
ter—where wild dogs and rats fought battle over the
ashes at the touch.
foul, bloody mess of rotting carrion, a source of nox-
Nazareth is for-
ious odors and a breeding place for disease.
lorn; about that ford
The location was no accident. The Arabs found
of Jordan where the
the shambles there when they captured the city in
hosts of Israel en-
the Seventh Century; they also found the rock on top
tered the Promised
of Mount Moriah, the old site of the Temple, covered
Land with songs of
with tons of garbage, laboriously hauled up and
rejoicing, one fords
dumped there by way of insult and desecration. The
only a squalid camp
Arabs cleared the rock and built the beautiful
of fantastic Bedouins
mosque that we now know as the Dome of the Rock
of the desert; Jericho
or Mosque of Omar. But the shambles was main-
the accursed lies a moldering ruin today, even as
tained, a lasting plague to the Jews of Jerusalem.
Joshua's miracle left it more than 3,000, years ago;
The Jews were the largest group in the city.
Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and their
Father Bourasse, writing in the late 1850's, gives
humiliation, have nothing about them now to re-
their number as 7,000 out of a total of over 15,000
mind one that they once knew the high honor of the
(5,000 Muslims, 2,500 Christians); Consul Finn gives
Savior's presence; the hallowed spot where the
it as about 10,000 in the period 1853-56. So tightly
shepherds watched their flocks by night, and where
were they crammed, however, into their over-
the angels sang, "Peace on earth, good will to men,"
crowded quarters, that (Bourasse notes) "if the pop-
is untenanted by any living creature and unblessed
ulation of the city were equally dense in the other
by any feature that is pleasant to the eye.
quarters, it would be at least 100,000."
Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name
The area of the Dome of the Rock and the Western
in history, has lost all its, ancient
Wall was and is equally sacred to Orthodox Jews — so
become a pauper village; the riches of Solomon are
much so, that even today they will not walk on it, for
no longer there to compel the admiration of visiting
fear of inadvertently treading on the spot where once
Oriental queens; the wonderful temple which was
stood the Holy of Holies, into which only the High
the pride and the glory of Israel is gone, and the Ot-
Priest might go. Then as now they prayed and wept
toman crescent is lifted above the spot where, on
below, though crowded then by encroaching Arab
that most memorable day in the annals of the world,
houses into a narrow alley, waiting their turn to touch
they reared the Holy Cross.
the stones or leave a petition in a crevice . . .
The noted Sea of Galilee, where Roman fleets
once rode at anchor and the disciples of the Savior
The Wall also drew the spite and malice of the
sailed in their ships, was long ago deserted by the.
resident Arabs, who took every opportunity to(har-
devotees of war and commerce, and its borders are
ass the hapless worshipers, scattering broken glass
a silent wildnerness; Capernaum is a shapeless
through the alleys leading to the Wall, dumping
ruin; Magdala is the home of beggared Arabs; Beth-
their garbage and sewage against it, fouling it with
saida and Chorazin have vanished from the earth,
urine and feces.
and the "desert places" round about them, where
A Christian theologian of the day commented:
thousands of men once listened to the Savior's voice
"One could almOst cry with them — if they weren't
and at the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a
Jews (his emphasis), and if one did not feel one's heart
solitude that is inhabited only by birds of nrey and
strangely chilled by all their abject faces."
Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why
* * *
should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity
In the words of Isabel Burton, the wife of Rich-
beautify a land?
ard Burton (British consul in Damascus in 1869):
Palestine is no more of this workday world. It is
all the numerous Christian sects hate one an-
sacred to poetry and tradition — it is dreamland.
other, and fight amongst themselves (to the intense
amusement of the Muslims, who on great fete days
This is what Arabs did to Palestine before Zionism.
flog them into order in and out of church, like a pack
This is the kind of territory they would perpetuate if they
hounds) . . ."
could, and the Zionist progress irks the would-be destroyers
* * *
of the Jewish state.
Nationalism was not, as Toynbee would have it, an
Zionism brought modernity to Palestine. The detrac-
alien import into the Ottoman Empire: neither Greeks
tors would perpetuate the desert.
nor Armenians needed lessons on the subject in view of
their own national histories. Nor did trouble start, as
Zionism transformed the desert into a garden spot, and
Arafat would have it, with the Zionists; it was among
Israel, the fruit of Zionism, has emerged as one of the most
the Christian communities of the empire that civil
progressive democracies in the world.
rights, and then independence movements—starting in
the Balkans, then moving eastward to Asia Minor and
the Fertile Crescent—were introduced.
