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Anglo-Jewish Travellers to Palestine in the Nineteenth Century

Norman Bentwich

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Anglo-Jewish Travellers to Palestine in the Nineteenth Century By Norman Bentwich Palestine has been linked closely with English thought from the beginning of the century, after the Navy and Army on the coasts of Egypt and Palestine resisted Napoleon's attempt at world dominion. The writer who first aroused in the English people a renewed interest in the story of the Jews in Palestine was Dean Milman. His poem, " The Fall of Jerusalem," was published in 1820, his History of the Jews ten years later. In the first half of the century English travellers like Kinglake, and English artists like Roberts, gave the Holy Land a fresh and vivid appeal, revivifying the story of the Bible. That appeal was strengthened in the second part of the century, pardy by the work of the Palestine Exploration Fund, which threw steady and increasing light on the Bible story by digging in and below the ground, and pardy by the succession of travellers and writers, like Dean Stanley, George Eliot, Laurence Oliphant, George Adam Smith, and a host of others who brought vivid des? criptions of the present to reinforce the interest in the past. It was to be expected, therefore, that English Jews, with the quickness of their race to catch the spirit of their environment, should give the lead in Jewish travel to Palestine. They were the pioneers in the movement for improving the conditions of the Jewish population in the land and for renewing the tie of the Jews with the soil of the Land of Israel. It is not the purpose of this paper to deal with the records of a century of Jewish travel to the land, but only to give a few glimpses that illustrate its varied aspects and its influence on the future of the 9</page><page sequence="2">10 MISCELLANIES IN HONOUR OF E. N. ADLER country and of the Jews. The man in whose honour this book of studies is composed is more than any other the link between the generations, and embodies in himself the essential interests which are bound up with travel in Palestine: the tradition of pilgrimage to the land of our fathers, the lure of the land of the Bible, the longing to secure better living for the inhabitants of that land, whether Jews or Gentiles, and lastly the preparation for the return of the Jewish people to their national home. The outstanding figure among the Anglo-Jewish travellers of the century is Sir Moses Montefiore. He made seven pilgrim journeys to the Holy Land, the first in 1827, the last in 1875, when he was ninety-three years of age; and be it remembered that throughout that half century travel was travel and not a luxury tour. The record of his journeys is described fully in the diaries which were edited by his learned secretary, Dr. Louis Loewe, and it would be impertinent to give extracts from them. Last year (1940), in commemoration of the centenary of the Damascus Affair, the diary of Dr. Loewe, who accompanied Sir Moses on his momentous visit to the East in 1840, was published by the Montefiore Theological College as a number of Yehudith, the organ of the College. The diary was edited by the grandson, Herbert Loewe, his last pious service before his untimely death. But some less widely known references to the impression which his journeys made are in the records of the British Consulate in Jerusalem, which have been devotedly edited by Albert Hyamson for the Jewish Historical Society. The references begin only with his third journey in 1849, wnen ne was accompanied by Colonel Gawler, one of the Gentile precursors of the Zionist ideas, who published, in 1845, The Idea of the Jewish State. A British Consulate did not exist in Jerusalem at the time of Montefiore's first two journeys; and it was in the second, in the days when the Holy Land was under the rule of Ibrahim Pasha, the soldier son of Mohammed Ali, Khedive of Egypt, that the English Jew had the vision of Jewish re-settlement not only in the Holy Cities, but on the holy soil. Then it was that he negotiated for a charter of colonisation which, though it was not achieved straight away because British policy in the Middle East was</page><page sequence="3">ANGLO-JEWISH TRAVELLERS TO PALESTINE II still hesitant, was to be a lodestar throughout the century for Jewish hopes and Gentile vision. The remarks of the British Consul about the visit in 1849 are not illuminating, but we are told that Montefiore was escorted by most of the Jewish population along the road as he drove in the famous carriage, now in a Jerusalem Museum. The record is fuller of the next visit in 1854, just before the outbreak of the Crimean War. The Consul was then Mr. James Finn, a striking character who left his mark on Jerusalem and Jewish settlement by his institution of Abraham's Vineyard. There, on the outskirts of the Holy City, Jews and Hebrew Christians cultivated