On his landmark visit to Israel 150 years ago, American literary giant Mark Twain witnessed what he did not then know was the start of the prophetic return of the Jewish people to the land. The renowned travel book that became the foundation for his success, Innocents Abroad, painted a picture of a holy land whose desolation would serve as the beginning point of prophecy brought to life.
In June of 1867, Mark Twain embarked on a journey to Europe and Ottoman Palestine, now Israel. Unimpressed, he described the Holy Land as “unpicturesque” and “unsightly”, even “desolate”. From September 24-25, 1867, Twain stayed at the Mediterranean Hotel, now called the Wittenberg House, in the “Old Jewish Quarter” (now the Muslim Quarter of the Old City). At the time, Jews in the Old City had just become a majority, but the margins were slim.
Since then, the Old City, Jerusalem, and Israel has begun a redemption process in which in addition to the land giving fruit, there is a revival of Jewish life, an ingathering of exiles, and Jewish sovereignty in the land. Indeed, Twain’s book, which was published 30 years before the first World Zionist Congress, has often been used to support the Zionist idea that Palestine was a “land without a people for a people without a land.”
According to Daniel Luria, the Executive Director of Ateret Cohanim, an organization that works to reestablish Jewish roots in the Old City of Jerusalem, when Twain visited, the Old City was a “backwater town for the Ottomans, not a glorious city like it is today.” But now, he told Breaking Israel News, “We are living in the realization of the prophecies that Twain witnessed. Only when the Jewish people returned to the land was it built up. Am Yisrael (the Jewish people) returned and finally we see the true unfolding of the redemption process.”
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