Monday, August 31, 2020

Clarifying Herodotus on "Palestine"

Every Arab and pro-Palestinian will quote Herodotus to "prove" that the "original" name of this country called Eretz-Yisrael was "Palestine".*  You can read: 

The name “Palestine” first appeared in Herodotus’ 5th century BCE histories to describe the coastal area of the Levant where the Philistines lived

So the name did not start with the Romans and Herod but from a Greek text.

But let's quote Herodotus, I:105:

The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine 


Thence they went on to invade Egypt; and when they were 
in Syria which is called Palestine
(ἐνθεῦτεν δὲ ἤισαν ἐπ᾽ Αἴγυπτον. καὶ ἐπείτε ἐγένοντο ἐν τῇ Παλαιστίνῃ Συρίῃ)

But that continues so:

and as they retreated, when they came to the city of Ascalon in Syria,

Is "Palestine" a separate country or a region and is it in Syria?

In III:5, we read,

Now by this way only is there a known entrance to Egypt: for from Phenicia to the borders of the city of Cadytis belongs to the Syrians who are called of Palestine, and from Cadytis, which is a city I suppose not much less than Sardis, from this city the trading stations on the sea- coast as far as the city of Ienysos belong to the king of Arabia, and then from Ienysos again the country belongs to the Syrians as far as the Serbonian lake

Obviously, the geography of then is not continguous today. That 464 BCE text filtered down to the Romans.

There are other assumptions as this
As early as the Histories of Herodotus, written in the second half of the fifth century B.C.E., the term Palaistinê is used to describe not just the geographical area where the Philistines lived, but the entire area between Phoenicia and Egypt—in other words, the Land of Israel. Herodotus, who had traveled through the area, would have had firsthand knowledge of the land and its people. Yet he used Palaistinê to refer not to the Land of the Philistines, but to the Land of Israel. His understanding of the geographical extent of Palestine is reflected in his reference to the population of Palaistinê as being circumcised. However, the Philistines, as we know from the Bible, were uncircumcised. The Israelites, of course, were circumcised. Herodotus seems to have known about the Jewish people and their history because he mentions the destruction of Sennacherib’s army by an act of God. This can only be the same natural disaster that relieved Jerusalem of the Assyrian siege in the late eighth century B.C.E. (see 2 Kings 19-35–36)...the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, who lived in the early first century C.E., occasionally uses the name Palestine when referring to the Land of Israel of his day. For example, he remarks that a considerable proportion of Palestinian Syria is occupied by the populous nation of the Jews...The striking similarity between the Greek word for “wrestler” (palaistês) and the name Palaistinê—which share seven letters in a row, including a diphthong—is strong evidence of a connection between them. Adding to this the resemblance of Palaistinê to Peleshet, it would appear that the name Palestine was coined as a pun on Israel and the Land of the Philistines. In Greek eyes, the people of Israel were descendants of an eponymous hero who was a god wrestler (a palaistês);

In any case, it was not an Arab country until the area was invaded and conquered by Arabs Moslems in 638 CE. Indeed, there are those who seek

to accord [Arab] Palestinians exclusive rights to antiquity and indigeneity in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, while at the same time maintaining their Arab heritage. The obvious problem with this is that the Palestinian people quite clearly trace their origins to seventh-century Arabia. It is true that there had been an Arab presence in parts of the territory prior to this, but there is little in contemporary Palestinian identity which demonstrates continuity of any kind with the ancient peoples who inhabited the land—Canaanites, Philistines, or Israelites. 

