New Book: Kreiger, The Dead Sea and the Jordan River

Kreiger, Barbara. The Dead Sea and the Jordan River. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016.

 

9780253019523_med

 

For centuries travelers have been drawn to the stunning and mysterious Dead Sea and Jordan River, a region which is unlike any other on earth in its religious and historical significance. In this exceptionally engaging and readable book, Barbara Kreiger chronicles the natural and human history of these storied bodies of water, drawing on accounts by travelers, pilgrims, and explorers from ancient times to the present. She conveys the blend of spiritual, touristic, and scientific motivations that have driven exploration and describes the modern exploitation of the lake and the surrounding area through mineral extraction and agriculture. Today, both lake and river are in crisis, and stewardship of these water resources is bound up with political conflicts in the region. The Dead Sea and the Jordan River combines history, literature, travelogue, and natural history in a way that makes it hard to put down.

 

Table of Contents

    • Part I. This Strange Water
      1. Some Early History, Travellers, Myths
    • Part II. Nineteenth-Century Exploration
      2. Three Sailors, and a River
      3. Along the Briny Strand
    • Part III. Origins and Evolution
      4. The Life of a Lake
    • Part IV. Further Exploration
      5. Gentleman from Siberia
      6. A Lake Divided
    • Part V. The Twenty-First Century
      7. The River and Lake in Distress
      8. Reclamation, and a Vision of the Future
    • Afterword

 

BARBARA KREIGER is Creative Writing Concentration Chair and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Dartmouth College. Her other publications include Divine Expectations: An American Woman in Nineteenth-Century Palestine. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Smithsonian Magazine, and other publications.

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New Book: Yom-Tov, Gazelles in Israel (Hebrew)

יורם יום-טוב. צבאים בישראל. תל אביב: דן פרי והחברה להגנת הטבע, 2016.

 

gazella

 

The gazelle graces the planes and the hills of the Land of Israel and is mentioned many times in the Hebrew Bible as a symbol of speed and as a metaphor for beauty.

The purpose of this book is to provide detailed and accessible information for nature-lovers and hikers in Israel on gazelles and deer in Israel. The book summarizes the vast information gathered by a multitude of scholars both from Israel and abroad from the 19th century to present day, including the valuable data of accumulated by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

New Article: Shemesh, Planting Eucalyptus Trees in Palestine

Shemesh, Abraham O. “Planting Eucalyptus Trees in the New Settlements in Nineteenth- to Twentieth-Century Palestine as Reflected in Rabbinic Documents.” Modern Judaism 36.1 (2016): 83-99.

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URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/mj/kjv038

 

Extract

In the new Jewish moshavot in Palestine (nineteenth to twentieth centuries), eucalyptus trees were used for the wood industry, to drain swamps, to give shade and block the wind, and to delineate fields in order to prevent trespassing. Rabbis dealt with two issues concerning eucalyptus trees: (A) whether they could be planted during a shmita (sabbatical year when planting is forbidden) in order to drain swamps and eradicate malaria, or to delineate lands owned by Jewish pioneers and thus prevent trespassing by Arab neighbors; and (B) the consideration of ecological regulations aimed at preventing the damage caused by the large trees and their roots to the settlers’ homes and fields.

Eucalyptus trees were brought to Palestine beginning in the early 1860s. At that time attempts were made to grow eucalyptus trees from seeds sent from the botanical gardens in Victoria, Australia, to the British Consul in Jerusalem. The first seeds were probably of the Eucalyptus globulus, called “Blue Gum” in Australia. They were brought to Palestine under different circumstances than those commonly assumed. At first they were brought for forestation purposes and to serve as shade trees and wind breaks rather than to drain swamps. In fact, however, Eucalyptus globulus proved to be unsuitable given the climate of Palestine and many attempts to acclimate it failed.

 

 

 

New Article: Katz, Niagara, Primitivism, and the Hebrew Literary Imagination

Katz, Stephen. “Power and Powerlessness: Niagara, Primitivism, and the Hebrew Literary Imagination.” Modern Judaism 34.2 (2014): 233-56.

URL: http://mj.oxfordjournals.org/content/34/2/233

 

Excerpt

Despite the impression of having attained tranquility and a stable existence, the Jews in Semel’s novel have not found their proper rest, not even on their IsraIsland by the Niagara River. The Falls, just a hop-skip-and-jump downstream, issue forth a foreboding mushroom-like pillar of vapor that rises into the air taking the form that evokes a nuclear explosion (pp. 80, 176, 203, 225–26), a force that threatens to annihilate all of humanity. The metaphor stands as a constant reminder of the violence lurking behind human affairs, from the destruction of Native American culture to the events of September 11, 2001. In addition, it is a threat to Jewish existence as its relatively pristine homogeneous culture gives rise to an Americanized hybridity, as is the life of all who reside in this place.

The image of the Falls resembling the mushroom-shaped aftermath of a nuclear explosion resembles an analogous image frequently applied to Israel. As opposed to life on the precipice of a torrential waterfall, Israel’s condition has often been likened to existence on the edge of a volcano. Nava Semel merely substitutes water for fire. The Falls, it turns out, become a harbinger for the devastations of September 11 as a mark of the end of things, and perhaps some new beginnings.

[…]

At the time when Jews migrating to Eretz Israel were occupied with learning the lay of the land (yedi‘at ha’aretz, knowledge of the land), Hebrew writers in America were also making the acquaintance of the Golden Land. Assimilation into America—whether by those dwelling in America literally, or figuratively for those Hebraists demonstrating their worldliness by writing of vistas other than their own—was also a process of yedi‘at ha’aretz for America’s Hebraists. Their writings testify to an act of inscribing America, of acculturation and internationalization, an adoption of the New World, its environment and myths. In this process, Niagara was but one of many sites of intersection, of American places introduced to the Hebrew reader. As we see, more than a few works in prose or verse were preoccupied with this project, either directly or as an incidental setting of the plot in a new milieu. In so doing, these poems and tales were making the American landscape part of the Jewish experience, fixing it within the reader’s conscience, as a “coming out” of Hebrew literature from the cocoon of self-absorption to an exploration and adaptation to the world.

We might even detect in these American-centered vistas a legacy of the haskalah, when Hebrew writing was praised for the attention devoted to the intricacies of nature and the natural world or was criticized for not doing so. In their fixation on Niagara, writers were inevitably challenged to add their own powers of observation, replication, and metaphorizing, when needed, to broaden it for the host of uses in the Hebrew literary canon.