A Lost Novel Describes Arriving at the “Palestinian Ellis Island” in Pre-State Israel

Nov. 11 2022

Before setting off from New York City to the Land of Israel in 1926, the Yiddish novelist and essayist Miriam Karpilove dashed off a letter to the secretary of the I.L. Peretz Writers’ Union. Therein, she complained of the many things she had to do in preparation for leaving golus [diasporic exile], adding “I am my own   [lady messiah] and, as you know, I have no white horse and, as you also know, the subway is on strike to boot.” Her visit to Mandate Palestine would last for two years, and form the basis of an unfinished novel, parts of which will soon be published. Jessica Kirzane excerpts her translation of the opening chapter, which depicts the characters’ arrival at the “Palestinian Ellis Island.”

We had to show a group of British government officers all of our documents so they could see that our coming here to Eretz Yisrael was kosher and we’d followed all the legal requirements they set out for us. These government officials sat at a long table in the middle of a large room. We had to stand. Stand and wait in line until someone looked over our papers and gave them to another official, who gave them to a third official, and so forth.

More than anything, they noticed the stamp on our papers with the word “settler.” They were surprised that American citizens with money had come to settle in Palestine: is it so bad in America, or so good in Eretz Yisrael, that the Jews would want to settle here? Especially during the present crisis? One of the officials asked my brother why he wanted to settle in Palestine, isn’t it good to be an American citizen?

“Oh, very good!” Jacob said. “But I think Palestine has more for us.”

“Remarkable, . . . ” he shrugged his shoulders and asked me what compelled me to settle in Palestine. I looked him straight in his squinty eyes and replied, “historical connections, you know . . .”.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Mandate Palestine, Yiddish literature


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount