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IMPASSE IN THE :HOLY LAND· CL.ARrs · Eowr:N Sitcox JN a striking little book published in 1918 and entitled 'Jerusalem, ?ast and Present, Dr. Gaius Glenn Atkins traced the history of the holy city and made this striking summary: ln the ·2,900 years between 1000 B.c. and 1918 A.D., Jerusalem has been besieged and captured twenty-four times. Its walls have again and again been levelled. Its very site has been plowed and sown with salt. It has belonged to the ancient.-Canaanite, to the Jew, to the Greek, to the Roman, to the Syrian·, to the Chaldean, to the Arab, to the Turk, to Latin Europe, and to England. Blood enough has been shed there to brim all its reservoirs, deeds enough of shame and glory have been done there to make a record of mingled light and darkness never to be forgotten. It is associated with the faith of the Jew, the fanacicism of the Mohammedan and the adoration of the Christian. All the great religions: the great cultures, the great races' have met before its walls and striven to possess it. - Against such an historic setting, we must .seek to understand the significance of the present st1uggle for power in the Holy Land.· Here, as elsewhere, we cannot escape history, even though new factors may modify the complexion of the existing impasse, factors such as pipe-lines and the defence of the Suez Canal. But behind all this is the conflict between competing nationalisms, competing imperialisms, competing ideologiesall permeated· with religious fanaticism pursuing unholy methods of pro. moting what it deems a holy cause. I However we look at it, Palestine occupies a strategic pos1t10n. It is, perhaps, as much the centre of the world as any land can be. There, three continents-Asia, Africa, and Europe-converge. There, East and West meet, for though it is slightly east of Suez, it lies in that part of the East which gave us the Ten Commandments and powerfully influenced the course of Western civilization. In ancient times, the armies of empire moved across it repeatedly, -and its inhabitants had to keep a watchful eye on the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Seleucid rulers, the Persians, the Romans, the Ottoman Turks. Though it may have been partly pro;_ tected to the east and south by contiguous deserts, its fertility made it an object of envy. It was a land flowing ·with milk and honey. ·It is not to be wondered at that the children of Israel resolved to make it their own and regarded it as the ccpromised 'land." Before the First World War-so one story runs-the Kaiser said that whoever held Palestine 'COuld control the world: an exaggeration, perhapsJ but such a thesis could be supported. Once modernized, it might easily become a great entrepot ·of international trade; as a centre of communications (including airways) and defence, it has a great importance. · 123 124 THE UNIVERSITY _ OF TORONTO QUARTERLY Palestine had already been well settled when the trek of the children of Abraham began. Indeed~ Moses had specifically warned his followers t~ , . remember that they were being given. great and goodly cities which they had not built, houses full of good things which they had not filled, wells digged which they had ·not digged, vineyards and olive-trees which they had not planted. They were admonished to remember alJ this when they might be tempted to believe 'that their own power an·d the might of their own. ha~ds had gotten them this wealth. vVhat is more, the original in- , .habitants did not yieid their land to the lsraelitish invaders without a struggle. The conquest of Canaan was a long and tedious process. In that land, Israel, once installed, did evolve her own distinctive way· of life and those institutions and customs which have exercised, especially through Christianity, a tremendous influence on posterity. Our civilization is the joint legacy of Israel, Greece, and Rome and it might be argued that.. the greatest contribution to this legacy was that of Israel. Her supreme gift to posterity was her ethic'al monotheism, her repudiation of idolatry of all kinds, her...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 123-132
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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