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Posted August 9, 2009
I will be returning "The Holy Land" by Fabio Bourbon and Enrico Lavagno because of it poor historical content. The authors appear to have a political agenda by the manner in which they present their historical narrative. Let me give you a few examples:
1. In the Introduction section, the authors discuss the origins of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river and immediately refer to this patch of land as Palestine/Holy Land without explicitly stating that it also was called in the Bible as "Israel" or Judea. The name Palestine is a late comer to this region. I am surprised that the authors did not provide a clearer explanation from where these names have come from. For your information let me quote you some standard historical narrative on this topic.
* "The name Palestine, which the Romans had bestowed on the conquered and subjugated land of Judea, had been retained for a time by the Arab conquerors to designate an administrative subdivision of their Syrian province." The name had disappeared from the region prior to the arrival of the Crusaders. The term was rediscovered in Europe at the time of the Renaissance and used to refer to what "European Christians ... previously called the Holy Land." "The name was not used officially, and had no precise territorial definition until it was adopted by the British to designate the area which they acquired by conquest at the end of World War I and ruled under mandate from the League of Nations."
As a matter of fact, one gets the impression from the Introduction that the modern-day Palestinian who lives in this area already lived in this area during the early days of the ascent of man. I would like to remind the reader that the modern-day Palestinians are considered to be Sunni Arabs that appeared in this area only after the Arab invasion from Arabia (circa 900 AD).
2. I was also surprised that the authors have so little to mention on the city of Hebron. You might recall that Genesis 23 records the purchase by Abraham of a plot of ground in Hebron for a burial cave for his wife Sarah. During Herodion's period, Herod the Great constructed a large edifice atop the traditional burial place of the patriarchs. Its architectural style is similar to that of Jerusalem's Temple Mount, including the size of the stones (up to 24 feet long), the type of masonry (dry), and the pilasters (engaged columns), the last of which are no longer visible in Jerusalem. You might want to inform the authors that Hebron is consider in the Bible as one of the most important cities in the times of King Saul and King David. Today its most famous historic site in Hebron sits on the Cave of the Patriarchs. Why would a book aimed at educating tourists and visitors omit such facts seems a bit odd and indicates shoddy scholarship standards.
3. Their discussions of the Jewish Revolt in 73 AD also seems to lack sufficient depth for a book that aims to educate visitors and tourists.
4. The description of Ytzhak Rabin's grave also provides a melodrama and accusation tone that are somewhat distorted, namely; " On the northern slope of the hill, in the military cemetery, is the grave of Ytzhak Rabin, who in 1955 was the victim of the intolerance and ideological complexity and contractions of his own people". I am curious if the authors would use similar phrasing to describe Sadat's grave who also was killed by fanatical religious group.