The State of Israel and its capital Jerusalem are perennially in the news. Recently, Israel joyously celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War and, after nearly two decades when Jews could not visit their holiest site, the Western Wall, opened the holy places of all three Abrahamic religions to all their worshippers.
Yet again, a campaign promise sensibly to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv has, alas, been postponed, at best. What other capital is there in the world where nations that have full diplomatic relations with the government located there do not have their missions located there?
Long before creation of the Jewish state 69 years ago, Americans had a special interest in that part of the world. A century and a half ago, an 1867 cruise taking what must have been one of the earliest organized parties of American tourists to the Holy Land inspired Mark Twain’s early “The Innocents Abroad,” which remained his bestselling work during his lifetime as well as catapulting the future creator of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to international fame.
Originally Published by Jewlicious
Written by Gil Tanenbaum
From former diplomat Lenny Ben-David, “American Interests in the Holy Land” assembles classic photographs dating back 180 years which give us a look at what life was once like in Israel.
Lenny Ben-David, the author of “Myths and Facts,” served as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Israel’s Embassy in Washington, D.C. for three years, and has consulted for foreign governments and corporations. He currently works as Director of Publications at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
This isn’t just another collection of old photographs. It’s a brief history of Israel over a set period of time. And the pictures here give us a wonderful glimpse into what the country was once like.
Just think about where you live, especially if it’s a big city. Take Manhattan for example. Think of its skyline today and just try to imagine how it looked like just 100 years ago. Now try to think of Jerusalem when the first structures were built outside of the Old City walls in the late Nineteenth Century, or even at the time of Israel’s independence. None of the outer neighborhoods existed yet. There were no high rise office buildings or hotels in what became its downtown area.
So if you are familiar with the streets of Jerusalem as they are today, then you will be thrilled to see them as they once were. The best example of this comes at the end of the book: A color photograph of Robert Kennedy standing in the middle of a busy King David Street in April 1948. This picture also graces the book’s back cover.
Kennedy visited the country as a reporter for the now defunct Boston Post. His reports on the situation were critical of the American government for not offering more support for the Jewish community there which was about to establish the Jewish State. Jerusalem was already under siege by Arab armies as the British were rushing to pull out. A last minute diplomatic effort was in the works to scuttle the U.N. partition plan which allowed for the establishment of Israel. America’s Secretary of State at the time, the much revered General George Marshall, was a part of that initiative which fortunately failed.