- “A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey”: Visions of Israel from Biblical to Modern Times
The book “A Land Flowing with Milk and Honey”: Visions of Israel from Biblical to Modern Times is a varied collection of papers on the vision and image of the Land of Israel. Different authors depict for us views of settlers, as well as impressions of tourists and visitors, and even how dreamers and believers who never visited it imagined it. The fourteen essays in the collection treat diverse issues expressed in a number of historical eras ranging from the Biblical period to modern times. Variegated modes of expression are considered—for example, what are indicated or manifest in religious works, in archaeological findings, in the plastic arts, in poetry, in movies, even in photos taken by amateur photographers.
The book is divided into three main sections. Section I concerns various aspects related to the Biblical period; Section II presents artistic impressions and expressions; and Section III consists of two articles that deal with modern political and ideological issues.
To criticize such a wide-ranging group of papers is quite a challenge. As an historian who specializes in Zionist history, I have decided to comment on the essays more relevant to the modern era. I would like to present an additional viewpoint that touches upon the role of Jerusalem in the process of Jews returning to Eretz Israel and the reestablishment of an independent Jewish entity in the Land.
The holiness of Jerusalem and its position as a central component in the image of Eretz Israel is interwoven in many of the papers in the book. The central place of Jerusalem is clearly revealed in Mary R. Huie-Jolly’s “Another Jerusalem: Orientation to the Holy in a Dispersed Cosmos.” She informs us that even the Maori people in New Zealand adopted the myth of Jerusalem and constructed for themselves their own Jerusalem. Brannon Wheeler, in “The Land in Which You have Lived: Inheritance of the Promised Land in Classical Islamic Exegesis,” presents Jerusalem as one of the central motifs in classical Islamic belief. Rami Arav, on the other hand, in “Archaeology in the Service of Ideology in Israel,” states that the construction of Hebrew University on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem at the end of World War I was one of the most important events that symbolized the process of Jews returning to Eretz Israel and rebuilding the sovereign Jewish entity there. The title of Keith W. Whitelam’s essay, “Constructing Jerusalem,” speaks for itself. In an historical treatment, the writer takes into account maps, archaeology, and ideology in connection with the status of Jerusalem as a capital city in the ancient world.
Jerusalem is viewed from a different angle in the papers on the arts. For example, Ori Z. Soltes focuses on pictures and paintings of Jerusalem in his discussion of Israeli art. Elizabeth Snyder Hook notes that Else Lasker-Schuler entitled one of her poems, “Jerusalem.” Likewise, the works of artists such as E. M. Lilien and Hermann Struck [End Page 171] often dealt with Jerusalem. This is discussed in essays by Elisabeth Keil on Lilien, and by Michael Berkowits on Struck. In addition, personal pictures and experiences in Jerusalem comprise a major part of tourists’ and travelers’ memories of Jerusalem throughout the generations, from the 19th century, according to Burke O. Long’s “Parlor Tours of the Holy Land: Fantasy and Ideology in Stereographic Photos of Palestine,” up to the two-week bus tour of Israel by a USA Reform Temple group in 1996, that is described by Rebekah Sobel in “Imagineering Israel: (Re)Constructing History Through Travel Photographs.”
Although it is not stressed in the essay, “The View from the Right: From Jabotinsky to Netanyahu” by Colin Shindler, the desire that Jerusalem be an inseparable part of the Jewish state was one of the central issues that the Right struggled to ensure both within the framework of the Jewish settlement prior to the...