the olive and made wine and soap till the days of the British occupation in 1917. This short visit was remarkable for the presentation to Sir Moses by the Turkish Pasha Kiamil (later to be the Grand Vizier and a sworn friend of Anglo-Turkish alliance) of a firman for the purchase of land and for the re-building of the Ashkenasic synagogue. The firman des? cribes him as a " noble person of the mosaic community, an orna? ment of the tribe of Israel, and a nobleman of the Government of England." (See Finn, Stirring Times, vol. ii. page 337.) The land on the outskirts of the city was acquired by Sir Moses for the building of alms-houses which were the gift of an American Jew named Touro. The houses became the nucleus of the first of the Montefiore colonies that are now dotted round the city in its growing perimeter. The firman gave the opportunity, also, to Sir Moses, who was deter? mined to realise the ideal of Jews tilling the soil, to acquire a large garden on the outskirts of Jaffa. For seventy years the Montefiore orange-grove gave shade and fragrance to the landscape. But the relentlessness of the builder and the amazing growth of Tel-Aviv have swept away its trees, though the urban intruders have pre? served the name. The Consul records of this visit that Sir Moses constantly reminded him that he was an Englishman. The motive for that was to offset the influence of one Dr. Cohn, who, a few years before, had brought funds from the French house of Rothschild for the foundation of a Jewish hospital in Jerusalem. As with many other institutions of</page><page sequence="4">12 MISCELLANIES IN HONOUR OF E. N. ADLER the Holy City, the aim was not only to help the needs of the inhabi? tants, but to proclaim the ascendancy of the country of the donor. A word or two may be said about the later visits of Montefiore to the Holy Land. In 1866 he went to Syria to distribute help to the sufferers from the plague. In 1875, when he had already passed his ninetieth year, he paid his last visit, and wrote a record of his forty days' sojourn in the Holy Land. The British Consulate does not date back far enough to give us any outside appreciation of the travels of another English Jew by race, which were not less momentous in the development of Palestine than the seven journeys of Montefiore. In 1830 Benjamin Disraeli, then on the threshold of his literary and political career, did the grand tour of Europe and the Near East. He included in his travels one or two weeks in the Holy Land. He came to it from Cyprus, the Island of Venus, that he was to add to the British Empire. Sailing to Jaffa, he rode from Jaffa to Jerusalem, and back from Jerusalem to Jaffa, and thence to Damascus. In his letters to his sister he makes us feel the enthusiasm which was aroused in him by the sight of the port and the orange groves, the Judaean hills, and finally the Holy City : We passed Beyrout, Sur?the ancient Tyre, St. Jean dAcre, and at length cast anchor in the roads of Jaffa. Here we made a curious acquaintance in Damiani, the descendant of an old Venetian family, but himself a perfect Oriental. We found him living among the most delightful gardens of oranges, citrons, and pomegranates, the trees as high and the fruit as thick as in our English apple orchards. . . . Jaffa is a pretty town, surrounded by gardens and situated in a fruitful plain. After riding over this, we crossed a range of light hills and came into the plain of Ramie, vast and fertile. Ramie, the ancient Arimathea, is the model of our idea of a beautiful Syrian village, all the houses isolated, and each surrounded by palm trees, the meadows and the exterior of the village covered with olive trees or divided by rich plantations of Indian fig. The sight of Jerusalem excites the lyrical, almost dithyrambic, muse in Disraeli: Upon an opposite height, descending as a steep ravine, and forming, with the elevation on which I rested, a dark and narrow gorge, I beheld</page><page sequence="5">ANGLO-JEWISH TRAVELLERS TO PALESTINE !3 a city entirely surrounded by what I should have considered in Europe an old feudal wall, with towers and gates. The city was built upon an ascent, and, from the height on which I stood, I could discern the terrace and the cupola of almost every house, and the wall upon the other side rising from the plain. The city was a bowl of mountains. In the front was a magnificent mosque with beautiful gardens, and many light and lofty gates of triumph; a variety of domes and towers rose in all directions from the buildings of bright stone. . . . Nothing could be conceived more wild, and terrible, and desolate than the surrounding scenery, more dark, and stormy, and severe; but the ground was thrown about in such picturesque undulations, that the mind, full of the sublime, required not the beautiful; and rich and waving woods and sparkling cultivation would have been misplaced. Except Athens, I had never witnessed any scene more essentially im? pressive. I