Jews & Journeys:
Travel & the Performance of Jewish Identity
The Jewish merchant, Abraham ben Yiju (known documents: 1132-1156) spent twenty years of his life in India. He imported merchandise from Yemen and from the Eastern Mediterranean countries and exported Indian products. He owned and ran a big workshop of bronze vessels, where Yemenite Jews and local Hindis were employed. Upon returning to Egypt to reunite with his ancestral family, he was accompanied by his Indian wife, Ashu, now bearing the Hebrew name Beracha (blessing) after being converted to Judaism, and with his Hindi chief trade agent Bama.
Geniza document Halper 472 was written by Ben Yiju in 1152, upon his return to Egypt. It contains several lists; some of them register the goods he has brought with him, among them typical Indian products such as gold jewellery, bronze vessels, china wares and perfumes. A kerchief and a pair of shoes were especially brought for Bama. Ben Yiju's biography illustrates the itinerant life style of medieval Jewish traders.
The Wandering Jew is said to have been cursed to live forever, punished for not having let Jesus rest on the wall of his house when he was carrying the cross. The roots of this legend lie buried in the early Middle Ages and start to be visible to us from the 13th century on in the monastic chronicle of St Albans in England, Flores Historiarum composed by Roger de Wendover (d. 1236), followed by the Chronica Majora of Matthew Paris (ca. 1200-1259) at the same monastery. As can be learned from George K. Anderson's monumental The Legend of the Wandering Jew (1965) the tale wandered to the continent and was adapted to almost all languages and cultures of Europe.
A particularly well distributed version of the legend emerged in German in the milieu of the Lutheran Reformation. In this version the Wandering Jew's name was Ahasver and he had been a shoemaker in Jerusalem before the curse. This version in numerous variations became the second most popular German chapbook in the 17th century, surpassed only by the chapbook about Dr. Faust. The chapbooks framed the legend from the time of Jesus with contemporary descriptions of Ahasver's appearance in various European cities and included apocalyptic hints about the approaching return of Jesus to this world. In German his most frequent sobriquet was the Eternal Jew, der ewige Jude.
In the French-speaking regions, songs of the complainte genre about le Juif Errant circulated, emphasizing the tragedy of his fate according to the conventions of the genre. Romantic poetry especially in English and in German embraced the somber, lonely figure as an exemplar of unconventionality. A rich array of visual representations were distributed in conjunction with the narratives and songs, or even separately, varying from anti-Semitic stereotypes to sympathetic and respectful representations. In France the Wandering Jew became the title of a serialized novel (1844-1845) by Eugène Sue (1804-1857) in which the figure himself has a minor but rather scurrilous role as the distributor of cholera.
The picture at left is part of a richly illustrated 4th edition of the novel Légendes du juif errant et des seize reines de Munster (Legends of the wandering Jew and the sixteen queens of Munster) by Jacques Albin Simon Collin de Plancy (1794-1881), which includes a mixture of the elements known from German and French traditions. The illustration is signed by the rather famous E. Lorsay, and the book was printed in 1866 at the workshop of the Parisian typographer Henri Plon; this workshop has survived since 1852 until the present day under various ownerships as a publishing house. In the picture the tailor Jean de Leyde, John (Jan) of Leiden, aka John Bockold or John Bockelson, and a leading figure of the short lived Münster Rebellion, reads a letter brought to him by the Wandering Jew Isaac. This name reminds us of the name Isaac Laquedem [here spelled Lakhedem = Isaac from the Orient or Ancient Isaac] that appears in many Wandering Jew traditions from the Netherlands and is confirmed later in the novel in the chapter titled "Le juif errant") summoning him to join the rebels in Münster. Portraying the Wandering Jew as the messenger might have signaled the utopian apocalyptic vision that characterized this Anabaptist enterprise; however, the rebellion was harshly vanquished and Jean-Jan-John cruelly tortured and executed with the other leaders of the Rebellion. The Wandering Jew apparently continued wandering.
