Mark Twain’s Land of Israel

Jan. 15 2020

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.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

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

 

Europe Dithers While Iran Enriches

Jan. 20 2020

In May, when Tehran announced that it would no longer abide by the limits set by the 2015 nuclear agreement on its enrichment of uranium, Europe found legal excuses not to react. When, earlier this month, the Islamic Republic went a step further, renouncing any limits on enrichment, the EU—led by France and Germany, both parties to the deal—at last initiated a formal process that might lead to the re-imposition of sanctions. Bobby Ghosh comments on the dangers of European apathy:

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Read more at Bloomberg

More about: European Union, France, Germany, Hassan Rouhani, Iran, Iran nuclear program