* A detailed example and a counter argument: 

It was during the former period that Masalha’s star witness, Herodotus, famously described the land of Palestine. Masalha suggests that Herodotus “uses the term in its wider sense and not merely in reference to Philistia, or the coastal strip of the land from Carmel to Gaza, but also the interior of the country (Herodotus 1841: 135) … Herodotus not only mentions Palestine as an autonomous district of Syria but describes it geographically, as the country we know today, but also including some adjoining areas in the Sinai and the north, as well as in the area east of the river Jordan.” There are a number of problems with this. For one thing, there’s no consensus among the scholars as to the accuracy of Herodotus’s writing; in any case, his writings strongly suggest that he only visited the coastal plain. During the Persian and Ptolemaic periods, the official name for the area was Coele-Syria, with Judaea the official name for the part of the country where Jews were a majority. Herodotus specifically refers to the peninsula running from Phoenicia beside the sea by the way of Syrian Palestine: “The region I am describing skirts our [Mediterranean] sea, stretching from Phoenicia along the coast of Palestine-Syria till it comes to Egypt, where it terminates.” Clearly, Herodotus is describing the coastal plain of present-day Israel and Gaza. Masalha does not cite any sources in support of his claim that Herodotus is “describing it as the country we know today,” or that “Herodotus’ conception of Palestine included the Galilee.”

Friday, August 28, 2020

From the Archives of the Sursuqs

I chanced upon this article, The Private Archives of the Sursuq, A Beirut Family of Christian Notables, published in 2009. They were one of the original Beirut aristocratic “Seven Families” along with the Bustros, Dagher, Hasbini, Fayad, Fernaine, Trad, and Tueni families. In the Palestine Mandate, there were "Notable Families" (see also here).

Anyone who has read/studied early Zionist history knows the name. The family had extensive land holdings hroughout the Ottoman Empire in the Eastern Meditteranean area and sold property to Zionists. For example:

the Palestine Land Development Company focused on consummating the transfer of some 65,000 dunams of land in the Jezreel Valley owned by the Sursocks. On 18 December 1918, the PDLC concluded an agreement with Nagib and Albert Sursock for the purchase of 71,356 dunams in the Jezreel Valley, including Tel Adashim.

Whole villages were able to be purchased as they were worked by tenant families

 From evidence presented to the Shaw Commission of 1930

And here is a Hebrew resource n their holdings, especially in the Palestine Mandate area. By the way, the 186o palace built by Moïse Sursock was severely damaged in the recent Beiut port blast.

In any case, the claim the "Zionists are European foreigners" resonates here. The Sursuq family is Greek Orthodox and originated in Mersin in the Anatolia area, arriving in Beirut in the early 18th century

In that article above on the archives, "Palestine" doesn't appear although many cities in the country are mentioned. Perhaps because they were part of "Syria" and not any "Palestine", which existed as a region but not a country?

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Fifty Years to Our Aliyah - Part Two

We continue our first year of our Aliyah to Israel, fifty years ago. First installment is here.

First of all, my wife has a post up, here. And now a second here.

Secondly, found more pictures.

Our cabin on the ship was crowded as we even had to store some things we brought in the shower stall. And next door was a woman who was constantly seasick and her regurgitations came through quit audibly. But there was lots of food. One whole dining room was kosher and about 50 of us ate at an added Kosher section in another dining hall. It turned out our waiter had a Jewish mother although he considered himself Greek Orthodox but his genes were an advantage and although deserts were limited choices, we got them all.

This must have been for Shabbat

After the Greeks put on a folk heritage program, members of the youth movements got together and we managed to put on a singing and dancing program (try making leaps when the floor ever so slightly dips and then comes up in mid-leap). 

As I wrote, my wife did the laundry by hand that first year at the Betar Student Hostel, with an open courtyard for the first few months, and this is how she did the drying:

Later, when it was covered, I climbed up on to the roof. Once, I forgot to take my underwear down when a hamsin hit Jerusalem with all that yellow Sahara sand and my private parts were itchy for weeks.

Here's the view shortly before we arrived, from the east looking west, from where Shonei Halachot is now towards Jews' Street:

Here is the second floor as seen from The Jews Street:

It served as the Lubinsky Position in the 1948 war.

When a phone was installed, we had to run "outside" first (remember, we were in an upstairs apartment and the roof was not yet up) and then downstairs and if it was raining, we either got wet or had to grab a raincoat.  Actually, for the first two months or so, the telephone to use was the one at the Post Office near the Jaffa Gate, across from the Kishleh Police Station as receiving a phone took time in the 'old days'. To get there was a three-minute jog and we had to pre-arrange the times for the call.

