Travelogues of Palestine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Travelogues of Palestine are the more than 3,000 books and other materials detailing accounts of the journeys of primarily European and North American travelers to Ottoman Palestine. The number of published travelogues proliferated during the 19th century, and these travelers' impressions of 19th-century Palestine have been often quoted in the history and historiography of the region, although their accuracy and impartiality has been called into question in modern times.[1][2]

Descriptions in the mid-nineteenth century[edit]

During the 19th century, many residents and visitors attempted to estimate the population without recourse to official data, and came up with a large number of different values. Estimates that are reasonably reliable are only available for the final third of the century, from which period Ottoman population and taxation registers have been preserved.[3]

Mark Twain[edit]

In Chapters 46, 39, 52 and 56 of his Innocents Abroad, American author Mark Twain wrote of his visit to Palestine in 1867: "Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies. Palestine is desolate and unlovely – Palestine is no more of this workday world. It is sacred to poetry and tradition, it is dreamland."(Chapter 56)[4][5] "There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country". (Chapter 52)[6] "A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We reached Tabor safely. We never saw a human being on the whole route". (Chapter 49)[7] "There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent – not for thirty miles in either direction. ...One may ride ten miles (16 km) hereabouts and not see ten human beings." ...these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness..."(Chapter 46)[8]

These descriptions of the often quoted non-arable areas few people would inhabit are as Twain says, "by contrast" to occasional scenes of arable land and productive agriculture: "The narrow canon in which Nablous, or Shechem, is situated, is under high cultivation, and the soil is exceedingly black and fertile. It is well watered, and its affluent vegetation gains effect by contrast with the barren hills that tower on either side"..."Sometimes, in the glens, we came upon luxuriant orchards of figs, apricots, pomegranates, and such things, but oftener the scenery was rugged, mountainous, verdureless and forbidding"..."We came finally to the noble grove of orange-trees in which the Oriental city of Jaffa lies buried"..."Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full flush of spring, however, and all the more beautiful by contrast with the far-reaching desolation that surrounds them on every side.[9]

Author Kathleen Christison was critical of attempts to use Twain's humorous writing as a literal description of Palestine at that time. She writes that "Twain's descriptions are high in Israeli government press handouts that present a case for Israel's redemption of a land that had previously been empty and barren. His gross characterizations of the land and the people in the time before mass Jewish immigration are also often used by US propagandists for Israel."[10] For example, she noted that Twain described the Samaritans of Nablus at length without mentioning the much larger Arab population at all.[11] The Arab population of Nablus at the time was about 20,000.[12]

Bayard Taylor[edit]

In 1852 the American writer Bayard Taylor traveled across the Jezreel Valley, which he described in his 1854 book The Lands of the Saracen; or, Pictures of Palestine, Asia Minor, Sicily and Spain as: "... one of the richest districts in the world"..."The soil is a dark-brown loam, and, without manure, produces annually superb crops of wheat and barley."[13][14]

Laurence Oliphant[edit]

Laurence Oliphant, who visited Palestine in 1887, wrote that Palestine's Valley of Esdraelon was "a huge green lake of waving wheat, with its village-crowned mounds rising from it like islands; and it presents one of the most striking pictures of luxuriant fertility which it is possible to conceive."[15]

Ahad Ha'am[edit]

After a visit to Palestine in 1891, Ahad Ha'am wrote:

From abroad, we are accustomed to believe that Eretz Israel is presently almost totally desolate, an uncultivated desert, and that anyone wishing to buy land there can come and buy all he wants. But in truth it is not so. In the entire land, it is hard to find tillable land that is not already tilled; only sandy fields or stony hills, suitable at best for planting trees or vines and, even that after considerable work and expense in clearing and preparing them- only these remain unworked. ... Many of our people who came to buy land have been in Eretz Israel for months, and have toured its length and width, without finding what they seek.[16]

Henry Baker Tristram[edit]

