The Jewish Woman Who Bicycled Around the World

Aug. 16 2021

In the 1890s, a Jewish woman from a devout background named Annie Londonderry embarked on a journey around the globe on her bicycle. Peter Zheutlin, a distant relative of Londonderry, wrote a book about her accomplishment in 2007, and has now followed up with a fictionalized version. Tzach Yoched writes:

Born Annie Cohen Kopchovsky in Latvia, in 1870, Londonderry took her pseudonym from the first of her many corporate sponsors: the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company of New Hampshire.

Londonderry was, at first glance, an unlikely candidate to become a feminist icon. . . . At seventeen she lost both of her parents and a year later married an Orthodox Jewish merchant named Simon (a/k/a Max). Before learning how to ride a bicycle, she gave birth to three children.

Londonderry set out on her journey from Massachusetts on June 27, 1894, but it took considerably more than 80 days for her to go around the world. She eventually completed her mammoth task on September 12, 1895—fifteen days ahead of the fifteen-month goal she had set for herself. (In case you’re wondering, there were lots of boat journeys between continents, so she wasn’t cycling the whole time.)

Londonderry’s epic journey, though, was as much a public-relations campaign as an act of female independence. “She told everyone that she’d been selected to settle a wager between two Boston merchants who were arguing whether a woman could do what only a man had done before—circle the world by bicycle,” Zheutlin explains.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: American Jewish History, Sports, Women


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