The barren, empty land

Recently Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, said the following in a press interview.

“I remember how it all began. The whole state of Israel is a millimeter of the whole Middle East. A statistical error, barren and disappointing land, swamps in the north, desert in the south, two lakes, one dead and an overrated river. No natural resource apart from malaria. There was nothing here. And we now have the best agriculture in the world? This is a miracle: a land built by people” (Maariv, 14 April 2013).

It is just not true that Palestine was a ‘barren’ land before the Zionists came. During the Ottoman period Palestine exported soap, sugar, barley, oranges, and cotton throughout the empire. The latter part of the 19th century saw a large increase in citrus production, especially the Jaffa orange. This was a new variety developed by Arab farmers after emerging in the mid-19th century as a mutation on a tree of the Baladi variety near Jaffa. Exports grew from 200,000 oranges in 1845 to 38 million oranges by 1870, including to Europe. The citrus plantations of this time were primarily owned by wealthy Arab merchants and notables, rather than small farmers, as the fruits required large capital investments with no yield for several years. An 1872 account of Jaffa by a European traveler notes that, “Surrounding Jaffa are the orange gardens for which it is justly extolled, and which are a considerable source of wealth to the owners.”

I do not intend to downplay the contribution made by the incoming Jews to the development of Palestine, not least to the Jaffa orange industry. They brought capital and modern agricultural techniques. But they should admit that this was done in partnership with the Arab farmers on the basis of the farmers’ existing achievements. It should be noted that Jaffa, the port from which the oranges were exported, was an Arab town during the Mandate, and in the UN Partition Plan of 1947 was intended to be an enclave of the Arab state within the boundaries of the Jewish state.
[Source: Wikipedia page ‘Jaffa Orange’.]

The attempt by Peres to propagate the Zionist myth that they came to an empty and barren land is designed to deny the existence of the Palestinian people and their right to determination within their own land of Palestine. It is a metaphorical genocide.

Further information.

The following is an extract from the fascinating book Remembering and Imagining Palestine by Haim Gerber.

Towards the end of the century the pace of change grew fast and furious. The security of property and safety on the roads was enhanced at an unprecedented rate; economic activity accordingly speeded up and intensified. Economic relations with the West surged, in three areas especially. Large quantities of wheat from the Hawran were exported through Acre port; the large-scale and rapidly growing export of Jaffa oranges caused a major development of the town. Jaffa entrepreneurs, most of them Muslim Arabs, expanded their orange groves at a rapid pace, but not fast enough to meet European demand. A bottle-neck was water, of which not enough was for available irrigation. Undaunted, they advanced to the then cutting-edge of technology of raising water from wells by motor-pumps imported from Europe. It was indeed a mini-scale industrial revolution, defying endless mystifications about the mismatch between Islam and entrepreneurship. Finally barley was exported on a large scale from Gaza to the breweries of England.

Peres is an educated man. He must know the true history of Palestine. The “empty and barren land” is a despicable lie.

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About David Gerald Fincham

Retired academic scientist.
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  • Yishai_Kohen

    Jaffa oranges: Sounds like a lot until you actually plug in the numbers:

    It is said that very old, large orange trees in the Mediterranean area may bear 3,000 to 5,000 oranges each year.

    Even assuming more primitive agricultural techniques that yield far less and in younger trees; say 1000/year (which I see in peoples’ yards and in public parks in Israel)


    Citrus trees, including orange trees, are among the longest-lived fruit trees. When given proper care, they bear fruit for 50 years or more, according to Four Winds Growers. It’s not uncommon for healthy trees to live for more than a century. Trees planted in the ground produce fruit longer than container-grown orange trees.

    So you understand what “old” means.

    That would mean some 38,000 trees at the time.

    Now let’s assume that the trees are planted 5 meters from each other, which is a lot. Usually, they are closer together, so I am being generous here. This makes about 160 trees/acre.

    38,000 trees divided by 160 trees/acre = 237.5 acres total of planted orange trees.

    That is NOTHING. According to the USDA for 2011-12, Florida had 433,400 acres of oranges. Individual counties have 100 times as many planted acres- and yield.

    Read what Herman Melville wrote when he traveled across the land of Israel:

    – The Journals of Herman Melville (January, 1857)

    So of course the Arabs exported oranges. Even with such a small population in a barren land, there was excess.

