Saturday, 22 March 2008

Letter 23 - April 15, (1919)

Zionist Commission to Palestine

Dear Family,-

We’ve all been here in Jerusalem for the last few days. Last night each of us went to a different place for Seder. Dr. Friedenwald went to the Bukkara district where he received a most courteous reception and a most interesting ceremony. Szold went to the home of the leading local politician of the Jews where he was much disappointed by the affair, largely because the Jerusalem Military Governor was present, and this broke up the family intimacy which is the prime necessity on Seder. The Commandante and I together went to the home of one of the leading physicians in town. I chose it because I wanted to spend my first Seder in Palestine in the dignified and intimate way we are used to celebrating it at home. The affair was a sad disappointment to me, The prime object of the performers seemed to be to get thru with the business as soon as possible, and to occasionally criticize the text. Thruout the meal I hoped that we would at least have the old songs to conclude with, but the few little songs they did chant were so unmelodious and uninteresting that I was glad when the thing was over. How I missed your voice, Uncle Ferdinand. Dr. DeSola Poole conducted the Seder of the Medical Unit--a real farce—the affair was so poorly gotten up and the audience so discourteous that the majority left before the conclusion of the singing.

Dr. Poole, by the way, is a sad failure. As a pulpit speaker he is fine—but he should have stayed there. He is neither clever nor capable; why he was sent is a mystery. Of course he is a nice fellow but he should have stayed at home and spent his time preparing and delivering sermons and public debates against our honourable friend the most Rev. Dr. Bill (Am’s pet-name). And his wife; after having lived in the same house with her for a few days I have concluded that a college education should never be granted promiscuously to every applicant who may qualify according to today’s standards. As a house-keeper, a hostess, a mother, or anything of any earthly value to a woman she is useless. And then she’s not even clever--tho she staunchly maintains that she could read a book on Organic Chemistry for hours and enjoy it. I pray that I may ever be preserved from female organic chemists.

Speaking of chemists--I’ve just succeeded in locating Dr. Breth—he is at present in the Hospital at Kantara Egypt with an almost healed broken leg. The Com, Bianchini is leaving for Egypt and has promised to stop in to see him on his return.

While here in Jerusalem I do little real work, I spend my time sight-seeing – there is enough to keep one busy for months. Wandering thru the old city it takes no stretch of imagination to realize that on almost every spot some history has been made, that its history dates back over three thousand years. Wandering up and down the narrow ways, bazaars on either side, under ancient stone arches, past clumsy grotesquely wrought long-dried founts, sliding down slippery steps, constantly rubbing shoulders with the filthy Bedouins and ragged beggars, and smelling the smells of the ages, one feels that the world has suddenly turned back many centuries. On one of these solitary wanderings yesterday I came suddenly on an overcrowded narrow, paved alley between a low white washed wall and a gigantic ancient wall formed of huge blocks of uncemented stone. Weeds and grass grew from the crevices between the rocks. The alley was filled with old Jews both men and women, standing several rows deep facing the wall. Many had books. It was the wailing wall of the Jews, the only remaining portion of the old temple. The murmuring of the prayers rose and fell as they read the words aloud and bowed and wept, now and again reverently kissing the rocks. The men stand together in the middle, the women at either end. Behind them, where I was standing a number of beggars plied their trade. I wonder whether all the lamentations and weepings of that motley crowd was sincere. Occasionally one of the tasseled old men would stop his prayers long enough to make a careful survey of the audience which might be watching him, and then return to his laments.

While on one of these wanderings I bought off an old Bazaar keeper several attractive old bits of silk and an old amulet of silver, of which Dr. F. is quite envious. These amulets were and are still worn to keep away all evil spirits and especially the evil eye.

More—when I get back to Jaffa. Lots of love and kisses to all of you,


PS. I sent a telegram of congratulations to you Father several days ago - it was just returned by the British Govt, rejected because no personal messages are acceptable at present.

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