In 1856 Henry Baker Tristram said of Palestine "A few years ago the whole Ghor (Jordan Valley) was in the hands of the fellaheen, and much of it cultivated for corn. Now the whole of it is in the hands of the Bedouin, who eschew all agriculture…The same thing is now going on over the plain of Sharon where….land is going out of cultivation and whole villages rapidly disappeared….Since the year 1838, no less than twenty villages there have thus erased from the map, and the stationary population extirpated."[17]

Interpretations[edit]

Norman Finkelstein said in an interview with Adam Horowitz in Mondoweiss about the travel accounts: "... as you can imagine you are coming from London and you are going to Palestine, Palestine looks empty. That's not surprising. You've been to the occupied territories and even now if you are traveling on roads to the West Bank, most of it looks empty and this is now, the population in the West bank is about two million. Back then the population in the whole of Palestine — meaning the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and Jordan, the whole of Palestine — the population was about 300,000. So of course it's going to look empty".[18]

See also[edit]

List of travelogues[edit]

Pre-Ottoman[edit]

16th–17th centuries[edit]

18th century[edit]

19th century[edit]

Index p. 643

20th century[edit]

Secondary literature[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Johann Büssow (11 August 2011). Hamidian Palestine: Politics and Society in the District of Jerusalem 1872-1908. BRILL. pp. 30–. ISBN 90-04-20569-1.
  2. ^ Ilan Pappe (31 July 2006). A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples. Cambridge University Press. pp. 34–. ISBN 978-0-521-68315-9.
  3. ^ J. McCarthy, The population of Ottoman Syria and Iraq, 1878–1914, Asian and African Studies, vol. 15 (1981) pp. 3–44. K. H. Karpat, Ottoman population 1830–1914 (Univ. Wisconsin Press, 1985).
  4. ^ Chapter 56.
  5. ^ Lester I. Vogel. To See a Promised Land: Americans and the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century. Pennsylvania State Univ Print;. ISBN 978-0-271-00884-4.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  6. ^ Chapter 52.
  7. ^ Chapter 49.
  8. ^ Chapter 46.
  9. ^ Mark Twain – Travellers abroad"The narrow canon in which Nablous, or Shechem, is situated, is under high cultivation, and the soil is exceedingly black and fertile. It is well watered, and its affluent vegetation gains effect by contrast with the barren hills that tower on either side"..."Sometimes, in the glens, we came upon luxuriant orchards of figs, apricots, pomegranates, and such things, but oftener the scenery was rugged, mountainous, verdureless and forbidding" "We came finally to the noble grove of orange-trees in which the Oriental city of Jaffa lies buried" "Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full flush of spring, however, and all the more beautiful by contrast with the far-reaching desolation that surrounds them on every side"
  10. ^ K. Christison, Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on U.S. Middle East Policy, Univ. of California Press, 1999; p16.
  11. ^ K. Christison, Perceptions of Palestine: Their Influence on US Middle East Policy, Univ. of California Press, 1999; p. 20.
  12. ^ B. B. Doumani, The political economy of population counts in Ottoman Palestine: Nablus, Circa 1950, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol 26 (1994) 1–17.
  13. ^ "The Lands of the Saracen, by Bayard Taylor". Gutenberg.org. 1 February 2004. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
  14. ^ The Lands of the Saracen By Bayard Taylor – Page 32 "We rode for miles through a sea of wheat, waving far and wide over the swells of land. The tobacco in the fields about Ramleh was the most luxuriant I ever saw, and the olive and fig attain a size and lust' strength wholly unknown in Italy, Judea cursed of God! what a misconception, not only of God's mercy and beneficence, but of the actual fact!"
  15. ^ Abu-Lughod, 1971, p. 126.
  16. ^ Alan Dowty, Much Ado about Little: Ahad Ha'am's "Truth from Eretz Yisrael", Zionism, and the Arabs, Israel Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall 2000) 154–181.
  17. ^ H.B. Tristram, The Land of Israel: A Journal of Travels Through Palestine, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1865, p. 490
  18. ^ "Finkelstein on Joan Peters's legacy (and Dershowitz's legal troubles)". Mondoweiss. 28 January 2015.