Here is the result of another climb up to the roof of the Omariyah School, adjoining the northern wall of the Temple Mount.  Why? The view:

In another of my Temple Mount actions, on the 17th of Tammuz (actually, the 18th as it was a "delayed" fast) I was a bit unceremoniously removed for attempting to pray there:

Yes, that is me getting the old heave-ho and at the gate, I was tossed out, just like in the Westerns when the bad guy goes out the saloon door. In another action, on the Fast of Esther, I had the Majlis Gate door (it is huge; over 4 meters high) almost slammed on my hand (it did make contact with my hand but not as hard as could be, thankfully).

That first year my wife attended Hebrew Ulpan. One way for us walking out of the Old City from Plugat HaKotel Street was through the shuq, out of Damascus Gate and into town:

Another regular route was straight up David Street, out Jaffa Gate and through Mamilla (way before the mall), which I took, among other destinations, to get to the Arabic Ulpan I attended maybe for two months before dropping out. Only later did I find out most of the students in the Beginners Class, who I found so much more advance than I was, were in fact taking that class for the second or even third time. As for Mamilla, in fact, part of the old pre-1967 wall protecting the residents and shoppers from sniping by Jordanians on the walls was still there (picture below for illustration; just that part the arrow points to).

There was a wonderful conditory which had the best chocolate chocolate-filled cookies ever. In fact, we went to visit our friends the Millers who came on Aliyah a half year after us and I bought those cookies for us to share. Yehudit had a one-burner electric plate, I think, but n any case, it took a long time to wrm up some refreshments and not paying attention, I ate them all up.

Going back to our exit through the Damascus Gate, our first trip to Hebron, to the Military Compound to where the first resettlers moved after the Park Hotel, was done by taking an Arab taxi from Damascus Gate down to Hebron where we left off just outside the gate there.

Our next door neighbor, I noted, was Rav Moshe Segel, who blew the Shofar at the Western Wall in 1930 after it became "illegal" to do so. I met Rav Yitzhak Ginsburg who was married to Romemiah, the Rav's daughter. One piece of advice, among many that I received from Rav Segel was about naming children. My wife was pregnant and he told me that he named his children with unique names as Aligal, Yeshav'am, Uzit, Amisar and Tzafrira. He noted than his son closest to us in age was Yadon and when the Rav crosses the street and someone calls out 'Moshe', twenty people turn their heads.

"But when I call out 'Yadon', only my son responds."

I mentioned in the previous blog post that we were treated to a lift home from the Herut offices in town by Haim Corfu. Less than a year earlier, he was elected to the Knesset for the first time and later became a Minister. I guessed that his driver's license was recent as his driving could have, how shall I say, beneftted from some improvement. He, together with Moshe Nehmad, where I purchased electricity needs in town, were involved in the Cairns assassination (on Ralph Cairns). 

Nehmad, Iraqi-born, spent three months in Poland undergoing an Irgun commanders course run by the Polish Army in a camp just south of Andrichov (mentioned here and I blogged on the affair here).

Besides the Western Wall, praying was done usually at the Hitnachalut Moriah building. Founded in May 1968, the group was based on students and teachers at the Bayit Vegan Kiryat HaNoar school.

Also at the only synagogue not desecrated by the Arabs between 1948-1967, Torat Chaim.

Other items: I became a member of the first Residents Committee. I was approached by my 9th grade teacher at YeshivatChofetz Chaim in Forest Hills, Queens, Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein, who was then the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat HaTefutzot on Mount Zion, to intercede with Menachem Begin so they could possess legal weaponery for defense. The late Rav Yeshayahu Hadari, my Mishnayot teacher in 1966 at the Machon, then Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat HaKotel, came to pay a courtesy visit but actually to see if our religious behavior was equal to the Jewish Quarter's, that is, his  standards. He was relaxed to find me in charge and even joked that his name, Hadari, was a direct like to one of Betar's educational principles, Hadar. I found out that the Rav of the Kotel, Yehuda Getz, was a member of Betar in Tunisia and had been in that country's atillery corps which also explained a sum of money he was able to obtain for me at Purim time to provide for implements of self-defense against assaults by Arabs in the Quarter.