    • Walk Tall Hang Loose

      This is a pathetic argument. The Jaffa oranges were specifically developed for export because of their thick skin, they are not ‘the excess’. I live surrounded by commercial orange groves. The trees are replaced after 25 years, and they certainly do not produce 5000 fruit per year each. This is using modern techniques, in very fertile soil, with irrigation. The comparison of 19th century Palestine with modern Florida is absurd.

      Carefully selected excerpts taken from the writings of carefully selected tourists are not evidence. You give an extract from the Royal Commission report dealing only with the track north from Gaza towards Jaffa, and then imply it applies to the whole of Palestine. This is dishonest. And the extract itself contradicts you, since north of Yaba there were orange groves, orchards and vineyards.

      The historical facts say there was a rapid economic expansion in Palestine in the second half of the nineteenth century; and that the Palestinian farmers built up a big industry exporting millions of Jaffa oranges, and also wheat and barley, to Europe. This was NOT a “barren and empty land” WAS IT? You and Peres are lying, ARE YOU NOT?

      Why are you so determined to denigrate and lie about the history of the Palestinian people? Why do you spend you time searching for scraps of writing that put them in a bad light? Why do you not read serious academic writers like Haim Gerber who do actual historical research? Why are you so full of hatred towards the people you have conquered?

      • Yishai_Kohen

        I understand: I cite academic articles and bring real proof, and you hurl empty phrases and nothingness.

        It’s a good thing that you didn’t try to make a career in academia.

        Why don’t you tell us all how many acres (or dunams) were planted? Can you do that?

        The land was barren. All travelers wrote that. Did you read what Melville wrote? It was the same as Mark Twain wrote, which was the same as everyone wrote.

        Economically, the fellah was generally in a state of chronic poverty and indebtedness to his absentee landlord, seed suppliers and money lenders, owing to a number of interrelated causes: poor soil, lack of water, poor means of communication with the towns, unsuitable marketing arrangements, frequent crop season failures, and an antiquated land system. Even before the first modern Jewish settlement, established in 1855, Palestinian Arab society was already socially fragmented between the peasantry and landowning interests. This became exacerbated after the Ottoman land reform in 1858.

        (Haim Gerber, The Social Origins of the Modern Middle East, Lynne Rienner, London, 1987, p.75 (‘Gerber).

        • Walk Tall Hang Loose

          60,000 dunums was the area of orange groves in 1928, according to the Wikipedia article. At 1000 sq.m to a dunum this evaluates to 6,000 Ha or 14,820 acres.

          Palestine, with low rainfall and no large rivers, historically could support only limited agriculture, and half of the country was barren desert. The other half was not, and in the late nineteenth century its farmers created an export industry in wheat, barley and oranges. The land was not barren and empty.

          Why do you have this compulsion to denigrate and belittle the Palestine people? There is only one explanation, and it begins with the letter ‘R’.

          • Veritas

            Those figures are from fifty years after the Jews brought technology and capital to the barren land.

            Again, all travelers accounts do say that the land was barren- and if you would read Melville’s account, he started where you erroneously claim it wasn’t barren. And he does say it’s barren there.

            Why do you have this compulsion to lie?

            And then because you can’t handle the truth, you blacklist me.

            Typical extremist you are. Freedom of speech exists only for those who tow the party line/lie. Intellectual honesty doesn’t exist.

          • Walk Tall Hang Loose

            Of those 60,000 dunums, half were owned by Arabs and half by Jews, though only 10,000 out of the 30,000 Jewish-owned dunums were in production.

            European travellers commented on the places they visited, from a European perspective. Mark Twain’s route took him through barren parts in the summer. That sort of anecdotal account cannot counter Gerber’s serious historical research.

            Anyway, we are not talking about the 1850’s: Gerber emphasises the economic growth of the second half of the century. I expect immigrant Jews contributed to that, and they are among the Palestinians you denigrate.

            You cannot reasonably say that a country which is exporting agricultural products, to Europe as well as its traditional markets in the Ottoman empire, is a “barren and empty land”.

            The desire by Peres and yourself to perpetuate this lie can only arise from an attitude of racism, and it is as a racist that you are blacklisted. Please do not come to my site again.

  • talknic

    It and Yishai_Kohen’s comments are completely irrelevant to the Internationally recognized sovereign extent of the State of Israel as it asked to be and was recognized May 15th 1948. “MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: I have the honor to notify you that the
    state of Israel has been proclaimed as an independent republic within
    frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its
    Resolution of November 29, 1947, and that a provisional government has
    been charged to assume the rights and duties of government for
    preserving law and order within the boundaries of Israel, for defending
    the state against external aggression, and for discharging the
    obligations of Israel to the other nations of the world in accordance
    with international law. The Act of Independence will become effective at
    one minute after six o’clock on the evening of 14 May 1948, Washington

    IOW it’s a nonsense justification for Israel’s illegal expansionist policies

  • Yishai_Kohen

    Consider this account from 1913, quoted in “The Report of the Palestine Royal Commission” (Pp. 233-234):

    The road leading from Gaza, to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts. This track was dry and open for travel in the summer months only. In the rainy season it was impassable.

    In the villages on both sides of the track and as far as the hills to the east no orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen until one reached Yabna Village. Trees generally were a rare sight in these villages. .’ . . Nor were there any vegetable gardens to be seen in any of these villages except at Jora on the sea (Asqalan). In the Hawakir around the villages-small plots fenced around by cactus hedge-one could find in the winter green onions and in the summer cucumbers and water melons.

    In all the villages dotting the plain between Gaza and Jaffa there was only one well in a village and in the smaller villages there were no wells at all. Not in a single village in all this area was water used for irrigation. ‘Water was scantily used for drinking purposes by man and beast.

    Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen. The roofs were of caked mud. Every house was divided in two parts-one part slightly elevated above the other. The family lived in the elevated part while in the lower part the cattle were housed. The cattle were small and poor. So were the chickens.

    The fields were sown with wheat, barley, kursena and lentils in the winter- and with dura and sesame in the summer. Fields used for summer crops one year were sown with winter crops the next year, and so in rotation. The ploughs used were of wood. European ploughs were not known in the whole area, Not a village could boast of a cart. Sowing was done by hand; harvesting by the scythe and threshing by animals. Fields were never manured.

    The lands were all held in masha’a ownership. Every second year the fields were measured by stick and rope and distributed among the cultivators. Division of land always led to strife and bloodshed.

    The yields were very poor, Wheat yield never exceeded 67 kgms. per dunum and barley about roe kgms. per dunum. The wheat yield went to Government in payment of tithe and to the effendi in payment of interest on. loans. The fellah himself made his bread from dura:

    The sanitary conditions in the villages were horrible. Schools did not exist and the younger generation rolled about in the mud of the streets. The rate of infant mortality was very high. There was no medical service in any of the villages distant from a Jewish settlement. In passing a village one noticed a large number of blind, or half-blind persons. Malaria was rampant.

    • Walk Tall Hang Loose

      Please see the further information I have added to this article. If you have any interest in truth rather than propaganda, you should read the book referred to in the article, by a serious historian who is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

  • Yishai_Kohen

    …Crossed the plain of Sharon in sight of mountains of Ephraim. Arrived at Ramla & put up at alleged (hotel). At supper over broken crockery & cold meat, pestered by moschits & fleas, dragoman said, “Dese Arab no know how to keep hotel” I fully assented. After horrible night, at 2 in the morning in saddle for Jerusalem. The three shadows stalking on the plain by moonlight. Moon set, all dark. At day-break found ourselves just entering the mountains. Pale olive of morning. Withered & desert country. Breakfast by ruined mosque–Cave. Hot & wearisome ride over the arid hills.– Got to Jerusalem about 2 P.M. Put up at Meditterranean hotel. Kept by a German converted Jew, by name, . Hotel overlooks on one side Pool of Hezekiah (balconies) is near the Coptic Convent, is on the Street called Street of the Patriarchs leading out of Street of David. From platform in front of my chamber, command view of battered dome of Church of Sepulchre & Mount Olivet. Opposite house is open space, ruin of old Latin Convent, destroyed by some enemy centuries ago & never since rebuilt. Landlord pointed out the damaged dome, as beginning of the war with Russia. Still in same state as then. Walked out to the North of the city, but my eyes so affected by the long days ride in the glare of the light of arid hills, had to come back to hotel.

    …Rode from Ramlah to Lydda. A robbery of a village near by, by party of Arabs, alarms the whole country. People travel in bands. We rode to Lydda in train of the Governor’s son. A mounted escort of some 30 men, all armed….

    Barrenness of Judea

    Whitish mildew pervading whole tracts of landscape–bleached– leprosy–encrustation of curses–old cheese–bones of rocks,– crunched, knawed, & mumbled–mere refuse & rubbish of creation –like that laying outside of Jaffa Gate–all Judea seems to have been accumulations of this rubbish. So rubbishy, that no chiffonier could find any thing all over it.—-You see the anatomy–compares with ordinary regions as skeleton with living & rosy man.–No moss as in other ruins–no grace of decay–no ivy–The unleavened nakedness of desolation–whitish ashes–lime-kilns Crossed elevated plains, with snails, that tracks of slime, all over– shut in by ashy hills–wretched sheep & black goats. –Arab- Bedouin encampment in hollow of high hills–oval–like two rows of hearses–Brook Kedron–two branches–St. Saba–zig-zag along Kedron, sepulchral ravine, smoked as by fire, caves & cells– immense depth–all rock–enigma of the depth–rain only two or 3 days a year–wall of stone on ravine edge–Monastery (Greek) rode on with letter–hauled up in basket into hole–small door of massive iron in high wall–knocking–opened–salaam of monks –Place for pilgrims–divans–St Saba wine–“racka”–comfortable.–At dusk went down by many stone steps & through mysterious passages to cave & trap doors & hole in wall–ladder– ledge after ledge–winding–to bottom of Brook Kedron–sides of ravine all caves of recluses–Monastery a congregation of stone eyries, enclosed with wall–Good bed & night’s rest–Went into chapel &c–little hermitages in rock–balustrade of iron–lonely monks. black-birds–feeding with bread–numerous terraces, balconies–solitary Date Palm mid-way in precipice Good bye– Over lofty hills to Bethalem.–on a hill–old chapel of Helena– (Passed over Bethalem hills–where shepherds were watching their flocks, (as of old) but a Moslem with back to Jerusalem (face to Mecca) praying.–In chapel, monk (Latin) took us down into cave after cave,–tomb of saints–lights burning (with olive oil) till came to place of Nativity (many lamps) & manger with lights. View from roof of chapel &c.–Ride to Jerusalem–pressing forward to save the rain.–On way to Bethelam saw Jerusalem from distance– unless knew it, could not have recognized it–looked exactly like arid rocks.


    –houses facing the wall–Zion. Their park, a dung-heap.–They sit by the gates asking alms,–their whine– avoidance of them & horror. –Jehosophat–Hinnom &c. –women panting under burdens–me with melancholy faces. –till I began to think myself one of the possessed with devels. –with stairs like pulpit &c. “Multitudes, Multitudes” ill the Valley of Hinnom. (tradition authorized by scripture) Stones about Absalom’s tomb–grave-stones about Zachariah’s. . Broken dome–Anointing stone lamps– dingy,–queer smell–irregular–caves–grots–Chapel of Finding of the Cross. Pilgrims–chatting–poor–resting Armenian Convent–Large–pilgrims. Hill-side view of Zion–loose stones & gravel as if shot down from carts

    [The mind can not but be sadly & suggestively affected with the indifference of Nature & Man to all that makes the spot sacred to the Christian. Weeds grow upon Mount Zion; side by side in impartial equality appear the shadows of church & mosque, and on Olivet every morning the sun indifferently ascends over the Chapel of the Ascension.

    [The South East angle of wall. Mosque of Omar– Solomon’s Temple. Here the wall of Omar rises upon the foundation stones of Solomon, triumphing over that which sustains it, an emblem of the Moslem religion, which at once spurns that deeper faith which fathered it & preceded it. &c.

    [How it affects one to be cheated in Jerusalem.

    [The old Connecticut man wandering about with tracts &c–knew not the language–hopelessness of it–his lonely batchelor rooms –he maintained that the expression “Oh Jerusalem!” was an argument proving that Jerusalem was a byeword &c.

    [Warder Crisson of Philadelphia–An American turned Jew–divorced from former wife–married a Jewess &c–Sad. [The strange arches, cisterns, &c you come upon about Jerusalem– every day discovered something new in this way.

    [Siloam–pool, hill, village. (Here, at narrow gorge begins Vale of Kedron &c. Village, occupying the successive terraces of tombs excavated in the perpendicular faces of living rock. Living occupants of the tombs–household arrangements. One used for an oven. Others for granaries.—

    [In Jehosophat, Jew grave stones lie as if indiscriminately flung abroad by a blast in a quarry. So thick, a warren of the dead–so old, the Hebrew inscriptions can hardly be distinguished from the wrinkles formed by Time. Shapeless stone &c. — (See over leaf) Side by side here tombs of Absolom, Zachariah & St: James. Cut out of live rock in Petra style. St: James a stone verandah over-looking the gorge–pillars.–Jehosophat, shows seams of natural rock–capitals of pilasters rubbed off by Time.–Large hole in front –full of stones inside, heap of stones (cart loads) before it–The maledictory contribution of the pilgrim, one of the melancholy amusements of Jerusalem. (See Bible for origin of Tomb) To be stoned is his memorial.–The grave stones project out from the side-hill, as if already in act of resurrection. At distance hardly tell them from natural rock which lies profusely around. The stones climb midway up Olivet. Opposite, the cemetery of the Turks–close up to walls of the city, & barring the way of the closed arches of the Beautiful Gate.–both Jew & Turk sleeping in another faith than that of Him who ascended from the nigh Olivet.–The city besieged by army of the dead.–cemeteries all round.—

    [The Beautiful, or Golden, Gate–two arches, highly ornamental sculpture, undoubtedly old, Herod’s Time–the Gate from which Christ would go to Bethany & Olivet–& also that in which he made his entry (with palms) into the city. Turks walled it up because of tradition that through this Gate the city would be taken.–One of the most interesting things in Jerusalem–seems expressive of the finality of Christianity, as if this was the last religion of the world,– no other, possible.

    [In pursuance of my object, the saturation of my mind with the atmosphere of Jerusalem, offering myself up a passive subject, and no unwilling one, to its weird impressions, I always rose at dawn & walked without the walls. Nor so far as escaping the pent-up air within was concerned was I singular here. For daily I could not but be struck with the clusters of the townspeople reposing along the arches near the Jaffa Gate where it looks down into the vale of Gihon, and the groups always haunting the neighboring fountains, vales & hills. They too seemed to feel the insalubriousness of so small a city pent in by lofty walls obstructing ventilation, postponing the morning & hasting the unwholesome twilight. And they too seemed to share my impatience were it only at this arbitrary limitation & prescription of things.–I would stroll to Mount Zion, along the terraced walks, & survey the tomb stones of the hostile Armenians, Latins, Greeks, all sleeping together. –I looked along the hill side of Gihon over against me, and watched the precipitation of the solemn shadows of the city towers flung far down to the haunted bottom of the hid pool of Gihon, and higher up the darkened valley my eye rested on the cliff-girt basin, haggard with riven old olives, where the angel of the Lord smote the army of Sennacherib. And smote by the morning, I saw the reddish soil of Aceldema, confessing its inexpiable guilt by deeper dyes. On the Hill of Evil Counsel, I saw the ruined villa of the High Priest where tradition says the death of Christ was plotted, and the feild where when all was over the traitor Judas hung himself.

    [And in the afternoon, I would stand out by St: Stephen’s Gate, nigh the pool likewise named after him, occupying the spot where he was stoned, and watch the shadows slowly sliding (sled-like) down the hills of Bezetha & Zion into the valley of Jehosaphat, then after resting awhile in the bottom of the ravine, slowly begin creeping up the opposite side of Olivet, entering tomb after tomb & cave after cave. &c. Pilgrims, their serious expressions, wandering about the hills &c.—

