Mark Twain’s Land of Israel

Published in 1869, Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad was the book that launched him to literary stardom. It is based on the dispatches he wrote from a steamship tour that took him to various Mediterranean and Black Sea ports of call, including Jaffa and Jerusalem. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Innocents Abroad, the New-York Historical Association has mounted an exhibit on Twain’s visit to the Holy Land, where, writes Diane Cole, he found his tour’s “main attraction”:

Throughout the trip, Twain highlighted the disparity between the desire of his guidebook-led companions to see what they had been promised and the reality of what was actually in front of them. The contrast reached its peak once they arrived in the Holy Land. “I must studiously and faithfully unlearn a great many things I have somehow absorbed concerning Palestine,” he commented, beginning with the reality of the relatively small size of the local grapes he saw, as opposed to the enormous vines portrayed in his favorite Bible-story illustrations.

Similarly, Jerusalem itself seemed “[s]o small! Why, it was no larger than an American village of four thousand inhabitants,” he wrote.

But beyond Twain’s 1867 [visit to the Holy Land] . . . it was his later travels to Europe in the 1890s that brought to the fore his rejection of anti-Semitism. In Paris, he was shocked by the visceral anti-Semitism exhibited in the Dreyfus affair. Visiting Vienna, he was condemned by the increasingly anti-Semitic press there for meeting with leading Jewish intellectuals such as Sigmund Freud and Theodor Herzl.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Jerusalem, Land of Israel, Literature, Mark Twain, Philo-Semitism

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security