We met Menachem Begin in March 1971 by coincidence (I recall it was at the King David Hotel at which we stopped to use the toilet). My wife, Batya, was pregnant and I introduced myself, informed him that I was the director of the Betar Students' Hostel and if our child would be a boy, we would like him to be the sandak (she wasn't). And then, his eyes lit up and said, "Wait, are you the one the call Winkie?". I confrmed my nickname and he continued, "Well, you have regards from Nissan Teman."

Nissan, who passed away in January this year, one of my oldest and closest friends in Betar for 56 years, 

had happened to have chaperoned Begin around just two weeks earlier while he was in New York for a Bonds speaking tour (there was a taxi strike). Nissan was quite conversational and loquacious and during the ride to the airport he told Begin that if he ever ran into his friend Winkie, to please convey regards. Which Begin did.

I'll finish this installment off with my first meeting with Geula Cohen. She had heard (or read in that Haaretz article) that I had worked with Meir Kahane closely for the past two years as I had been head of Betar and then active in organizing demonstrations, what we in Betar called simply "activism". She had been in the US on behalf of the Soviet Jewry campaign in early 1968, at a Madison Square rally, and wanted to hear from me, first-hand and up close, some insight into JDL and Kahane.

I traveled down to her apartment then at Basel Street in Tel Aviv. We discussed matters, or rather I was interrogated for two hours. About thirty minutes in, she noticed I hadn't touched any of the food she had put out. "You think I don't keep kosher," she abruptly put it to me. "I'll have you know Rabbi [Moshe] Levinger and Chanan [Porat] eat here."

I ate.


Sunday, August 09, 2020

The Old Machon Campus

If you drop by Hezkiyahu Hamelech Street in Katamon, Number 15, you can see the location of the Mayanot educational institution.

But back in 1966-1967, it was the Machon L'Madrichei Chutz La'Aretz center (it moved there probably in 1949 as in 1948, it was held in Petah Tikva) where I lived for 5 months, ate and studied (there was a nearby secondary dorm building which, I understand, was more a lively place than ours). It used to be the Claridge Hotel during Mandate times, built by the Freij Family in the 193os. The Czech consul resided there in 1947-48.

From the Palestine Post October 27, 1947:

It was opposite Villa Regina where J.N. Stubbs, M.C., A/Commissioner for Lands & Surveys in the Mandate Palestine government (1921-1947), originally of the Legal Department, lived. In December 1948, the Palestine Post reported that its courtyards housed chicknes from the Girls' Training Farm formerly of North Talpiot.

Since one of my sons lives nearby with his wife and baby son, I've passed it more than I used to. And it brings back memories.

This was a lecture room, usually for arts & crafts, camping activities and games:

The complex behind that pre-fab lecture room:

The entrance to the inner courtyard, into which we once lifted up four steps a teacher's Volksvagen:

and where we danced

If you are unfamiliar with the area, the map location is #39 in David Kroyanker's book:

and today:

The main building of the administration offices, library, dining hall and some other learning rooms:

The Machon "provides leadership training for graduates of Zionist Youth Movements from around the world".

We were the 39th Session ('Machzor').


Two Crosses

Here is Foreign Mnister Abba Eban meeting Pope Paul VI in 1969:

It was 1969 in the Vatican.

The Pope has his cross prominently displayed. Eban is in a business suit. No Jewish identification.

Three years later, Geulah Cohen was visiting Italy. Her younger brother was an emissary there and it so happened that a visit for an interview with the Venice's Patriarch, Albino Luciani, was arranged.

She asked how to dress and was told that, among other things, the Cardinal would be wearing a cross as part of his attire and she shouldn't be surprised.  Geulah asked how large and was told it was big.

She immediately headed off for a Jewish souvenir store and purchased the largest Magen David she could find.

The result:

Six years later, that Cardinal became the Pope, John Paul I, if for only 33 days.


