Friday, October 31, 2014

Palestine? Who Lived There? Edward Robinson Can Tell You Who

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                     

It was the American biblical scholar and archaeologist,  Edward Robinson in 1838, who announced that hundreds of place names of villages and sites in Palestine, who they thought were Arab names, were found to be Arabic renderings of translations of ancient Hebrew names, biblical  or Talmudic. Edward, born in Connecticut, though he was raised on a farm, attended Hamilton college in Clinton, NY and graduated.  He not only studied Hebrew but aided Moses Stuart in preparing his 2nd edition in 1823 of his Hebrew Grammar and translated it into English in 1825.  He became Professor Extraordinary of sacred literature at Andover Theological Seminary in 1830-33.    He was born on April 10, 1794 and died on January 27, 1863 in Brooklyn, New York, and was not from the Jewish Robinsons.  He's called Father of Biblical Geography and the Founder of Modern Paletinology due to the work he achieved.

Robinson had traveled to Palestine in 1838 with Reverend Eli Smith which led to the publication of biblical Researches in Palestine in 1841.  Imagine what it must have been like.  This was 29 years before Mark Twain's famous visit found in his book, " The Innocents Abroad."He was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1842.  Robinson, together with Smith, made scores of identifications of ancient places and the work created his enduring reputation as a Founder by setting the compass of future archaeological field work.  Examples from Jerusalem include the Hezekiah tunnel, and Robinson's Arch in the Old city, named for him.                                  

In Jerusalem, one can find Robinson's arch on the south-western flank of the Temple Mount,which  once supported a staircase which led to the Temple.

The Arabs have never even had a name of their own for this country which they claim.  Filastin is the Arab transliteration of Palestine, the name Romans gave the country after 135 CE and their fight with General Bar Kokhba of the Jews who kept them on the offense for 3 years in trying to retake Jerusalem.  Romans had used this name thinking to obliterate the presence of the Jewish people with it, the name of their biggest adversary.

Today they've even found that some Arabs who are living with such names over their doorposts are long lost Jews who had been forcefully converted to Islam.
                                         Jerusalem, City of David

The truth of the matter is that there was never a Palestinian Arab nation.  Those who had lived in Palestine within the Ottoman Empire found it a good place to plunder and destroy.  There were only a few who lived within its boundaries and may have had a liking for their village while they made war on the next one.  They lived in clans which fought for the right of local tax-gathering, or even for their town.  Theyi were not conscious of any relationship to the land of Palestine.  If they knew of it as a land, they learned this from the Jews and their stories of living here for so many long years.

Palestine is mentioned only once in the Koran as the "Holy Land"--holy, that is to Jews and Christians; not to the Muslims.  This is why Jews and Christians were referred to as "people of the book."

People visiting the Holy Land in the 19th century felt that the country had been waiting for the return of its lawful inhabitants as it was in dire condition, mostly of weeds, swamps and desert inhabited by mosquitoes.  This attitude was significant compared to the Arabs living in the land.  In 1200 years they had lived here of which 400 were under the Ottomans, they had built only a single town, Ramleh, built as the local subprovincial capital in the 8th century.

In the 10th century, Arab writer Ibn Hukal wrote: "Nobody cares about building the country, or concerns himself for its needs."  This was showing the ruination of a country treated like this for hundreds of years.  The handful of Arabs who lived there were downtrodden subjects of a disinterested ruler.  The remote authority in Constantinople took their sons for soldiers and the local tax farmer sucked them dry.  The village over the hill and the rival tribe had to be guarded against or fought in a cycle of mutually destructive getting even for a past strike.  The Bedouin nomads tore up their olive trees, destroyed their crops, filled their wells with stones, broke down their cisterns, took away their livestock, but were sometimes useful as allies to help fight the next village.

Such was Palestine welcoming in tourists to see a treeless waste with a sprinkling of emaciated towns, malaria-ridden swamps in its once-fertile northern valleys, and the once thriving South Negev  that had turned into a desert, with a population in Palestine that had dwindled to almost nothing.  Neither Arab nor Jew were in enough numbers to turn all this around and fight the carousing marauders on their camels.
And then came in the reinforcements--for the Jews--the First Aliyah in 1881.  .
Edward Robinson, (William, Ichabod, John, Samuel, William, John Robinson, whose line I've traced back to  John Robinson b: 1588 in Barton St. David, Somerset, England and who died in 1693, is my half 4th cousin 6 times removed from my mother's side of the family, the Robinsons.  That is, if I didn't get too mixed up in all the Robinsons of New England, he's on my tree.  You see, my mother converted to Judaism when she married my Jewish father. Her maiden name was Robinson.   Coincidently, my mother's brother was Kenneth Edward Robinson, and their grandfather was Abiathar Smith Robinson.  There's a Robinson-Smith connection if I ever saw one!   Here I am, Jewish and holder of dual citizenship with Israel and the USA.

Battleground, fact and fantasy in Palestine by Samuel Katz, p. 114
  mentioning Robinson and Smith in Palestine and their findings.

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