The Katz Center's Rare Book Room holds a copy of one of the earliest print editions of Benjamin of Tudela's late-twelfth-century itinerary, Massaʻot shel Rabbi Binyamin (מסעות של רבי בנימין), which was published in Freiburg (in the German Breisgau region) by ha-Zifroni in 1583.
Although his journey purportedly extended from Iberia to the Middle and Far East we have very few reliable details regarding the life of Benjamin of Tudela. According to the anonymous introduction to his book, he originated from the city of Tudela in Navarre (northern Spain) and returned from his far-flung peregrinations in 1173, which is the only firm date that we have for him. His Book of Travels constitutes one of the earliest Hebrew travel accounts, a genre whose emergence seems to be tied to the Crusades, when the increase in maritime traffic between western Europe and the eastern Mediterranean also included Jewish pilgrims and merchants traveling to the Levant. However, it is far from clear whether Benjamin visited all the places listed in the itinerary. For only the opening lines (according to the Freiburg print depicted here) quote the traveler's own words: "Rabbi Benjamin ben Jonah ... said: First, I set out from the city of Saragossa and then I went down the River Ebro to Tortosa. From there it took me two days to the ancient city of Tarragona [the place names are corrupted]." But then the first-person narrative comes to an abrupt end. Henceforth the Tudelan neither emerges as the protagonist of his travels nor as the book's narrator, which raises a host of questions concerning authorship, editing, and transmission of the work. That said, Massa‘ot offers its readers a description of much of the then-known world, as viewed through a medieval Jewish lens.
Far from falling out of fashion, Benjamin's Travels gained a new lease on life with the advent of Hebrew print and was first brought to press in Constantinople (Istanbul) by Eli‘ezer ben Gershon Soncino in 1543. In fact, the Freiburg edition featured here is based on this editio princeps (and thus repeats some of its errors). Around the same time, Benjamin's itinerary was first translated into Latin and hence became accessible to an early modern Christian audience during the period of New World exploration. This translation titled Itinerarium Beniamini Tudelensis ... ex Hebraico Latinum factum was rendered by Benito Arias Montano, a Spanish humanist and biblical scholar, and published in Antwerp at Christopher Plantin's world-renowned printing house in 1575. The University of Pennsylvania's Rare Book and Manuscript Library Lea Collection indeed holds a copy of this first Latin print of Benjamin's itinerary.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Marcus Nathan Adler, took the unprecedented step of basing a critical edition of the Hebrew text (that together with a rather antiquated English translation is still standard today) on several medieval manuscripts: The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Critical Text, Translation and Commentary (London: Oxford University Press, 1907).
Thanks to the exceptional generosity of Lawrence J. Schoenberg and Barbara Brizdle, the Penn Libraries recently received a unique sixteenth century manuscript (LJS 42), which contains scientific works in Hebrew written by a Sephardic scholar, Moses ben Baruch Almosnino.
Almosnino was born probably in 1518 in Salonika to an Aragonese Jewish family which fled Spain after the expulsion decree of 1492 and settled in that Ottoman port city. Almosnino was a Rabbi and a Posek (adjudicator) and one of the prominent leaders of the Jewish communities in Greece, as well as a prolific author who wrote exegetical, historiographical, philosophic and scientific works.
This sixteenth century manuscript contains two astronomical works together with their commentaries. The first, Bet elohim (House of God), dated no later than 1551, is Almosnino's commentary upon a Medieval Latin astronomical work De Sphaera by Johannes De Sacrobosco, which had been translated into Hebrew during the fourteenth century. Almosnino used Shelomo ben Avram Avigdor's translation entitled Mar'e ha-'ofanim. The second work in Almosnino's manuscript is Sha'ar ha-shamayim (Gate of Heaven), which is the author's translation and commentary upon the important fifteenth century astronomical work by Georg Peurbach, Theoricae Novae Planetarum.
