Mark Twain in the Holy Land

Mark Twain visited Israel in 1867, and published his impressions in Innocents Abroad.  He described a desolate country – devoid of both vegetation and human population:

“….. A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

He was amazed by the smallness of the city of Jerusalem:

“A fast walker could go outside the walls of Jerusalem and walk entirely around the city in an hour. I do not know how else to make one understand how small it is.”

And he described the Temple Mount thus:

“The mighty Mosque of Omar, and the paved court around it, occupy a fourth part of Jerusalem. They are upon Mount Moriah, where King Solomon’s Temple stood. This Mosque is the holiest place the Mohammedan knows, outside of Mecca. Up to within a year or two past, no christian could gain admission to it or its court for love or money. But the prohibition has been removed, and we entered freely for bucksheesh.”

Chapters 45-56 of Innocents Abroad can be read on Shechem.org.
More quotes from pilgrims to the Holy Land can be found on the COJS website.

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4 Comments on “Mark Twain in the Holy Land”

  1. Peter Es Says:

    How can one visit Israel in 1867, if it only came into existence in 1948?

  2. yman Says:

    Israel as a country existed for approximately 3320 years (too lazy to calculate the exact number). The modern state of Israel has existed since 1948. Chronology of Israeli presence in Israel:
    40 years after leaving Egypt, Israel conquers a large part of the east bank and enters the west bank. over 360 years pass until the first king is crowned. That period of time is called the period (or era or whatever) of the judges. During this time the Israelis enjoyed some periods of peace, but other times were dominated by their neighbors. The last judge, at the request of the people, crowned Shaul (English: Saul) as king. Shaul was succeeded by one of his Generals, David, who proceeded to conquer Syria, the Philistines, the Negev, and the rest of the East Bank. His son Shlomo (English: Solomon) built the first temple, in the place where the Omar mosque is now. He lost part of the Philistine land to Egypt, and the Syrians broke away from his rule. His son, Rehav’am, lost the northern half of his kingdom to a rebel leader named Yerov’am, thus splitting the nation of Israel in 2. The northern kingdom was called the kingdom of Israel, and was composed of 10 tribes, while the southern kingdom was called the kingdom of Judah and was composed of 2.5 tribes. The 2 kingdoms continued to exist side by side for another 200 years until the northern kingdom was overrun by the Assyrian empire and it’s inhabitants exiled. The kingdom of Judah continued to exist for another 130 years until it was overrun by Babylon and it’s inhabitants exiled. 50 years later, under Persian rule, the people were allowed to return to Israel and rebuild the temple. 40,000 did return immediately and begun rebuilding, but the project stalled and was only completed 18 years later. 214 years later, under Grecko-Assyrian rule the Jews rebelled and reestablished the Kingdom of Judah, which stood for 206 years until it and the Temple were destroyed by the Roman empire. 60 years later the Jews rebelled against the Roman empire, but the rebellion was crushed after 4 years. The Jewish population dwindled but still hung on to this day. Following the Dreyfus trial, a renewed movement of Jews, this time secular ones, began to return to Israel. Unlike all previous efforts, this one gained momentum and resulted in the establishment of the modern Israeli state.

    And that’s it in a nutshell.

  3. LDF Says:

    major omissions include but not limited too:

    ottoman rule
    balfour accords

    these benchmarks are more important than some of the above


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