When 19th-century British Christian Bible scholars James Finn and his wife Elizabeth Anne (1850s), and Col. Claude Conder (1870s) and others asked illiterate native farmers in Palestine for the names of local places, they were absolutely astonished that, as often as not, these fellahin replied by using the very same Hebrew names as found in the Bible (assuming, of course, that the places were mentioned there). Few Israelis know this, and most fellahin, if they ever did, seem to have forgotten.
This strongly suggests, to my mind at least, a pre-Arab, pre-Palestine, slightly aboriginal provenance for the fellahin. Recognition of this by Jews might be the beginning of the mutual respect called for in Daniel K. Eisenbud’s “Conflict casts pall on capital ahead of Jerusalem Day” (June 5).
But what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander, and fellahin, in their modern-day incarnation as “Palestinians,” must also learn that the Jewish return and resettlement of the Land of Israel has been a central plank of Judaism for near on 2,000 years.
Both sides need to (re)educate themselves about the other. Dialogue, so far, has been a dialogue of the deaf. The bottom line is that fellah and Jew might well share a common origin, even though they seem to each other to be light years apart.
GEOFFREY BEN-NATHAN London/Jerusalem
The decision was made thousands of years ago that we would return, and here we are! It’s out of the realm of reality as mankind understands, at least according to human history. But every civilization has a history according to its own interpretation.
We are a phenomenon. Our survival was promised to us thousands of years ago, and we never lost sight of Jerusalem during crusades, inquisitions, pogroms and the Holocaust.
While our exile contributed to the well-being of our host countries, we were always accused of some kind of ulterior plan. The only plan we ever prayed for, however, and on a daily basis, was our return to Israel and Jerusalem.
We still give the nations of the world our best. Most foreigners I’m in contact with are in awe of us, realizing how much we contribute. There is no place like Israel, and I’m so grateful I live here.
No society is perfect, but what’s going on here is a phenomenon.
ELISHEVA WEBERMAN Jerusalem