The geographical part of the unpublished manuscript copy of Bet Elohim by Almosnino contains two firsts in the history of Hebrew letters concerning the knowledge about the discovery of America. On the verso of folio 23 we find the first mention in Jewish literature of the name Amerigo Vespucci אמריקו וישפוסיאו, whom Almosnino credits as the "discoverer" המוצא of America and after whom the newly discovered land is named. This is also the first time that the the name of the continent אמיריקה is mentioned in Hebrew (the name America was first coined by a German cartographer in 1507). Ironically, this discussion of the discovery of the Americas occurs in a commentary on a Medieval Latin astronomical work in which the very existence of the continent was not yet known in Europe.
The first explicit mention of the new geographical discoveries in the west by a Jewish author is found in the well-known cosmographical work Iggeret orhot ‘olam (A letter concerning the manners of the world) written by Abraham Farissol in 1524. Again, thanks to the philanthropic vision of Lawrence J. Schoenberg and Barbara Brizdle, Penn received a unique contemporary manuscript copy of this work (LJS 499). Farissol's treatise, which was printed for the first time in 1586 in Venice, mentions Columbus' discoveries of some islands in the west and dedicates a whole chapter to the discovery of the New World עולם חדש without mentioning Vespucci's name. Farissol's work is an adaptation of a contemporary Italian book, which in turn relied, for its New World chapters, on a text that came to be known as Vespucci's second letter. Interestingly, there is a previous indication of Columbus' first voyage in Hebrew, which can be found in a personal letter sent from Florence by an Italian Jew as early as 1494!
Travel was a ubiquitous trope in the literature of the Jewish Enlightenment. The hazards and travails of travel
by sea, and the wonders viewed by those few who dared to set sail to new lands,
provided the members of the Jewish Enlightenment
The vast majority of these books were Maskilic translations of German children's books. Displayed here is an emblematic Hebrew translation of two travel stories for children originally written by the German pedagogue Joachim Heinrich Campe. The translation, produced by the Polish Maskil, Menachem Mendel Lefin in 1818, conforms to the translational norms of the Hebrew literary system of the time. It adapts the non-Jewish source text to fit the Maskilic agenda of the Jewish translator, as well as the unique needs of the Hebrew-reading public. In so doing, it reveals some Jewish-specific fantasies and anxieties surrounding such issues as Jewish acculturation, European colonialism, and modern notions of identity and difference.
This ornately encased Torah scroll, an extraordinary gift of Rabbi Ezekiel N. and Margaret Musleah, represents the many travels of Iraqi Jews during the 19th and 20th centuries. The integration of Iraq into the modern economy in the 19th century brought new trading opportunities for Iraqi Jews. British trade provided the network through which they subsequently established satellite communities in Bombay, Calcutta, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Affluent families from these Indian-Iraqi- Jewish communities made financial contributions to support various synagogues and schools in Baghdad. They kept the Baghdadi tradition alive in Southeast Asia (in terms of ritual and daily practice), and are still referred to as "Baghdadis" by Jews and non-Jews alike.
This community also established a print industry that published books and journals in Judeo-Arabic for a Baghdadi Jewish readership. Jews in Baghdad often traveled to the East to serve as rabbis, and cantors, and to provide services the local communities needed, while written products from India and Hong Kong often traveled to Baghdad. Hakham Rav Mordecai Shindookh (1770-1852), the scribe and religious authority who specially created this visionary, diminutive Torah scroll to be used in the future by the Messiah during his travels throughout the world, was a prominent representative of this Baghdadi Jewish community in Calcutta. Rabbi Ezekiel N. and Margaret Musleah, now living in Philadelphia and formerly of Calcutta, are descendants of Baghdadi rabbinic scholars, including Hakham Rav Shindookh who was a progenitor of Margaret (nee Shindookh) Musleah. The Musleah family donated this precious family heirloom, kept in the family for six generations, to the Library at the Katz Center on the first day of Hanukkah in December of 2011..