    [The Holy Sepulchre–ruined dome–confused & half-ruinous pile.–Laberithys & terraces of mouldy grottos, tombs, & shrines. Smells like a dead-house, dingy light.–At the entrance, in a sort of grotto in the wall a divan for Turkish policemen, where they sit crosslegged & smoking, scornfully observing the continuous troops of pilgrims entering & prostrating themselves before the anointing-stone of Christ, which veined with streaks of a mouldy red looks like a butcher’s slab.–Near by is a blind stair of worn marble, ascending to the reputed Calvary where among other things the showman point you by the smoky light of old pawnbrokers lamps of dirty gold, the hole in which the cross was fixed and through a narrow grating as over a cole-cellar, point out the rent in the rock! On the same level, near by is a kind of gallery, railed with marble, overlooking the entrance of the church; and here almost every day I would hang, looking down upon the spectacle of the scornful Turks on the divan, & the scorned pilgrims kissing the stone of the anointing. –The door of the church is like that of a jail–a ~rated window in it.–The main body of the church is that overhung by the lofty & ruinous dome whose fallen plastering reveals the meagre skeleton of beams & laths–a sort of plague-stricken splendor reigns in the painted & mildewed walls around. In the midst of all, stands the Sepulchre; a church in a church. It is of marbles, richly sculpted in parts & bearing the faded aspect of age. From its porch, issues a garish stream of light, upon the faces of the pilgrims who crowd for admittance into a space which will hold but four or five at a time. First passing a wee vestibule where is shown the stone on which the angel sat, you enter the tomb. It is like entering a lighted lanthorn. Wedged & half-dazzled, you stare for a moment on the ineloquence of the bedizened slab, and glad to come out, wipe your brow glad to escape as from the heat & jam of a show-box. All is glitter & nothing is gold. A sickening cheat. The countenances of the poorest & most ignorant pilgrims would seem tacitly to confess it as well as your own. After being but a little while in the church, going the rapid round of the chapels & shrines, they either stand still in listless disappointment, or seat themselves in huddles about the numerous stairways, indifferently exchanging the sectarian gossip of the day. The Church of the Sepulchre is the thronged news-room & theological exchange of Jerusalem, and still the more appears so, from various little chapels, the special property of the minor sects of the Copts, the Syrians & others, which here & there beneath the dome meet the eye, much like those boxes of the stock-auctioneers, which one sees in commercial Exchanges.—-The Chapel of the Finding of the Cross.–wine cellar. &c.

    –If you approach the church from the squalid alley leading towards it from the Via Dolorosa, you pass a long old wall, lofty & dingy, in every corner of whose massive buttresses, at their base, lies in open exposure an accumulation of the last & least nameable filth of a city. But at the time you are far from imagining that the wall treated with such apparent contumely (by the Turks, only, it is to be hoped) is a main wall of the fabric containing the supposed tomb of one of the persons of the Godhead. This wall passed, you dive into a steep wynd, like those in Edinburgh, and presently come to a space less confined, where you are met by a thick wall peirced by a gateway with an old wooden gate, low enough & grimy enough to be the entrance to a stye. This admits you to the immediate, masonry- locked court of the church. A considerable area, flagged with venerable stones, upon which are seated a multitude of hawkers & pedlers of rosaries, crucifixes, toys of olive wood and Dead Sea stone, & various other amulets & charms. The front of the church is made very irregular, by the careless lapping over of subsequent erections upon the original one. To the left is a high & venerable tower, which like an aged pine, is barked at bottom, & all decay at top. Much elaborate sculpture once graced what is now visable of the original facade; but Time has nibbled it away, till it now looks like so much spoiled pastry at which the mice have been at work. Iitterior of Jerusalem. Leads from St. Stephens Gate up towards Cal- vary. Silence & solitude of it. The arch–the stone he leaned against –the stone of Lazarus &c. City like a quarry–all stone.–Vaulted ways–buttresses (flying) Arch (Ecce Homo), some one has built a little batchelor’s abode on top. Talk of the guides “Here is the stone Christ leaned against, & here is the English Hotel.” Yonder is the arch where Christ was shown to the people, & just by that open window is sold the best coffee in Jerusalem. &c &c &c.

    [Had Jerusalem no peculiar historic associations, still would it, by its extraordinary physical aspect, evoke peculiar emotion in the traveller.

    [As the sight of haunted Haddon Hall suggested to Mrs Radcliffe her curdling romances, so I have little doubt, the diabolical landscapes great part of Judea must have suggested to the Jewish prophets, their terrific theology.

    [Wearily climbing the Via Dolorosa one noon I heard the muezzin calling to prayer from the minaret of Omer. He does the same from that of Mt Olivet.