will not place this spectacle below the city of Minerva. Athens and the Holy City in their glory must have been the finest representations of the beautiful and the sublime; the Holy City: for the elevation on which I stood was the Mount of Olives, and the city on which I gazed was JERUSALEM. The impression of the land shines out in three of his romances, Contarini Fleming, which contains the vivid description of Jerusa? lem; Alroy, the story of the pseudo-Messiah of the Middle Ages, which he declared as the embodiment of his ideal to lead his people back to their land; and, lastly, Tancred, which is the story of a religious revival to be inspired by the East. Tancred is not only the most brilliant picture of Oriental life in English literature of its period, but it contains the prophecy of the British Empire in India and of the British Mandate over Palestine. The Consular records throw a gleam on one or two Anglo-Jewish figures in the Holy Land, which may be set by the side of these high? lights of Montefiore and Disraeli. The first Consul, Mr. Young, wishes to appoint, as his Jewish va\eel to deal with the Hebrew speaking community, a Rabbi Herschel, who was the son of the Chief Rabbi of England, and a namesake of a future Lord Chan? cellor of England. But Herschel was unwilling to take the office. He became a permanent resident of Jerusalem, and entered again into the Consular record because he was murdered in 1854. The investi? gation of the cause of the murder was a cause of much perturbation</page><page sequence="6">14 MISCELLANIES IN HONOUR OF E. N. ADLER to Consul Finn. Another character in Finn's dispatches is John Meshullam, a Hebrew-Christian or converted Jew, who was another pioneer of Jewish settlement on the land. He had been at one time the attendant of Lord Byron and was said to be related to the Monte fiore family. He certainly shared the romance of Byron and the aspiration of the Montefiores. Giving up the first European hotel in Jerusalem, which he had opened, he acquired land by a hamlet near the Pools of Solomon some twenty miles from the Holy City, and there planted Hebrew-Christians round the copious stream. The vineyards of his settlement, Urtas?the name is derived from Hortus, and the place is the traditional scene of the Garden of King Solomon ?remain to this day a lovely outburst of green on the stark hills. English Jews did not take any prominent part in the work of archaeological exploration which was pursued throughout the second part of the century by the Palestine Exploration Fund. But a great Jewish scholar, who became one of the worthies of the Anglo-Jewish community, Dr. A. Neubauer, had a distinguished record in that field. He held for some time a post in the Austrian Consulate in Jerusalem, and he used his time to good purpose in discovering manuscripts in the Karaite Synagogue. In 1863 he won the prize offered by the French Academie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres for " An Exposition of the geography of Palestine as set out in the Talmud and post-biblical Jewish writings." That research became the basis of his work, La Geographie du Talmud, published in 1868. Another great Jewish scholar who for years was the outstanding leader of Jewish thought in England, Solomon Schechter, sojourned for a few months in Palestine at the end of the century, after he had made his epoch-making discoveries of Jewish manuscripts in the Geniza at Cairo. It is notable that two of the pointers to his expedition to Egypt were Dr. Neubauer and Mr. Elkan Adler, who had published editions of manuscripts deriving from that Geniza. Schechter's sojourn in the country led to his writing one of his fine essays on Judaism, on " Safed and the Mystics," which appears in the second series of his Studies. In the year following Schechter's</page><page sequence="7">ANGLO-JEWISH TRAVELLERS TO PALESTINE 15 stay, 1898, Israel Abrahams travelled over the country studying the campaigns of Judas Maccabaeus for a biography which he was writing. Another Jewish worthy of the century who has a place both in Anglo-Jewish history and Zionism, and who brought enthusiasm from the stay in the Holy Land, is the poet Naphtali Herz Imber. He went to the land from Central Europe and became an intimate friend of Laurence Oliphant, then living on Mount Carmel. He studied Kabbalah with his host. After the death of Oliphant he made his way to England, where he was an intimate friend of Israel Zang will, and one of the inspirers of the " Lovers of Zion " movement. He wrote in London the words of the Hatikvah, which has become the Jewish anthem; and he figures in ZangwilPs Children of the Ghetto, as one of the romantic figures of his Whitechapel, thinly disguised under the name of Pinsker. Israel Zangwill himself visited Palestine as a member of what was known as the Maccabaean Pilgrimage, whose journey through the country in 1897 created an extraordinary sensation. The father of the present