In 1840 the Irish physician William Wilde (1815-76), after traveling throughout the Mediterranean, singled out Jewish prayer at the Western Wall as one of the scenes that had most moved him. "Were I asked what was the object of the greatest interest that I had seen, and the scene that made the deepest impression on me, during my sojourn in other lands," wrote Dr. Wilde (father of the future playwright), "I would say that it was a Jew mourning over the stones of Jerusalem."
At around the same time the American biblical scholar and archaeologist Edward Robinson, who had traveled throughout Palestine during the late 1830s, described his visit to the "Jews' Place of Wail" on a Wednesday afternoon. He saw there only "two old men" who "sat there upon the ground, reading together in a book of Hebrew prayers," but added that "on Fridays they assemble here in greater numbers." Robinson, who was a professor at New York's Union Theological Seminary, wrote of the Jews' "touching custom" at "the nearest point in which they can venture to approach their their ancient temple," where "bowed in the dust, they may at least weep undisturbed over the fallen glory of their race; and bedew with tears the soil, which so many thousands of their forefathers once moistened with blood" [E. Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, v. 1 (1841), 349-40].
This postcard was mailed on August 17, 1880 to the rabbi Sabato Morais (1823-1897) in Philadelphia by the rabbi of Mantua Marco Mortara (1815-1894). Mortara, unable to write following a cataract operation, dictated the text to his son Ludovico (1855-1937), a distinguished jurist and Italian politician. It is one of the very first postal cards issued by the recently established Kingdom of Italy, only six year after they were first printed in 1874. Graphic illustrations on the postcard are negligible; only the national emblem and the image of the stamp appear. It would be ten more years before the first private picture postcards were introduced into the market.
The interest of this particular postcard is twofold. On one hand it shows the appearance of a means of communication that will threaten the existence of the lengthy, erudite letter on scientific matters that contributed significantly to the development of the Wissenshaft des Judentums ("Science of Judaism") on a European scale. On the other hand, it attests to the intellectual exchange of two Italian rabbis living on two sides of the Atlantic whose professional careers followed substantially different paths. Mortara represents the sedentary type of rabbi, deep-rooted in the territorial reality of his provincial community, who never left his city during the whole span of his active life. Morais is one of the last and renowned examples of an Italian port Jewish rabbi, in the line of David Nieto or Raphael Meldola before him, who was widely traveled (Morais was born in Livorno, lived in London, then moved to the United States in 1851. He is best known as the principal founder of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York in 1886). By the turn of the century, both types would be outdated by the radical demographic and cultural changes undergone by Italian Jewry. Ironically, Mortara and Morais had been illustrious authors who corresponded in the traditional manner of scholarly exchange at the precise historical period during which, at the end of nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, the postcard was disrupting the dynamics of intellectual sociability that were built through the erudite letter.
This photograph of Jerusalem, found in the Lenkin Family Collection of Photography at the Library at the Katz Center, was taken by an anonymous photographer, probably after 1898. It was taken from the east, from a point at the top of the Mount of Olives, whose lower slopes, with some olive and pine trees, are visible in the lower portion of the photograph. The picture is divided into two almost equal parts, the sky above and the land below. The southern and eastern walls of the city bound the built-up area, dominated by the golden cupola of the Dome of the Rock, with the south eastern corner of the wall in the exact center of the picture. Only the minarets and church spires break into the skyline. Below the eastern wall, between the brighter built-up area and the Mount of Olives, is the Valley of Joshaphat, hinted at, rather than seen, in the dark. The sky, loaded with heavy clouds, dominates the scene, rendering the city a spiritual idea, an emblematic space, in which the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly city become one.