    [The olive tree much resembles in its grotesque contortions the apple tree–only it is much more gnarled & less lively in its green. It is generally planted in orchards, which helps the resemblance. It is a haunted melancholy looking tree (sober & penitent), quite in keeping with Jerusalem & its associations. There are many olives on the plain north of the walls. The Cave of Jeremiah is in this part. In its lament- able recesses he composed his lamentable Lamentations

    [Inside the walls are many vacant spaces, overgrown with the horrible cactus. [The color of the whole city is grey & looks at you like a cold grey eye in a cold old man,–its strange aspect in the pale olive light of the morning. [There are strata of cities buried under the present surface of Jerusalem. Forty feet deep lie fragments of columns &c. [Stones of Judea. We read a good deal about stones in Scriptures. Monuments & stumps of the memorials are set up of stones; men are stoned to death; the figurative seed falls in stony places; and no wonder that stones should so largely figure in the Bible. Judea is one accumulation of stones–Stony mountains & stony plains; stony torrents & stony roads; stony walls & stony feilds, stony houses & stony tombs; stony eyes & stony hearts. Before you, & behind you are stones. Stones to right & stones to left. In many places laborious attempt has been made, to clear the surface of these stones. You see heaps of stones here & there; and stone walls of immense thickness are thrown together, less for boundaries than to get them out of the way. But in vain; the removal of one stone only serves to reveal three stones still larger, below it. It is like mending an old barn; the more you uncover, the more it grows.–The toes of every one’s shoes are all stubbed to peices with the stones. They are seldom a round or even stone; but sharp, flinty & scratchy. But in the roads, such as that to Jaffa, they have been worn smooth by continuous travel.–To ac- count for this abundance of stones, many theories have been stated: My theory is that long ago, some whimsical King of the country took it into his head to pave all Judea, and entered into contracts to that effect; but the contractor becoming bankrupt mid-way in his business, the stones were only dumped on the ground, & there they lie to this day.

    [There is some prophecy about the highways being prepared for the coming of the Jews, and when the “Deputation from the Scotch Church” were in Judea, they suggested to Sir Moses Montifiore the expediency of employing the poorer sort of Jews in this work–at the same time facilitating prophecy and clearing the stones out of the way. The hills. Are stones in the concrete. Regular layers of rock; some ampitheaters disposed in seats, & terraces. The stone walls (loose) seem not the erections of art, but mere natural variations of the stony landscape. In some of the feilds, lie large grotesque rocks–all perforated & honey combed–like rotting bones of mastadons.–Every- thing looks old. Compared with these rocks, those in Europe or America look juvenile. Caves. Judea honey combed with them. No wonder that the gloomy became retreat of tens of thousands of gloomy anchorites.

    [There is at all times a smell of burning rubbish in the air of Jerusalem.

    [The so-called Pool of Bethesda full of rubbish–sooty look & smell.

    [Three Sundays a week in Jerusalem–Jew, Christian, Turk. And now come the missionaries of the 7th Day Baptists, & add a fourth. (Saturday–the Jews) How it must puzzle the converts!

    [The road from Jaffa to Jerusalem in parts very wide & full of separate divergent foot-paths, worn by the multitude of pilgrims of divergent faiths.

    [Arabs ploughing in their shirt-tails. Some of them old men. Old age is venerable,–but hardly in the shirt tail. Part of Jerusalem built on quarries–entrance from North wall. [No country will more quickly dissipate romantic expectations than Palestine–particularly Jerusalem. To some the disappointment is heart sickening. &c. [Is the desolation of the land the result of the fatal embrace of the Deity? Hapless are the favorites of heaven. [In the emptiness of the lifeless antiquity of Jerusalem the emigrant Jews are like flies that have taken up their abode in a skull.

    …The Jews dare not live outside walled towns or villages for fear of the malicious persecution of the Arabs & Turks….

    – The Journals of Herman Melville (January, 1857)

    • Walk Tall Hang Loose

      You quote this from Melville:

      “The South East angle of wall. Mosque of Omar– Solomon’s Temple. Here the wall of Omar rises upon the foundation stones of Solomon, triumphing over that which sustains it, an emblem of the Moslem religion, which at once spurns that deeper faith which fathered it & preceded it. &c.”