Thursday, August 06, 2020

Fifty Years to Our Aliyah - Part One

On Saturday night, September 5, the 5th of Ellul, after Shabbat was out, my wife and I, together with over 429 other Olim (see newspaper clip below), walked off the gangplank of the Queen Anna Maria which we had boarded in New York:

Just prior to boarding with my wife's sister (right) and my two cousins 
and my step-grandmother (far left)
(Credit: Nisan Teman)

It was a 12-day cruise from New York via Lisbon and Piraeus/Athens into the Haifa Port complex (I think we left New York on August 25) arranged ny the Jewish Agency's Aliyah Department.

We had arrived to Eretz-Yisrael. The bureaucracy began:

Both of us had been in Israel previously. I was on the year-long program of the Machon L'Madrichei Chutz La'Aretz 1966-1967 and Batya was at Machon Greenberg for a few months in 1969 (I failed at planning our wedding and asked she return early).

We were met by several Betarim, themselves studying at the Machon L'Madrichim, who assisted us with all what we had brought (a lot) and we went to Jerusalem. Our first night was at the old Machon location at Hizkiyahu Hamelech Street and then two or three more nights at the old Ron Hotel at Zion Square (now the Jerusalem Hostel). Shabbat meals we took at the two downtown restaurants open on Shabbat for people who pre-paid and presented the coupons, Sova on Hahistadrut, what is now the Superpharm, and Tarablus at the corner of Yafo and Strauss, where Super Adika is now.

From there we moved to our home for the next 10 months, the Betar Student Hostel in the Old City, corner of Rechov HaYehudim and Plugat HaKotel.

The Jewish Agency paid for moving all that we brought:

And towards our move to Bayit Vegan at the end of our first year, we got a "Sochnut bed"

That was our home, a 2-room apartment on the second floor, and where I was employed as director of the dorm. Betarim studying at the Hebrew University were the core along with a few others. Ben-Tzion Givoni and Aryeh Bechar had seen fit to give me the job.

The dorm soon became a hub of activity. We were involved in attempts to settle on the Land (my wife and I took a bus from the Arab bus station opposite Damascus Gate to just past Jalaoun Refugee Camp and walked back to the Army base of Bet El), 

(that's the late Yisrael Lederman to our left)

demonstrated for Soviet Jewry, we opposed the Left, entered the Temple Mount, and on and on. I became a Madrich in Jerusalem Betar:

My wife and I took a hike along Wadi Kelt. Spent first chag of Succot and then later Seder night with the Mageni family in the Military Governorship Compound in Hebron.  

At Chanukah we hosted a reunion of members of Brit Hashmonaim (at right: Batya, me, Rachel Segel and Rav Moshe Segel):

On Taanit Esther, there were contretemps when we were kicked out of the Temple Mount (I am at far left in picture below) and encountered some Arab who were displeased at our entry.

I served once a week as the Betar movement liason with the Machoniks. Attended lectures of Israel Eldad. And many demonstrations. I showed up at meetings of World Betar. Met with Geula Cohen to begin our 49 year relationship. Helped some people on the run. And our laundry the whole time was done by my wife, by hand. 

By the end of that eventful year, we were parents. On 29 Tammuz our first child, a daughter, was born. We moved to an apartment in Bayit V'Gan and I began to work at the Torah Culture Department of the Jerusalem Municipality, thanks to proteczia of Rav Segel, but moved on to the Public Relations Department of Shaare Zedek Hospital for the next four years under Elchanan Peles.  I also began my part-time stint at Geulah Cohen's Midrasha Leumit in Jerusalem supervised by her former husband, Emmanuel Hanegbi. We joined the Herut Movement and were driven back to the Old City by the late Haim Corfu (who had only earned his driving licence three weeks previously) and joined the Kuppat Cholim Leumit (pasting in a booklet the monthy pay receipts).

(To be continued)

UPDATE:   My wife's version.


Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Palestine - or Judah?


As reported by a "Correspondent With the British Forces In Palestine":

Within the country, the English advance is taken almost as a matter of course . The Jewish people have been counting on it for a year, and they show no exuberant enthusiasm now that their expectation has been fulfilled. They are more excited abou the formation of the Jewish regiment, of which tidings have reached them in a somewhat distorted form. They regarded it is a striking manifestation of the national spirit which is their peculiar pride, and they inquire anxiously when it will arrive in the country* to help drive the Turks from Galilee.  