During the last decades of the nineteenth century, individual Ottoman Jews began to make their way to the United States in search of economic opportunity. Among them were merchants who sold their wares at the world's fairs held in Philadelphia, Chicago, and St. Louis in 1876, 1893, and 1904, respectively, only to remain in the country and try their luck at earning a living in the New World. By the first decade of the twentieth century, the numbers of Jews entering the United States from Ottoman lands skyrocketed. The new waves of emigration were propelled by a number of factors, including a new universal military conscription law announced by the Ottoman government following the "Young Turk" revolution of 1908, the expulsion of Italian Jewish subjects long resident in the empire during the Italian-Ottoman War of 1911, the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, compulsory military conscription in Greece in 1916, and a massive fire that devastated the historic Jewish quarter of Salonica in 1917.
These and various other factors, including the continued search for economic betterment as well as political
By this time, Jews of Ottoman origin had formed communities in various cities across the United States, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Chicago, and Philadelphia, although the greater New York area remained the epicenter of the new Ottoman Jewish émigré populations. These communities settled in particular districts and established various religious institutions and places of leisure of their own, often organizing themselves according to their cities of origin in the Old World. At the same time, a Ladino newspaper, La Amerika, offered the new Judeo- Spanish-speaking immigrants among them a shared, virtual community by 1910.
Within a year, a number of self-appointed leaders of these new Jewish immigrant groups joined forces with communal elites from the established Jewish communities of New York to create an organization they hoped would attend to the particular needs of the Greek-, Arabic-, and Ladino-speaking Jews who had recently arrived in the United States from the Ottoman Empire and its successor states in southeastern Europe. Although the organization was founded as "The Federation of the Oriental Jews of America" in 1912, the founders had drafted a proposed constitution for their fledgling organization already in 1911: an original typescript copy of this document forms part of the Arnold and Deanne Kaplan Collection of Early American Judaica at the Library at the Katz Center in Philadelphia. In this text, we get a glimpse of the concerns of the organization's founders, who sought to accelerate the assimilation of the recent Levantine Jewish immigrants to the United States by offering night classes in English, while also discouraging any political debates that might alienate the new immigrants from one another, or from their new government.
One of the most unusual places for publication of Jewish art, Skizzen aus Litauen, Weissrussland und Kurland (1916), is dedicated to the infantry of General Erich Ludendorf. The experience of war and destruction paradoxically also served German Jewish soldiers to "discover" Eastern European Jews.
Working for the press office of the German Army Supreme Command for the East, the German writer Herbert Eulenberg and German Jewish artist Hermann Struck created a wide canvas of Lithuanian farmers as well as Latvian and Polish women and men. They detailed in broad strokes the Jews of Eastern Europe.
Struck's images illustrate, within the appearance of an individual, the fate of Jews in the Diaspora. Image and text pay homage to Amsterdam and the art of Rembrandt, whom Struck had encountered when traveling to Amsterdam. The books's illustrations draw attention to encounter, traveling, and exploration as important facets of Jewish cultures and creativity.
In the introduction to his 1954 book Durkh umbakante lender Hayyim Shoshkes relates a
childhood memory of the family gathered over dinner and listening to his father read
aloud from a newspaper report about the latest skirmishes in the Spanish-American War. The six-year-old future travel writer
was particularly taken by the account of Cuba's beauty and the illuminated
entryway to Havana
At night I dreamed that my wooden horse that stood right next to my bed, took on another form, became large and began to move. . . . Wings sprouted from the horse's back and it became like a creature called Pegasus found in my picture book. I sit on him and he carried me to unfamiliar Cuba, I am lifted higher and higher and fly over the ruins of the Land of Israel and the temples of Baghdad, the city of my storybooks. . . . I fly ever farther, cut through a forest filled with wild animals and jump up with a frightful scream. . . . Next to me stands my father, holds and comforts me. I tell him my dream and he says: "That means, my child, that you will sprout wings, you'll travel a lot, you'll see a great deal! This was a good dream, you have nothing to be afraid of."
