Page 37 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

Basic HTML Version

SHAVIT / ERETZ-ISRAEL RESEARCH: DEVELOPEMENT AND TRENDS
25
interest in Eretz-Israel. Men began to look with quickened con­
sciousness at their surround ings. Travellers, even the most
devout of pilgrims, could not refrain from describing places, peo­
ple and customs and from recording their observations.4 During
the 19th century one can find not only travellers and researchers
with marked secular interests but also travellers and authors of
travel books who have been called by Franklin Walker, in his book
by that name, “Irreverent Pilgrims” (University of Washington
Press, 1974). Nevertheless, the basic motivation o f Christian
research during the 19th century remained the desire to describe
and to become acquainted with the geographical framework of
the Bible and the background for the emergence of Christianity
from Judaism. The British consul James Finn, in his book
Stirring
Times
(London, 1878), describes the program of the Jerusalem
Literary Society, founded in Jerusalem in 1849, and the advan­
tages enjoyed by the researchers who live in the country. They are
familiar with its landscape and understand the languages of the
East and can therefore compare the life described in the Bible to
actual conditions. Eretz-Israel is seen as a “model” for the
Tanakh and the New Testament and as the stage for the enact­
ment of the most important and fateful drama in human history.
Finn notes that besides the biblical era there are two other
eventful periods in the history of the land: the Moslem period
and the age of the Crusades. Also, there are two topics of utmost
interest: the development of Rabbinism and of Christian ascetic
practices and monasticism. The linking of “secular” history and
religious interests is clearly brought out in Finn’s writings. In
Eretz-Israel one does not study geology, botany, ancient lan­
guages, architecture etc., merely to add to humanity’s sum of
knowledge. One studies them here in close connection with
divine revelation, in order to grasp how there arose precisely in
this land and its environs the most enduring religious and politi­
cal events and institutions. Without the Tanakh and the New Tes­
tament the Jordan is no more than a stream unsuitable for navi­
gation, Tabor is but a round and lowly mountain, and Bethlehem
is only a pleasant village in southern Eretz-Israel. Only against the
background of the Bible do these places take on grandeur and
significance.
4 See. H.F.M. Prescott,
Jerusalem Journey: Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the Fif­
teenth Century
(London, 1954), p. 177.