The bride is beautiful but she is married to another man

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"The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man" is a phrase of uncertain origin that has been cited by scholars and in publications as a message delivered by a Jewish fact-finding mission to Palestine, usually in the 1890s,[1] or less frequently, the 1920s.[2] Stories using the phrase generally convey an ignored warning that a Jewish homeland would not be reestablished in Palestine without interfering with the existing population.[3]

The Guardian's foreign correspondent and expert on Israel and the Middle East, Eric Silver,[4] reported a version of the story in 1977: "An ageing pioneer was interviewed once on Israeli television. He explained how the elders of his Russian Jewish village had sent an emissary to Palestine to spy out the land. The man reported back: 'The bride is beautiful, but she is already married.'"[5]

Professor Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi of the University of Haifa recounted a different version of the story in his Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel (1992).[6] Beit-Hallahmi wrote: "There is a famous story, told during a meeting between Prime Minister Golda Meir and a group of Israeli writers in 1970. A Jew from Poland visited Palestine in the 1920s. On his return to Europe, he summarized his impressions by saying: 'The bride is beautiful, but she has got a bridegroom already.' Golda Meir responded by saying: 'And I thank God every night that the bridegroom was so weak, and the bride could be taken away from him.'"[7]

UCLA professor of political science and history Anthony Pagden told another version of the story in his Worlds at War: The 2,500-Year Struggle Between East and West (2008): "When in 1897 the rabbis of Vienna sent a fact-finding mission to Palestine, they famously reported back that the bride 'was beautiful but married to another man.' But the implication of this wry remark — that the Zionists should attempt to marry someone else — was disregarded."[8]

The phrase has also been cited as an 1890s fact-finding message in the 2008 BBC Two documentary The Birth of Israel, produced by Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen,[9] and by P. J. O'Rourke,[10] Adam LeBor,[11] and Mustapha Marrouchi.[12] The titles of the books Married to Another Man (2007) by Ghada Karmi[13] and (in Swedish) Bruden är vacker men har redan en man by Ingmar Karlsson (2012)[14] are based on the story.

In 2012 an article by Shai Afsai was published in the academic journal Shofar asserting that the stories in which the phrase appears are unsubstantiated. Afsai contacted several scholars who repeated the stories but none were able to provide a primary source for them.[15] Afsai argued that "those who tell the story never provide a primary source for it and often provide no source at all" and that "there has been no basis for recounting the story as a historical event that occurred during the early years of the Zionist movement. In short, the story is unsubstantiated and writers should not treat it as historical fact."

Afsai discussed Avi Shlaim, Anthony Pagden, Ghada Karmi, Mustapha Marrouchi, Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, Scott Hunt, Peter Rodgers, Karl Sabbagh and others as examples of those who treat the stories as verified historical events, and concluded: "The 'married to another man' story, in all of its various permutations, should not be considered authentic until a primary — or at least early — source is found that shows it to be so." He also noted that some of the same points made "by telling the 'married to another man' story can be made by referring to actual historical documents and occurences" instead, and mentioned the writings and observations of Zionist travelers such as Leo Motzkin, Israel Zangwill and Ahad Ha'am, and the Zionist settler Yitzhak Epstein.[16]

According to Alan Dowty, American author and Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame: “Zionists of the First Aliyah (wave of immigration to Palestine, from 1882 to 1905), did—contrary to some claims—‘see’ the Arabs there, but they did not see an Arab problem. They also paid remarkably little attention to the Arab population, simply noting their presence as one facet of the new environment with which they contended. For their own sanity, the new settlers needed to minimize the difficulties they faced and, in the case of the Arabs, it was also ideologically crucial to avoid any suggestion that they were simply replicating the Diaspora pattern of a Jewish minority existing at the sufferance of a majority non-Jewish host population.” [17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shai Afsai, "The 'Married to another Man' Story," Jewish Ideas Daily, October 12, 2012.
  2. ^ Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel (Palgrave Macmillan, 1992), p. 74.
  3. ^ Eric Silver, "Decade of Disillusion," The Guardian, June 4, 1977, p.7; Anthony Pagden, Worlds at War (Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 419.
  4. ^ "Eric Silver", The Guardian, July 16, 2008.
  5. ^ Eric Silver, "Decade of Disillusion," The Guardian, June 4, 1977, p.7.
  6. ^ Shai Afsai, "The 'Married to Another Man' Story and Zionism", Jewish Link, February 5, 2015.
  7. ^ Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Original Sins: Reflections on the History of Zionism and Israel (Palgrave Macmillan, 1992), p. 74.
  8. ^ Anthony Pagden, Worlds at War (Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 419.
  9. ^ Hadar Sela, "Where did Jeremy Bowen learn the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict?" bbcwatch.org, December 27, 2012.
  10. ^ P. J. O'Rourke, Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism, 2005, p. 55.
  11. ^ Adam LeBor, City of Oranges: An Intimate History of Arabs and Jews in Jaffa, 2011.
  12. ^ Mustapha Marrouchi, "Cry No More for Me, Palestine—Mahmoud Darwish," College Literature, Vol. 38, No. 4 (2011).
  13. ^ Martin Woollacott, "Joined-up Solution," The Guardian, Sept. 14, 2007.
  14. ^ Lisa Abramowicz, "Getting away with anti-Semitism," ynetnews, August 19, 2012.
  15. ^ Shai Afsai, “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man”: Historical Fabrication and an Anti-Zionist Myth," Shofar, Vol. 30, No. 3 (2012), pp. 35-61.
  16. ^ Shai Afsai, “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man”: Historical Fabrication and an Anti-Zionist Myth," Shofar, Vol. 30, No. 3 (2012), pp. 35-61.
  17. ^ Alan Dowty, “‘A Question That Outweighs All Others’: Yitzhak Epstein and Zionist Recognition of the Arab Issue,” Israel Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, (2001), p. 34.