The Holy Land
Haggadah shel Pesah (Passover
Haggadah) (Amsterdam, 1781). This map, a 1781 reproduction
of the one that appeared in the original 1695 edition of
the Amsterdam Haggadah, shows the division of the Holy Land
into the territories of the twelve tribes. The numbers that
appear in the Sinai wilderness portion of the map are keyed
to the list of encampments enumerated in the table at the
bottom of the map. The map outlines the territories of the
twelve tribes, with Jerusalem at the center in the territory
of Benjamin. Off the coast of Palestine, four ships towing
cedars of Lebanon -- a gift from Hyram, the king of Sidon,
to Solomon -- are making for the port of Jaffa. An inscription
explains that these cedars, which were destined for use
in Solomon's Temple, were then hauled overland to Jerusalem.
Sacred to Jews, Christians, and Moslems, the Holy Land has endured
over the ages as a focal point of religious aspirations and ideals.
For the Christian, the Holy Land is birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth
and the site of his ministry; for the Moslem, Jerusalem's Dome
of the Rock marks the spot from which the Prophet Mohammed is
said to have ascended to heaven. And for the Jew, it is toward
Jerusalem that the pious turn three times each day in prayer;
and it is to Jerusalem that Jews pledge to return each year, with
the words "Next Year in Jerusalem" chanted at the conclusion of
the Passover seder and the Day of Atonement prayer service.
Abraham ben Jacob, a convert to Judaism, prepared a map of the
Holy Land done as a copper engraving which was included in the
famous Amsterdam Haggadah of 1695 and in subsequent editions of
that popular haggadah through the eighteenth century. Ben-Jacob's
rendering is one of the earliest in Hebrew characters and features
a depiction of the forty year wandering of the Israelites in the
wilderness of Sinai after the Exodus.
Besides Jerusalem, the seat of the first and second Temples,
three other cities are counted as holy cities within Judaism.
Hebron is the home and burial site of the ancient patriarchs and
matriarchs of the Bible, as well as the first capital of King
David. Tiberias, after the destruction of the Second Temple in
70 C.E., became a seat of learning where the Palestinian Talmud
was chiefly composed. Safed, high in the Galilean hills, was where
Jewish mysticism flourished in the sixteenth century and where
many ancient rabbis are buried. All four of these holy cities
of the Holy Land are depicted in a charming nineteenth-century
wall plaque executed by an anonymous artist.
Holy Cities Plaque (Palestine,
nineteenth century). Depicting the four Holy Cities of the
Holy Land, this plaque is divided into four quadrants, with
Jerusalem occupying by far the largest area in the upper
right quadrant. Below Jerusalem, is Hebron. Dividing the
drawing roughly down the center is the Jordan River. In
the top left quadrant -- higher even than Jerusalem -- is
Safed; and directly below it, we find Tiberias. Each of
the four cities includes representations of the sacred shrines,
as well as the graves of sainted rabbis and holy men.
Hebrew, the "Holy Tongue," was reborn in the Holy Land at the
end of the nineteenth century with the emergence of political
Zionism. The Library owns a Hebrew-language lotto game that was
produced in Warsaw at the turn of the twentieth century. Intended
for children ages four to seven, the game sought to teach them
to read Hebrew through play. The instructions suggest that a teacher
using these materials could reinforce the lesson by weaving a
story or a discussion with the words learned in the course of
In 1923, a landmark Hebrew-language children's book was published
in Berlin. Featuring a collaboration of two Jerusalemites associated
with the Bezalel School of Art -- Levin Kipnis, an artist with
words, and Ze'ev Raban, a pictorial artist -- this children's
book was published in Europe because Palestine in 1923 did not
yet have the facilities to produce so fine an illustrated book.
The long-standing devotion of many Jews to the Holy Land and
to the Hebrew language is reflected in the flowering of literary
creativity in Hebrew that took place in the late nineteenth and
early twentieth century. These literary works, which were fueled
by the development of political Zionism and invigorated by the
rebirth of Hebrew, are housed in the Hebraic Section and available
for use by scholars and general public.
Hebrew Lotto (Warsaw, ca.
1900). This lotto game was used by teachers at the turn
of the twentieth century to help their young students learn
illustrations by Z. Raban, verses by L. Kipnis (Berlin,
1923). This lavishly produced alphabet book illustrates
each letter of the alphabet with an object whose Hebrew
name begins with that letter. Here, the letter het is
illustrated by a stork -- a hasidah.