      You don’t quote this from Mark Twain:

      “Every where about the Mosque of Omar are portions of pillars, curiously wrought altars, and fragments of elegantly carved marble–precious remains of Solomon’s Temple. These have been dug from all depths in the soil and rubbish of Mount Moriah, and the Moslems have always shown a disposition to preserve them with the utmost care….. The designs wrought upon these fragments are all quaint and peculiar, and so the charm of novelty is added to the deep interest they naturally inspire. One meets with these venerable scraps at every turn, especially in the neighboring Mosque el Aksa, into whose inner walls a very large number of them are carefully built for preservation“

      Mohammed honoured the prophets of Israel up to and including Jesus, and saw himself as their successor. He gave the honorific title ‘People of the Book’ to Jews and Christians, and encouraged them to follow their religion. Problems arose between Muslims and Jews not because Islam ‘spurns’ Judaism, as Melville puts it. They arose because, when Mohammed fled Mecca to Medina to escape persecution by the polytheist religious authorities, some of the Jewish tribes betrayed him to the polytheists. Negative remarks about Jews in the Koran refer to these Jews who had made themselves ‘enemies of God’ by deserting their religion and attacking the Muslims.

      • Yishai_Kohen

        LOL! They deny that the Temples existed.

  • Yishai_Kohen

    “Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride.”

    – William Thackeray in From Jaffa To Jerusalem, 1844

    “The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population.”

    – The British consul in Palestine, James Finn, 1857

    “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 and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil,
    had almost deserted the country.”…

    “Palestine sits in
    sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a curse that has
    withered its fields and fettered its energies…. Palestine is desolate
    and unlovely…. It is a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land.”

    – From Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain, regarding the Land of Israel when he visited in 1867.

    “There are many proofs, such as ancient ruins, broken aqueducts, and
    remains of old roads, which show that it has not always been so desolate
    as it seems now. In the portion of the plain between Mount Carmel and
    Jaffa one sees but rarely a village or other sights of human life. There
    are some rude mills here that are turned by the stream. A ride of half
    an hour more brought us to the ruins of the ancient city of Caesarea,
    once a city of two hundred thousand inhabitants, and the Roman capital
    of Palestine, but now entirely deserted.

    As the sun was setting
    we gazed upon the desolate harbor, once filled with ships, and looked
    over the sea in vain for a single sail. In this once crowded mart,
    filled with the din of traffic, there was the silence of the desert.
    After our dinner we gathered in our tent as usual to talk over the
    incidents of the day, or the history of the locality. Yet it was sad, as
    I laid upon my couch at night, to listen to the moaning of the waves
    and to think of the desolation around us.”

    -B. W. Johnson, in Young Folks in Bible Lands: Chapter IV, 1892.

    “Virtually the only local people we encountered were merchantmen with their long camel trains and wild Bedouin tribes that reside in one locality not more than two months.”

    – H. Allen Tupper Jr. writing in the New York Times in 1896, after having “ridden on horseback more than four hundred miles through Palestine and Syria”

    “We found it inhabited by fellahin who lived in mud hovels and suffered severely from the prevalent malaria…. Large areas…were uncultivated…. The fellahin, if not themselves cattle thieves, were always ready to harbor these and other criminals. The individual plots…changed hands annually. There was little public security, and the fellahin’s lot was an alternation of pillage and blackmail by their neighbors, the Bedouin.”

    – Lewis French, the British Director of Development – early 1900’s

    • Walk Tall Hang Loose

      I am at a loss to understand your reason for pasting all this material. Of course, I do not deny that there were some barren areas in Palestine, because some of it was desert, as in many middle-eastern countries. I have already acknowledged the contribution made by immigrant Jews to the development of the country. But every one of the pieces quoted gives the lie to the statement of Peres that the land was ’empty’.

      There were orange groves, orchards and vineyards north of Yabna.. There were villagers growing onions, cucumbers and water-melons, keeping cattle and chickens, sowing fields with wheat, barley kursena, lentils, dura, and sesame. There were Bedouin encampments, monasteries, flocks of sheep,
      many olives trees, pilgrims, muezzins, peddlars…. And those 38 million oranges did not appear by magic.

      I used to think that Peres was a decent human being. But he should be ashamed of this attempt to pretend that Palestine was a ‘land without people’ with the intent of depriving the Palestinians of their right to self-determination.

      • Yishai_Kohen

        The land WAS largely empty- as I showed. That’s why I posted those accounts of people who were here then and documented it.

        The land of Israel WAS a land without a people. The few Arabs who were here were largely Bedouin who came and went, and a few fellahin. These few people didn’t see themselves as a people: They considered themselves either Arabs (generically), or as southern Syrians.

        In fact, in the 1840s, as per the accounts of Dr. Ernst-Gustav Schultz, Prussian consul, there were a grand total of 5000 Muslims in Jerusalem (and over 7000 Jews).