Avraham Shoshkes's prophecy did come to pass and for a good forty years his son Hayyim or Henry
Shoshkes's literary talent was undiluted, his writerly ambitions entirely devoted to journalism. But
what most distinguishes Shoshkes's oeuvre from Hirshbein's is how closely
tied his journeys were to Jewish relief work, and how preoccupied the writing to the social, political, and economic situation
of Jews far removed from the center of their people's lives
Lender in shtet is Shoshkes's first compilation, based on travel accounts he wrote
between 1924 and 1927. The book is divided into nine sections each devoted to a
different region and begins with a five short pieces on the World Exposition in Wembley. Included in the book are reportages
that appear over and again in his writings
These four portraits of Yemenite Jews in Mandate Palestine come from a collection of approximately 1,250 Holy Land postcards at the library at the Katz Center. The collection was begun during the 1930s by Gualtiero Cividalli, a Florentine Jewish businessman who took his family to Palestine following the rise of fascism in Italy. His daughter Paola continued to build the collection along with many other images and texts related to the Holy Land. Paola and her husband Bertrand Lazard donated these postcards, as well as hundreds of books and maps about the Holy Land, to the Penn Libraries in 2010.
The Paola and Bertrand Lazard Holy Land collection abounds in images of sites holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, but there are surprisingly few portrait postcards. The fact that what few portraits appear in the collection are most often of Jews from Yemen reveals what has been called the "gaze" of the observer. This term is often found in post-colonial studies and critiques of Orientalism which analyze the problems and questions arising from the way the non-western world and its inhabitants have been represented, constructed, and re-constructed in the photographs taken of them by western travelers. Instead of focusing on the "gaze" of the "western" observer, however, here we have an opportunity to think about the gaze of those being observed.
Notice that the only figure actually looking at us [the observers], in an amalgamation of sadness and rebuke, is the male. The gazes of the three women represented in these postcards as Yemenite are not turning their eyes to look at us. It is as if they were exotic curiosities staged for display. The absence of their direct look can be understood as a result of their shyness, modesty, and religious or cultural restrictions. It can also be understood instrumentally, assuming that the focus of these photographs is the Yemenite garments or handcrafts and not the women as subjects. This juxtaposition exposes the additional problematic layer of women's representation compared to that of men. Women more than men served, and still do, as objects to observe; it is not just the quantity but also the quality of the representation. Devoting my work to extracting women's voices has made me listen frequently to what seems at first like silence, but then echoes multiple voices. Engaging with these Yemenite women's "non-gazes" can make us, the observers, see them as objects, but it can also force us to look inside ourselves. Indirect-gaze observation results here in an "about face" that may make us feel uncomfortable and can force us into self-reflection. This self-reflection offers a way to "ask" these women to turn their faces and direct their gaze toward the camera so we can look into their eyes and see not just ourselves but also them.
The short film (11 minutes) "The Land of Israel" (AKA "The Wedding") was made during the 1930s. Following the tradition of the travelogue, the film focuses on events and places that took place in pre-state Israel during a visit that lasted a few months. The footage has no voice-over to accompany the visual, but the traveler's authoritative official tone and his emphases are present through the captions, that divide the photographed pilgrimage into a few chapters, each one dealing with a different place or event. Among them are: We Enter Haifa Port; Jerusalem: A Panorama of the Old City; A Wedding in the Holy City; and Wilderness of the Desert. The black and white images with their hallucinatory quality produce an interesting mélange of reality and dream, while the images themselves are occasionally in a dialogue with the existing imagery of the Holy Land as a primordial landscape, especially those of Jerusalem and the desert (see for example the drawings of David Robert).