Many imagined it was to come out under "General Jabotinsky, " the "general" being a prominent Russo-Jewish journalist who has had much to do with the promotion of the idea, but who holds in fact a far less exalted position in the unit. Probably many of the young men would be eager to join the ranks when the regiment arrives in the land; until then, the settlers agree that the redemption came just in time to save them and their colonies from ruin. 

*  The first units arrived in June 1918.


Monday, August 03, 2020

Were the Revisionists Founded in 1925 or 1923?

When did the Zionist faction led by Ze'ev Jabotinsky become known as the "Revisionists"?

In April 1925?

Or, perhaps earlier, in 1923?

Here, third line, at end:

and it continues:


Jabotinsky, in 1923, 'Made a Lot of Trouble'

From this archive:


Jabotinsky vs. Weizmann October 1920

From this archive:


A Communist's 1939 Attack on Jabotinsky

How bad can Jews attack Jews?

Here's an example selected from the column "Change the World" in The Daily Worker, December 21, 1939 by Mike Gold.

Gold was the pen-name of Itzok Isaac Granich, lifelong communist, novelist and literary critic. In 1930, he published his semi-autobiographical novel, Jews Without Money.

In the example, he attacks Ze'ev Jabotinsky, misinterpreting and misrepresenting the facts and circumstances of the Slavinsky/Petlura-Jabotinsky Agreement treated by JB Schechtman here.*

Here is Gold:

Anyway, the glee with which these Jewish reactionaries cooperate with the Ku Klux Klan-Dies Committee always reminds me of Jabotlnsky, leader of the extreme wing of the Zionists. This Jabotinsky, in the early days of the Bolshevik Revolution, hated Communism so much that he organized a Jewish Legion in Poland, and put it at the service of the White Guard General Petlura.

Jabotinsky, the Zionist and Soviet-hater, signed a mutual assistance pact with Petlura, also a Soviet-hater. But Petlura was not a Zionist.  In fact he was a bitter anti-Semite. He conducted some great and bloody pogroms of Jews. He slaughtered tens of thousands. That is how he paid off Jabotinsky. And that is the sort of pay Jews who stool-pigeon for Martin Dies can expect from him, too. Dies represents the emergence of American Fascism—a Ku Klux America. And Jews, trade unionists, Negroes, liberals and similar groups can expect no mercy from such an America when it comes.

If you read into this any contemporary echo, you may do so but on your own responsibility.

* Schechtman quotes Jabotinsky on this:

Wherever there is danger of Jewish pogroms, because of a conflict between two or more non-Jewish armed camps, I recommend an agreement to form a Jewish gendarmerie with all sides that will agree to the establishment of a Jewish gendarmerie. A Jewish gendarmerie with the White Army, a Jewish gendarmerie with the Red Army, a Jewish gendarmerie with the lilac and the pea-green army, if any; let them settle their quarrels, we shall police the towns and see to it that the Jewish population should not be molested.

And here is another view:

Much has been written about the so-called Jabotinsky-Slavinsky agreement of 1921 on the creation of a Jewish militia to defend the Jewish population on Ukrainian territory. Jabotinsky’s opponents denigrated him for concluding that agreement with Petliura’s representative, Maksym Slavinsky. The blame was undeserved. In making the agreement, Jabotinsky held fast to his tenet of Jewish self-defence, maintaining that Jews had to stop relying on others and protect themselves. This principled position, which he implemented in 1920 as commander of a Jewish self-defence force repulsing an Arab pogrom mob in Jerusalem, resulted in his imprisonment and banishment from Palestine by the British authorities.

As for Jabotinsky’s attitude to Petliura, who was blamed for pogroms during his rule, the Zionist leader explained that in defending the interests of the Jewish people he was prepared to speak with the devil himself. Subsequent historical events, such as Rabin’s handshake with Arafat in the White House in 1993, seem to justify this pragmatic view.