How a Mark Twain Travel Book Turned Palestine into a Desert by Michael Press
This article has been published on the Hyperallergic website. It begins:
Years ago — a lifetime ago, it seems — I lived in Israel. For three years I called the city of Ashkelon home. I was an archaeologist, and while I lived there I occasionally served as a tour guide to the site of ancient Ashkelon, now a national park within the modern city. Once I led a group of women from Hadassah, who had come to Israel in solidarity during one of the Gaza wars . (The group had their own Israeli guide with them, and he had brought them to Ashkelon.) As we toured the site, I mentioned something about the Early Islamic period, and one of the women in the group asked if there had actually been Muslims living there. Before I could tell her that we were standing on what had for centuries been farmland of the Arab village of Jura — a village depopulated in 1948 and subsequently bulldozed — the Israeli guide jumped in: “1066 … I mean, 1866.”
Actually it was 1867.
And, in a scene worthy of The Innocents Abroad, he proceeded to tell of the emptiness and ruin and disappointment that met Mark Twain when he traveled to the Holy Land that year.