writer it was who conceived the Pilgrimage of a number of the leaders of the Anglo-Jewish community. They should go out and see for themselves the Jewish settlement on the land, and so stir the interest of the community in the return to Zion. In the end a party of about twenty left, which included, besides Zang? will, the writer Samuel Bensusan; the minister of the Birmingham Congregation, Rev. G. J. Emanuel; Dayan Feldman, then a student at Jews' College; and Dr. J. Snowman. They rode through the country from Jaffa to Dan, conducted, as parties regularly were in those days, by Thomas Cook. What gave the visit its importance was that it was the first organised party of Jews from England to make a pilgrimage, and secondly, that the visit preceded by a few months the holding of the first Zionist Congress convened by Dr. Herzl at Basel. The return of the Jews to Palestine had caught the imagination of a large part of Anglo-Jewry and of the people of England. The head of the movement of the " Lovers of Zion," the late Colonel Albert Goldsmid, was to have accompanied the party,</page><page sequence="8">16 MISCELLANIES IN HONOUR OF E. N. ADLER but was prevented by military duties. He had, however, visited the land himself some twenty years earlier and had been inspired to enthusiasm for planting Jews on the soil. Before Herzl appeared and gave a new vista to the Jewish people, it was Goldsmid who had taken up the mantle of Montefiore. Zangwill was moved by this Pilgrimage to write an essay on the Holy City: " A Modern Scribe in Jerusalem," which appears as an epilogue to the Dreamers of the Ghetto. The essay has a fin de siecle scepticism which contrasts strikingly with the romantic glamour of Disraeli's account some seventy years before. It starts off : Jerusalem is the centre of pilgrimage to three great religions, the unholiest city under the sun. " For from Zion the law shall go forth " ?has gone forth of a sooth, thought the Scribe, leaving in Jerusalem itself only a swarming of sects round the corpse of religions. There is no prophetic centre in Zion, even for Israel. It is the city where men go to die and not to live. The interest of the Anglo-Jewish community was definitely and permanendy engaged for the settlement in Jerusalem during the second part of the nineteenth century by two organisations, the Sir Moses Montefiore Testimonial Fund, and the Anglo-Jewish Association. The former was concerned with the provision of decent residential quarters for Jews in the suburbs of Jerusalem; the latter with two schools founded by the Rothschild family in Jerusalem ?one for the education of Jewish girls, known as the Evelina de Rothschild School; and the other for technical teaching of boys, both Jews and Arabs, known as the Lionel de Rothschild Institution Israelite pour Instruction et Travail. A number of reports rendered to the Anglo-Jewish Association about the work of those schools, by leaders of the community who visited Palestine, threw light on the development in the city during the eighties and nineties. The Delegate Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, the Reverend Dr. Hermann Adler, made a pilgrimage in 1885 and was accompanied by Baron L. Benas, the father of one of the present-day leaders of the Jewish community of Liverpool. Benas wrote a report of his travels in</page><page sequence="9">ANGLO-JEWISH TRAVELLERS TO PALESTINE VJ the East in which he tells that the Jewish population in Jerusalem is estimated at eighteen to twenty thousand, out of a total of thirty five thousand. " Their villas and residences outside the city are quite equal in neatness and in their inviting aspect to some of the best parts of the Cheshire side of Mersey, which they much resemble." He waxed enthusiastic about the work of the two schools. Of the boys' institute he says that " the regeneration of the Jews of Jeru? salem is bound up with the welfare of this institution. It is a verit? able oasis of European culture and practical work in the desert of Oriental laissez faire." Though the French language was the medium of tuition, Hebrew was used side by side not only as a language of prayer, but as a means of conversation. The Chief Rabbi did not himself write a record of his visit; but we have a side? light about it in the letters of Laurence Oliphant, who records that he visited the agricultural settlement of Petach Tikva, and found that the colonists had been immensely encouraged by the help which Dr. Adler brought to them from England at a time when they were struggling against adversity. Four years later Mr. Elkan Adler paid one of his many visits to the East, and wrote for the Jewish Chronicle notes of his journey. He was not less enthusiastic about the work of the Lionel de Rothschild School which, he noted, has a special interest in that it was founded by Englishmen, Lord Rothschild and Mr. Samuel Montagu (later Lord Swaythling), and that it was mainly supported by English funds. It had