Nor was nationalism the forbidden fruit that put
an end to a state of grace in a Muslim garden of Eden.
For one thing, the garden was no paradise; for another,
the fruit was of the tree of knowledge, rather than of
presumption. Suddenly the dhimmi infidels kneW
they were naked and inferiOr, and they were ashamed;
and the Muslims resented their new look and new walk.
But if the experience of the other minority
groups in the area is any indicator, the Jews of Pa-
lestine would have eventually produced their own
secular Zionism, even without the ciliyot from Eu-
rope. They had the heritage of religious Zionism to
build on; they were increasingly conscious of th! .
disabilities; stronger contacts with and supp:.
from the West were fostering self-assertion; and,
most important, Arab resistance to these preten-
sions, fostered by the contemporary stirrings of
Arab nationalism, would have reinforced Jewish as-
, pirations. "Our Jews," says Baroody, would not
have behaved this way if they hadn't been corrupted
by those Khazars from the north. But are Jews that
different from other victims?
This was a society in which office was a property
rather than a function, in which power was meant to be
used for personal advantage, and in which everyone
was expected to pay something even for the absence of
trouble. Bribery (bakshish) was general; extortion,
commonplace. The difficulty for the Jews was that
they were the weakest, so that they were every man's
Dr. Landes' summation of a very important analysis of
conditions involving Palestine before the Zionists stepped in
to fulfill Prophecy and to make the Holy Land habitable
and healthy deserves quotation. States Dr. Landes:
It is the tragedy of Jewish religious and na-
tional aspirations that they should have as their fo-
cus a land in the middle of a great sea of peoples
whose own history, self-image, and self-fulfillment
leave no room for the self-fulfillment and self-deter-
mination of others. It is this as much as anything
that has made the Arab-Jewish conflict so special in
its absolutism, its fierceness, its resistance to com-
promise. Germans and French reconciled them-
selves after World War II; Germans and Russians
likewise; even Germans and Jews.
What counts is not so much the sense of wrong
as attitudes: the adversaries must be ready to accept
each other as equal, hence legitimately entitled to
sovereignty. There has been much talk of Israeli re-
luctance to recognize the Palestinians. It is indeed a
tenacious sentiment, but one linked essentially to
political and military considerations, hence negotia-
ble. But the converse refusal — the Arab (Palesti-
nian) rejection of the legitimacy of Israel — has
deeper roots. It will, the historical record suggests,
be slower to change, and then only in obedience to
Indeed, the waters have been muddied, the tragedy
of Palestine has grown into immensity and a human aspect
has been ignored.
In the process there has been an avoidance of facts on
the basis of Jewish achievements. The Arabs have the oil
and vast territories, they are rich and have become power-
ful. Israel, on the other hand, suffers from the heaviest tax-
ation in the world, there are economic difficulties so vast
that they stagger the imagination. Yet Israel has prospered.
Note the contrasts in the Gross National Product of Israel
as likened to her neighbors:
Israel has a per capita-GNP (1974) of $2,732, to
Jordan's $286, Syria's $345 and Egypt's $259
(Switzerland: $6,346, U.S.A.: $6,155). In other,
words, Israel is roughly 10 times as viable as the Pa-
lestine Kingdom of Jordan and the Arab Republic
Egypt, and it is eight times as viable as Syria.
When the state of Israel was first proclaimed in 19 ,
after the historic United Nations decision on Nov. 29, 1947,
the Palestinian Arabs were told by their leaders to leave
their homes to await Israel's destruction. Then, they were
told, they would return to occupy everything the Jews had
built. Is it possible that such a devilish idea dominates the
minds of intransigent Arabs who have only one view of the
future, Israel's destruction? Does the hope of a return to the
desert and the destruction of the modernity of Israel still
corrupt the thinking of those who begrudge Israel an his-
What a challenge to Israel, never to forget that her des-
tiny is to hold firm to an historic legacy of defying danger
regardless of its origin! The answer to the would-be creators
of a new holocaust lies in the "Netzakh uisrae! . . .", the
eternity of Israel.