Travel and cinema have a long history, dating back to the late nineteenth century, to the very inception of the cinematic medium. Travel developed as an intrinsic form of cinema, consonant with common expressions and coinings such as "travelling shot" which has to do with shooting within a movement, and the term "motion picture" itself. While film and photography were developed in tandem with industrialized modes of transportation (trains, automobiles etc.) the journey became one of cinema's most popular tropes (see Jeffrey Ruoff, 2006). From The Arrival of a Train at la Ciotat (Lumière Brothers, 1885) and The Voyage to the Moon (Georges Méliès, 1902) to Description of a Struggle (Chris Marker, 1960), La Bas (English title Down There, Chantal Akerman, 2006) and The Band's Visit (Eran Kolirin, 2007) the journey has been developed not only as a genre that was produced by the grand studios, but also as a tool for documentation and expression by independent filmmakers and individuals who made travelogues, home-movies, and filmed diaries, using non-professional equipment. In this sense, "The Land of Israel" is an early and rare example of such a documentation. But despite the individual quality of this production, it seems that the film is produced in line with the norms of the nonfiction films of its period, as well as the Zionist movement. Thus it creates an account in which the objective "voice of truth" (Roland Barthes, 1970) of his journey prevails, while dealing with "the Land of Israel" as part of the "grand narrative" of return.
Following Zali Gurevitch, we may observe two types of time: the "big time" of Jewish tradition and history, and the "small time" of the everyday. The "Israeli present," says Gurevitch, "resists the present, denies the everyday. Not that there is no everyday: there is a routine, [...] but as a cultural articulation or experience it remains open, like a book which refuses to be finished." (2007: 84, my translation). Interestingly, the short film focuses mainly on events and occurrences that belong to the "big time" of Jewish holidays and pre-state Israel, such as the Festival of Purim in Tel Aviv; the Tu Bishvat holiday; and Succoth. In this context, human figures and faces are present in the film most of the time as part of the "big events:" that of the wedding, the Purim festivity, and the announcing of the start of the Sabbath in a Jerusalem street. However, some other moments emerge along the traditional "big time" - those depicting daily life, which also include some local faces: the women bathing in the Dead Sea, seen from a distance, and the smiling faces of two young religious boys from Mea She'arim that will reappear thirty years later both in the film made by a French director Chris Marker
Interestingly, the filmmaker did not sign his name in the film. All we know is that he was a Hebrew Union College rabbinical student whose family name was Green.
Shimon Tzabar (1926-2007) was an Israeli artist, poet and journalist whose travel account How I
Discovered Africa was published in 1958, just as Israel
Nevertheless, while Tzabar's sense of adventure and his beautiful ink drawings echo the colonial
discursive and visual tradition which marks these "earlier" journeys, his real
achievement lies in his ability to transcend the familiar stock of derogatory stereotypes. It is telling that, following the 1967
war, Tzabar was one of the first to denounce the Israeli occupation: exiled in London,
he founded a satirical journal called Israel Imperial News
The commemorative visitors' book at the Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site in Jerusalem offers distinctly symbolic Jewish surfaces on which visitors write and from which they read. Visitors' entries suggest a powerful connection between two symbolic systems, the first associated with Jewish belief and practices, and the second associated with Zionism as a national Jewish movement. This connection is not new, but the volumes' interactive surfaces suggest highly ritualistic practices of both writing and reading, whereby visitors perform in a few words, usually accompanied by an image, how these systems of symbols come together in creating an identity and alignment with National Israeli commemoration.
Contemporary Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land are often guided by Jewish-Israeli tour guides, whose performances mediate between Christian believers and their sacra. While guides specialize in telling seductive stories of the sites, they are often caught up in their own performances in ways that affect them outside the frame of the tour. In the top photo, a Jewish guide provides the introduction to a Christian pilgrimage prior to their entrance into St. Anne's Church in Jerusalem.
Panoramic viewing of places mentioned in Scripture, accompanied by Bible readings, help constitute ways of seeing, especially for Protestant pilgrims to the Holy Land. The Jewish guide plays an important role in shaping this vision, by tracing out the group's walking path through landmarks referenced in scripture, here (bottom photo) from the Mount of Olives. His display of familiarity with the Biblical text and the Hebrew language mark him as authoritative witness and endow him with a spiritual role in the voyage.