nearly two hundred pupils, and in his day Arabic, Hebrew and French were the languages of instruction, though English was taught. " With regard to the French," he said, ''1 have never seen a public school boy whose accent or grammar could com? pare with Mr. Nissim's pupils. ..." And as to Hebrew, " I feel sure that the average European Rabbi would be put to blush by these little scholars of Jerusalem, whose fluency and elegance of diction make us unable to realise that Hebrew is not a living language."' The technical work of the pupils also evoked his admiration. Two of the pupils, originally refugees from Russia, were carving the corbels of the Russian Convent in the Via Dolorosa. Several of the</page><page sequence="10">18 MISCELLANIES IN HONOUR OF E. N. ADLER students were sons of the leading Arab and Turkish families, and others were Arab fathers of families. A few years later, 1894, Mr. Alfred Louis Cohen, the uncle of Sir Robert Waley Cohen, rendered another report to the Association about the schools in Damascus, Jaffa and Jerusalem. He noted the need of a girls' school in Damascus, the neatness and order of the agricultural setdement of Mikveh Israel near Jaffa, and, like his predecessors, the excellent work done by the technical schools of the Alliance Israelite and the Rothschild Foundation, and also by the Von Lemel School, maintained by the Jewish communities of Germany. His report on the Evelina Girls' School is less enthusiastic; and it is notable that French was at that time the principal language for teaching. French was still the dominant European influence in Palestine at the end of the century. That was soon to be changed, mainly because Herzl had the vision that England must be the Euro? pean power to sponsor the return of the Jews to the land, and linked up the Zionist institutions with England. In the first years of the twentieth century an English headmistress, Miss Annie Landau, was appointed to the Evelina School, and still holds her benignant sway; and English became the principal language of teaching. But that story is outside the scope of this paper. The Zionist Movement and the outcome of the first Zionist Con? gress, in 1897, provoked the Turkish administration to restrict narrowly the admission of Jews to the land; and the local officials at Jaffa sought to apply to Anglo-Jewish tourists?particularly if they were not travelling in the first class?the restriction that Jews could only stay in Palestine for thirty days. Mr. Hyamson's edition of the British Consular records from Jerusalem contains some illumina? ting dispatches about the efforts which the British Consul had to make to prevent their exclusion. In September, 1898, Mr. A. Snowman and his two sons were at first prevented from landing, and it required the persistent remonstrances of the Consular Agent, Mr. Amzalak (a kinsman of the present most distinguished Jew of Portugal), to secure their disembarkation. The British Ambassador in Constantinople took up the matter with the Sublime Porte, and</page><page sequence="11">ANGLO-JEWISH TRAVELLERS TO PALESTINE 19 the Marquess of Salisbury, the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, was called on to support his action. He stated that the British Government " can not admit any restrictions of the Treaty rights of British subjects to travel in Palestine, as well as in other parts of the Ottoman Empire; and cannot accept the regulation which seriously interferes with their rights." Nevertheless, in February, 1899, there was further trouble when Miss Annie Landau was pre? vented from proceeding to Jerusalem to take up her appointment as a teacher in the school of the Anglo-Jewish Association. The Turkish authorities asked for an undertaking that she would leave within thirty days. The Embassy in Constantinople was again invoked, and a telegram was sent to the Governor of Jerusalem by the Turkish Foreign Office " not to molest the lady." In fact, she has stayed in Jerusalem for over forty years, with a break of a few years in the last war. The appreciations of Palestine by English Jews during the last century may be concluded with some verses of a poem by Paul Neumann that appeared in the Yellow Boo\ of 1895, and presaged the revival of the country in our century. This is the land of hope without fruition, Of prophecies no welcome years fulfil: While bound upon their dreary pilgrim mission The heirs of promise lack their birthright still. Yet not the whole; for hope remains undying. And such the hopes that gather round thy name, Dear land, it were indeed a new denying To set before thee riches, power or fame. A litde longer, and the habitations Of exile shall re-echo to thy call: " Return, my children, from among the nations, Forget the years of banishment and thrall." Land of the Prophets; in the Prophet's vision Thy future glory far transcends thy woes. And soon, in spite of hatred and derision, Thy wilderness shall blossom as the rose.</page></plain_text>