Baron Rothschild’s Favorite Book about Solomon’s Temple

On September 21, 1898, Baron Edmund de Rothschild gave a book titled Le Temple de Jerusalem et la Maison de Bois-Liban (“The Temple of Jerusalem and the House of Lebanon Wood”) to the agricultural community of Rosh Pinah, one of the original Zionist settlements in the Land of Israel. He also gave a copy to Zikhron Ya’akov, a farming community whose establishment he had helped to fund. Only a handful of copies of the book are still extant today, one of which is in the Louvre and another in the Rothschild family’s vault. Amit Naor explains how the book captured the baron’s interest:

The book was written by two French scholars: Charles Chipiez and Georges Perrot. Chipiez was an architect and architectural historian and Perrot an archaeologist. They wrote a number of books together [on] the history of the ancient world: Assyria, Persia, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and of course Judea and its surroundings. Most of their findings regarding the Jewish Temple—which they saw as an architectural milestone in the history of the world—were published in [this book].

Rothschild, who took a special interest in Jerusalem and the Temple, discovered the book when it was put on display at an exhibition in Paris, and immediately purchased a number of copies which made their way to the farming colonies in the Land of Israel which were so dear to him.

The highlight of the book is its appendix—large, magnificent illustrations of the Temple and the “House of Lebanon Wood,” [i.e., cedar], built by King Solomon, according to the first book of Kings. In the first chapter, Chipiez and Perrot describe the history of the Temple, the structures that surrounded it, and the local topography. In the second chapter, they explain which sources were used to reproduce the appearance of the Temple. The third chapter describes the Temple itself according to verses found in the book of Ezekiel, and the fourth and final chapter describes what the authors believed to be the palace of the kings of ancient Judea. The authors also included sketches of architectural elements such as pillars, domes, and capitals.

Baron Rothschild had a special and understandable interest in Jerusalem and the Temple [that] stemmed from his traditional Jewish education, as well as from the growing interest in the scientific study of the Bible during the late 19th century. Other evidence suggests that the Baron sought to build a “hall” on the ruins of the Temple and even obtained plans from architects to integrate modern and ancient elements in the construction of a grand new building. The Ottoman sultan refused, for obvious reasons, to authorize the ambitious project.

The book can be viewed in digital form, complete with its lavish illustrated plates, here.

Read more at The Librarians

More about: First Temple, History of Zionism, Rothschilds

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood