The Gates of Heaven Will Never be Closed: The World of the 1538 Sanhedrin

Thank you for continuing this. I still don't know much about the OTL history (I'd never heard of General Order №11, for example), so the background notes you provide are invaluable. I look forward to seeing how the changes over the past few centuries will impact events in the Middle East at the end of the 19th / start of 20th centuries. Egypt not being occupied is one big change which have significant consequences, but the seemingly more inconsequential changes might actually have more impact... I await further updates with interest (and patience - please don't feel rushed).
 
Is Salonika still in Ottoman hands after this war? I wonder if the OTL mass resettlement of Greeks in the city will be avoided.
 
Also, a bit of a side tangent but have the *Saudis been able to capitalize on the reduction of Ottoman influence in Arabia?
 
Pretty good food and company for a last meal before getting kicked out! Twain's Pesach pun was immaculate -- would the holiday fall six weeks after Grant's expulsion in 1870?
Yes -- 1878/5638 is one of the years that has two months of Adar, so Passover will fall in late April. (Yes, I always have a calendar open when I write these stories.) Grant will be in Jerusalem for Purim; most likely, by Passover, he'll be further north.
But what is this hinting at Jewish military settlements in Finland? Are the Chabadniks now seen as loyal enough to fortify Russia's peripheries?
That's actually OTL - the 19th-century Jewish community of Helsinki consisted of former cantonist soldiers and their families. Cantonists who served out their time had the right to live anywhere in the Russian Empire, and many of them settled wherever their last post was. Some of that happened in Siberia too, both IOTL and ITTL.

The Hasidic regiments, except for the eight that were permitted to stay in the Pale, are strung out along the Siberian border. Some of them participated in the Russo-Turkish War, and we might hear about that later in the 1878 arc - among other things, one of the aftereffects of the war was a wave of persecution of Jews in Romania, and at this point the Hasidim have networks that can get refugees to safety.
Also, does Karl Marx or an equivalent Jew-ish Socialist exist ITTL? If socialism finds a home among Jewish intellectuals like IOTL, the Yishuv would certainly catch a whiff of it.
Almost certainly. Also, in the last of the 1840 stories, we caught a glimpse of the workers' rights movement that was evolving on the religious side of the house, and a kind of socialism might develop from that too. It could be an interesting (interpret interesting however you want) clash of doctrines within the left wing of the Yishuv.
Thank you for continuing this. I still don't know much about the OTL history (I'd never heard of General Order №11, for example), so the background notes you provide are invaluable.
Thanks! A story-format timeline, in which the cast of characters are mostly living in the alternate world rather than shaping it (or more accurately, are shaping it on the micro rather than macro-scale) will generally benefit from some explanation of what's going on. I fell into that format in the 1765 arc and it seems to be working, so I'll keep going that way.
I look forward to seeing how the changes over the past few centuries will impact events in the Middle East at the end of the 19th / start of 20th centuries. Egypt not being occupied is one big change which have significant consequences, but the seemingly more inconsequential changes might actually have more impact... I await further updates with interest (and patience - please don't feel rushed).
The Middle East has well and truly slipped the butterfly net at this point. Egypt continuing as an independent country and even a regional power (albeit with its sovereignty infringed by the European powers in the manner of China) is definitely a big deal, and means that much more of the region's late 19th and early 20th century history will be shaped by local action. OTOH, as you say, it may be the socioeconomic and cultural changes that are ultimately deeper. The women's medical school, for instance - which is something I learned about completely by accident while doing background research for the 1878 arc - is going to cascade all over the place.
Is Salonika still in Ottoman hands after this war? I wonder if the OTL mass resettlement of Greeks in the city will be avoided.
IOTL, it didn't become Greek until the First Balkan War, and I don't see that changing ITTL - as a (technical) non-belligerent in the Russo-Turkish War, Greece will have to make do with Thessaly and Arta and unofficial influence in the new Cretan principality rather than getting more of its wish list. Nor was Greece really up to fighting the Porte on its own, as seen in 1897, so it isn't going to conquer Salonika outside the context of a regional war.

Whether mass resettlement of Greeks occurs during the 20th century will depend on a lot of things, including whether there's a WW1-equivalent, what role the Ottomans and Greeks take in it, whether there's a mass expulsion of Greeks from Turkey and vice versa, and ultimately who owns Salonika and what political arrangements it has. All these things currently fall in the category of To Be Determined. The only thing that can absolutely be counted on is that the Ladino community of the city will have a further part in the story.
Also, a bit of a side tangent but have the *Saudis been able to capitalize on the reduction of Ottoman influence in Arabia?
They have. The First Saudi State is actually still in existence ITTL - it was defeated in the Wahhabi War, confined to the Nejd, and reduced to vassalage (hence the string of border forts in the Hejaz, including Khaybar), but not completely conquered as IOTL. The Hejaz is securely part of the Egyptian alliance, but the Saudis are testing the waters again in Bahrain (which at this time meant the East Arabian coast rather than just the island) and possibly even among the restive Sunni population of Iraq.
 
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workers' rights movement that was evolving on the religious side of the house
A Jewish religious-socialist movement would have a lot of interesting effects on the evolution of 20th century Jewish thought - it would clash with the mostly secular European Jewish Socialism on one hand, and with conservative religious authorities in the Yishuv on the other.

IOTL, it didn't become Greek until the First Balkan War, and I don't see that changing ITTL - as a (technical) non-belligerent in the Russo-Turkish War, Greece will have to make do with Thessaly and Arta and unofficial influence in the new Cretan principality rather than getting more of its wish list. Nor was Greece really up to fighting the Porte on its own, as seen in 1897, so it isn't going to conquer Salonika outside the context of a regional war.

Whether mass resettlement of Greeks occurs during the 20th century will depend on a lot of things, including whether there's a WW1-equivalent, what role the Ottomans and Greeks take in it, whether there's a mass expulsion of Greeks from Turkey and vice versa, and ultimately who owns Salonika and what political arrangements it has. All these things currently fall in the category of To Be Determined. The only thing that can absolutely be counted on is that the Ladino community of the city will have a further part in the story.
Is Salonika still majority Jewish by this point ITTL? Low-key hoping for some kind of singapore-style multicultural city-state there.

They have. The First Saudi State is actually still in existence ITTL - it was defeated in the Wahhabi War, confined to the Nejd, and reduced to vassalage (hence the string of border forts in the Hejaz, including Khaybar), but not completely conquered as IOTL. The Hejaz is securely part of the Egyptian alliance, but the Saudis are testing the waters again in Bahrain (which at this time meant the East Arabian coast rather than just the island) and possibly even among the restive Sunni population of Iraq.
Is there a permanent Jewish settlement in the Khaybar oasis, or is manned only by soldiers?
 
A Jewish religious-socialist movement would have a lot of interesting effects on the evolution of 20th century Jewish thought - it would clash with the mostly secular European Jewish Socialism on one hand, and with conservative religious authorities in the Yishuv on the other.
Christian socialism IOTL may provide some parallels, including a more socially conservative outlook. But the clash will also take place inside the house, given that under the Rambam's rules, the Sanhedrin can't keep the religious-socialist rabbis out. There will be some debates, not only on socialism but other aspects of industrial modernity, that the majority of the Sanhedrin won't agree with but will have to take seriously, and which will severely challenge the already-fraying preference for consensus decision-making.
Is Salonika still majority Jewish by this point ITTL? Low-key hoping for some kind of singapore-style multicultural city-state there.
Salonika was majority-Jewish IOTL until the 1920s, and that hasn't changed ITTL, It's also unique enough in being a center of Ladino literature (Ladino was also widely spoken among the Jews of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Anatolia, but the newspapers, magazines and literary output were centered at Salonika) that it could have staying power. In the Yishuv by now, Ladino has declined to a few loanwords in the demotic Hebrew dialect and Sephardic culture has become part of the melting pot (albeit a major part of it), so it's definitely Salonika carrying that torch.

BTW, I actually did City-State Salonika once; if anyone's interested, there's a scene of it here featuring Arthur Conan Doyle. Not sure if I'll repeat that here, but it's an intriguing possibility.
Is there a permanent Jewish settlement in the Khaybar oasis, or is manned only by soldiers?
As with Helsinki or for that matter Elephantine, some of the retired soldiers have stayed. The oasis market town is part Muslim and part Jewish, and there's a synagogue in the oasis as well as one in the fort.
 
OK, there has been a new discovery of a Jewish tombstone in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu, dating back to 1224 or 1225, about 45 years before the oldest previously-known Jewish tombstone in India. The interesting part isn't the age, though - Benjamin of Tudela mentioned Jews in India in the 12th century, so we already knew the community went back that far - but (1) that the find was made in Tamil Nadu, not the Malabar coast, and (2) that it used the Seleucid dating system, which was typical of Yemenite Jews but not Malabar Jews. Thoufeek Zakriya, a researcher examining the tombstone, says that there are other features consistent with Yemenite origin. Combine this with the Cairo Geniza's references to a Jewish sea trade out of Aden in the 11th-15th centuries, and this might have been a settlement of Yemenite Jewish mariners.

("Will this feature in the story?" "Do you really need me to answer that? And with the Sassoons established in both Bombay and Acre for two generations, it's past time for the Indian Jews to start showing up anyway.")
 
OK, there has been a new discovery of a Jewish tombstone in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu, dating back to 1224 or 1225, about 45 years before the oldest previously-known Jewish tombstone in India. The interesting part isn't the age, though - Benjamin of Tudela mentioned Jews in India in the 12th century, so we already knew the community went back that far - but (1) that the find was made in Tamil Nadu, not the Malabar coast, and (2) that it used the Seleucid dating system, which was typical of Yemenite Jews but not Malabar Jews. Thoufeek Zakriya, a researcher examining the tombstone, says that there are other features consistent with Yemenite origin. Combine this with the Cairo Geniza's references to a Jewish sea trade out of Aden in the 11th-15th centuries, and this might have been a settlement of Yemenite Jewish mariners.

("Will this feature in the story?" "Do you really need me to answer that? And with the Sassoons established in both Bombay and Acre for two generations, it's past time for the Indian Jews to start showing up anyway.")
interesting
 
OK, there has been a new discovery of a Jewish tombstone in Ramanathapuram, Tamil Nadu, dating back to 1224 or 1225, about 45 years before the oldest previously-known Jewish tombstone in India. The interesting part isn't the age, though - Benjamin of Tudela mentioned Jews in India in the 12th century, so we already knew the community went back that far - but (1) that the find was made in Tamil Nadu, not the Malabar coast, and (2) that it used the Seleucid dating system, which was typical of Yemenite Jews but not Malabar Jews. Thoufeek Zakriya, a researcher examining the tombstone, says that there are other features consistent with Yemenite origin. Combine this with the Cairo Geniza's references to a Jewish sea trade out of Aden in the 11th-15th centuries, and this might have been a settlement of Yemenite Jewish mariners.

("Will this feature in the story?" "Do you really need me to answer that? And with the Sassoons established in both Bombay and Acre for two generations, it's past time for the Indian Jews to start showing up anyway.")
maybe ties in to pseudo Rambam's epistle to Yemen(I'm in the camp epistle was pseudoepigraphic)?On that note why is dionysus known as dionysus the pseudo-Areopagite
 
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Yemen was part of the indian ocean trade networks, i guess that guy wanted a piece of that pie.

EDIT: i wonder if there's any studies about jewish traders and hawala. The system is still at use nowadays(gulf and indian billionaires' fav way to move money around), and if there's anywhere to ask about it, it's here lol.
 
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EDIT: i wonder if there's any studies about jewish traders and hawala. The system is still at use nowadays(gulf and indian billionaires' fav way to move money around), and if there's anywhere to ask about it, it's here lol.
I'm not aware of anything covering Jews and hawala specifically. Early medieval Jewish traders such as the Radhanites used letters of credit which functioned on trust in a similar way, and a letter-of-credit system also existed in India during this period in which Jewish merchants might have participated. Hawala was designed to conform to Islamic financial law, so it has features Jews and Hindus wouldn't need, but given the volume of Jewish-Muslim transactions that occurred, I can't imagine Jews wouldn't have interacted with it at some point or other.

By this point in the story, most large transactions are handled by traditional banks, but informal alternatives persisted IOTL and I don't see why they wouldn't ITTL.
 
INNOCENTS ABROAD II: JERUSALEM, MARCH 1878
INNOCENTS ABROAD
II: JERUSALEM, MARCH 1878

Leaving Egypt in a hurry, Grant decided, had its good and bad points.

On the credit side of the ledger, there was no pomp and ceremony when the packet boat landed at Ashdod – no drum and bugle band, no endless speeches from local dignitaries when one would rather take a nap. Nor was it hard to find the railroad station. Ashdod was rough and boisterous like all ports, but it was a modern city with a neat grid of streets and the station was only a few blocks from the harbor. John Russell Young, the journalist who’d accompanied the Grants since the tour began, paid a guide three piasters to show them the way, but he wasn’t really necessary.

On the debit side, there hadn’t been time to arrange a private car. Simon Wolf had cabled ahead from Cairo, but such luxuries took far more than a day to organize in this country. So there was nothing for it but to buy tickets at the station, get themselves and their grips aboard a common carriage, and settle in as best they could.

It wasn’t bad at first; the train pulled out of the station almost on time, and while the benches weren’t the most comfortable, the scenery outside was pleasant. Unlike the parts of the coastal plain that lay further north and were being reclaimed from swampland, the countryside here was dotted with centuries-old farmsteads and villages. Most of their citizens, to Grant’s eye, looked Arab, although some, particularly in the dairy farms, were Jewish; they were poor by American standards but not desperately so, and by Egyptian standards were quite prosperous. They had enough.

A quarter-hour into the trip, though, someone looked at Grant and then, after a second and sharper look, said “Grant Bey!" And suddenly it seemed that everyone in the carriage wanted to crowd around the Grants’ party, to speak to them, to shake their hands. Grant himself took it well – he was, after all, a politician. Julia, though, was a much more private person, and she shrank visibly.

Grant was about to say something when a dark-skinned, sidelocked fellow with the look and size of a dock worker, who’d also noticed Julia’s discomfort, barked a command in a foreign language. One or two people looked like they might be inclined to argue, but they thought better of it after a second look at the stevedore, and the car fell silent.

“He said, ‘leave the lady alone, you louts,’” said a thirtyish man in a gray sack suit on the bench across the aisle – his English was fluent, and with allowances for education, it was purest Philadelphian.

“Did he? Good man.” Grant stood up and saluted the dock worker, and the others on the car – including those who’d been most insistent just a moment before – gave a cheer. Whether they were cheering him or the stevedore, Grant wasn’t sure, but he’d take it all the same.

“And who might you be, sir?” he asked the man who’d translated. “You know the language, that’s plain to see, but you’re Pennsylvania born and raised…”

“There’s more than one language you need to speak here, General. You’re right, though – I’m Ben Ingersoll, clothier, of Rittenhouse Square.”

“Your clothes don’t seem to be the fashion here,” said Clemens.

“More so every year. But I’m not here on business. My family’s had ties here for decades – my grandmother was the Galilean consul-general to the United States – and I like to come every few years. Not a pilgrimage, not quite, but it feels like a visit home.”

Grant’s curiosity was piqued – Ingersoll’s grandmother had been a diplomat? – but his attention was drawn to Julia pointing out the window at a ruined Crusader castle high on a hilltop. A few minutes later, by an old serai that was now a restaurant, the valley narrowed and the train began to climb; a short time after that, it pulled in at Abu Ghosh.

Abu Ghosh was a real town, noticeably more prosperous than the villages below, with a domed mosque to one side of the station plaza and a filigreed Damascus-style mansion to the other. “They used to charge tolls to pilgrims here, until the Nabulsi emir bought them out…” began Ingersoll.

“At swordpoint?” asked Young.

“Come to think of it, I do believe that grapeshot played a part in the negotiations. But the zaim is still mutassalim of twelve villages and a member of the emir’s council – a man to be reckoned with.” The train was beginning to rumble out of the station, and Ingersoll swept his hands around to include the town and the hills ahead of them. “This is traditional country here – maybe not east Jebel Nablus traditional, but the old ways die hard.”

Julia, who’d come to see the places where Jesus walked, nodded her head. Places which were named in the Bible should be traditional.

The scene that awaited them when they finally reached Jerusalem, though, had little of tradition in it. Grant and Young manhandled everyone’s grips out of the carriage, exchanged farewells with the dock worker and other well-wishers, counted up their party to make sure everyone had debarked, and made their way through the crowds on the platform – and saw that they were surrounded by shops and row-houses that, but for the pale limestone with which they were built, might have graced Cincinnati or Chicago.

“There are traditions and traditions,” Ingersoll admitted – he’d stayed to help with one of Julia’s bags, and his youth had been welcome. “This neighborhood is in the new city – they’d never knock down the wall to run tracks through it – but the people are as old-fashioned as they come.” He gestured in one direction toward a knot of Russian mitnagdim in sober black, and in the other to a second group of men just as sober but in robes far more colorful and with the map of Africa on their faces.

“Are those the Ethiopians?” asked Clemens. “We’ve heard something of them…”

Ingersoll nodded. “One of them came forty years ago, another ten years after that, a few more one at a time – and then six thousand all at once. One of their monks, Abba Mehari…”

“A Jewish monk!” exclaimed Julia.

“… decided it was time, and led his followers down to the Red Sea – when the Sanhedrin learned they were there, they sent ships to pick them up. Most of them are up north, but some stayed here – there are some of every nation to whom Jerusalem calls. And” – he pointed to the hansom cabs, drays and donkeys that crowded the station plaza – “they’ll take you through the gate to where the call comes from.” He slung the bag in his hand onto the nearest of them and gave Julia a formal nod. “Ma’am, it will be all you dreamed.”
_______​

Nine days later, Grant still wasn’t sure. Jerusalem’s old city indeed lived up to its name; one could imagine, among the narrow alleys and the flow of Hebrew and Arabic conversation, that one was indeed walking in the path of Jesus. Even he and Clemens, relative skeptics that they were, couldn’t help imbibing the sense of history; Julia, far more religious, was in ecstasy. She’d knelt in prayer at several points on the Via Dolorosa, and at Calvary she’d wept.

“Jerusalem is full of holiness for those who care to find it,” Young said, and not only Jerusalem – it was fifteen minutes on the train to Bethlehem and less than an hour to Hebron. “It’s a good thing they didn’t have railroads in Jesus’s day,” said Clemens, “or else Mary and Joseph would have just gone to a town where they had rooms,” but he didn’t suggest giving them up in the modern day. And for the holy places in the hills, there were no shortage of farmers willing to sell places in their carts. One could stay in Jerusalem for days, even weeks, and not exhaust the holiness that radiated from it.

The city was welcoming in other ways as well. On their second evening in the city, the Grants dined with Emir Marwan, who’d come down from Nablus, and the members of the city council – it seemed it wasn’t possible to avoid ceremony altogether. The council included all the notables of the city – the ashraf families, the elected mukhtars of the quarters, the more substantial Christian and Jewish businessmen – and to a man, they were keen on trade with the United States and spoke admiringly of American liberties. Grant was reminded of the thought he’d had at his last supper in Cairo – there was a legend of America here too.

Julia, at the same dinner, had been charmed by the emir’s wife Zeina, who’d gone to the university at Acre and had assumed far more of a public role than prior Nabulsi women, and she was even more charmed by the number of women doctors in the city. It seemed there were even more of them than at Cairo – some called them hakimas as the Egyptians did, others called them the nagidah’s nieces – and women who were coming to the end of their courses and often found them painful, as Julia did, could find a remedy even more easily and discreetly than in America.

But there was also another side of things.

Every holy place had its hucksters. On the Via Dolorosa, they sold ceramic pieces and woodcuts showing the stations of the Cross; in Manger Square, they sold carved cradles; on the Mount of Olives, they had paintings and prints of Jesus ascending to heaven. Some claimed to have actual relics; at Gethsemane, one particularly enterprising salesman hawked vials of His tears.

Nor were the Jews and Muslims immune. The Wailing Wall itself, which Grant prevailed upon Ingersoll to visit with them, was solemn, but the alleys of the Mughrabi Quarter immediately outside were a marketplace, with half a dozen stalls selling note paper that had been blessed by one rabbi or another and on which prayers could be written. “The Sanhedrin sends shomrim here sometimes to close the stalls and issue fines,” Ingersoll said, “but they’re good at outrunning the patrols and they make good money in the meantime. And I could name at least ten rabbis in the Sanhedrin who are in on it.”

“If it were me,” said Clemens, “I’d catch a basking shark, fry it up on the Temple Mount, tell the Jews they can eat of the fish that swallowed Jonah, invite the Christians to partake of the miracle of loaves and fishes, and offer the Muslims Bahamut with a sprig of thyme.”

“Shhh,” Ingersoll had replied, putting a finger over his lips. He was obviously amused, as Grant was, but there was a touch of distaste, and for John and Julia, far more than a touch.

And the morning after that, they’d been treated to a genuine holy fistfight.

They’d gone to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – they’d been there on the first day, to see Calvary, but they wanted to see the church more closely – and no sooner were they through the door than they were greeted by shouted insults and monks throwing punches. It was an all-out brawl, as vicious as Grant had ever seen in a lifetime in the army, and the monks fought dirty, not hesitating to gouge and hit below the belt.

“I was hoping you wouldn’t see this particular attraction of the city,” said Ingersoll, “but it happens, and it’s been happening more often lately. The priests in the Russian Compound are stirring up the Greeks and Armenians against the Catholics and the Copts, and the Syriacs are courting them too. They’ve been getting aggressive, pushing the boundaries of the agreements.”

They were aggressive indeed, Grant thought, and watched bemused as a troop of Nabulsi guardsmen poured in to break things up. They were all Muslim or Jewish – in other words, not inclined to take sides – and they handled the monks with uncharacteristic gentleness, absorbing blows that they wouldn’t have taken from anyone else and overwhelming the battlers with sheer numbers. At length the combatants were pushed back to their corners, and no doubt sent to their rooms without supper, though Grant didn’t say that out loud even to Clemens.

“The Russians are responsible for this?” asked Julia, the outrage plain in her voice at the desecration of a church fifteen hundred years old.

“The monks fight with or without the Russians – the Turks had to discipline them, and no doubt the Mamluks before that. But Russia is angling for influence – there’s a faction in the city council that wants closer ties with them – and when they can get the Orthodox monks and the Copts to fight, that’s almost as good as going to war against Egypt. They’re even courting the Russian Jews…”

“That doesn’t sound very Russian of them,” observed Young.

“The mitnagdim would agree. The Hasidim are another story – some of their grandfathers fought for the Tsar’s grandfather, and they remember the war against Napoleon more than what happened later. And right now, the Hasidim are bringing in refugees from Romania, and with the Yerushalmi and Tzfati rabbis feuding again, the Sanhedrin money isn’t getting to them as fast as it should. May the Name bless and keep the Tsar far away from us, but since he is far away, what’s the harm in getting some help from his agents?”

“Indeed,” said Grant, and wondered whether he ought to cable Washington and see if he could shake loose a few dollars to feed and house those Romanian Jews until they could get on their feet. Better that America be owed a favor than the Tsar, but that, too, he didn’t say out loud.
_______​

On the tenth day came the parade.

The night before was Erev Purim – Jerusalem celebrated Purim the day after all other cities. The Grants had stayed in, watched the fireworks from their hotel room, and made an early night of it. On Purim, Jews were commanded to drink until they couldn’t tell whether they were cursing Haman or blessing Mordecai, and Grant had done more than enough of that when he was younger never to want to do so again. What would happen this morning in the streets of the Jewish quarter would be far from sedate, but it would be sober.

“The parade is newer than you might think,” said Ingersoll, who was with them again – he was proving quite a useful fellow when it came to Jewish things, and besides, Julia liked him. “The Jews from Dutch Guiana started it, with their secret societies…”

At least three of the Grant party held up their hands at the same time – Jews, Dutch Guiana, and secret societies weren’t words any of them were used to hearing together.

“They’re freedmen, you know – descended from the slaves the Dutch Jews kept, and had enough of that in Paramaribo before they came here. In Guinea, where they lived before they were slaves, they have secret societies that do masquerades. They had their first parade in Acre fifty, fifty-five years ago, but now everyone joins in.”

“I thought,” said Young, “that your Sanhedrin wants everyone to keep to their own custom.”

“What they want and what happens are two different things. In liturgy and ceremony, yes, but when it comes to fun, they lost that battle long ago.”

Grant nodded; it seemed as sensible way to run things as any. And the parade was coming into view: musicians, dancers, floats painted with topical scenes, carved wooden masks proclaiming their owners to be Mordecai or the Persian king or Queen Esther. It reminded him of Mardi Gras more than anything, and that was always a good time. The onlookers crowded in the street applauded and cheered; so did the Grants from their balcony two stories above.

“In Acre or Tzfat, this would be riotous,” whispered Ingersoll. “Two Vashtis for every Esther, and songs that would make King Solomon blush.”

“It’s still good fun,” said Grant, admiring a group of tumblers who, though masked, cartwheeled and somersaulted their way through the street, miming a battle between the Jews of Shushan and Haman’s men. And as they passed, he realized that the parade was less sedate than it looked. The Ahashverosh and Esther masks on the float below them were obviously carved to resemble Emir Marwan and Zeina, the scene painted around them was a polling place on election day, and the dance Esther did to persuade her royal consort to agree to popular government had the crowd doubled over in laughter.

The next float had them laughing too, though neither Grant nor Ingersoll was versed enough in the happenings of the city to know why. And the float after that turned the laughter into shouts and gasps, and this time the reason was obvious; Mordecai’s mask was the face of King Ismail of Egypt to the life, Haman’s carved face was none other than Tsar Alexander, and a mock gallows had been erected immediately behind him.

It took a moment for the people on the streets to realize what they were seeing, and after what he’d seen and heard at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Grant could hardly be surprised by what happened next. The mitnagdim and others who were wary of Russia began whooping and cheering wildly; the Hasidim and others of the pro-Russian party, including a few men whose hats and embroidered vests marked them as lately arrived from Romania, shouted curses and derision. And it took only a moment for the first punch to fly.

“Break it up, you fools!” came from a dozen throats, and down in the roadway, the men who belonged to neither party rushed in to quell things before they turned into a general brawl. “Gentlemen, I think we have a duty,” said Grant, and he rushed downstairs to join the people who were breaking up the fight, Ingersoll, Young and even Clemens close at his heels.

Yes, he thought, he’d send that cable to Washington. Today if not sooner.
 
Notes to part 2:

1. The Holy Land that Grant is seeing on this leg of the trip is a very different one from what he saw IOTL. John Russell Young’s firsthand account of the OTL trip (linked above at post 567) depicts the result of centuries of Ottoman neglect – no harbors in the coastal cities, bad roads that had to be traveled on donkey-back, the threat of Bedouin attack, endemic poverty and depopulation. This wasn’t long after the OTL nadir (the devastation of the Egyptian occupation and the 1834 rebellion) and it showed.

ITTL, the Levant has been under the de facto control of local rulers for 80 to 150 years, depending on the region, and has been de jure independent for 40 years, and it hasn’t been neglected. Rather than hoping that the weather will permit a landing at Jaffa and then making a three-day trek across the hills, Grant can get to Jerusalem by sailing into Ashdod harbor and taking the train. Jerusalem is, as Ingersoll said, one of the more traditional parts of the Holy Land, but even there, he’s seeing a more modern, interconnected, and densely populated country than OTL.

2. The end of the Abu Ghosh toll is one example of a process that’s been going ITTL since the 1780s – the feudalists at the top of the pile consolidating their rule over the subordinate ones. For the most part, it hasn’t been that bloody – the local zu’ama have been bought off with offices in the civil administration – but the Abu Ghosh clan isn’t the only one to have been persuaded with a whiff of grapeshot. The subordination of the clans was complete in the Zaydani state by 1840; in the Nabulsi state, especially among the farther-flung Bedouin tribes, it’s still going on.

3. Abba Mehari is historical and, IOTL, was one of the tragic figures of the Ethiopian Jews in the 19th century. He was indeed a monk – Jewish monasticism persisted into the early 20th century in Ethiopia, and ITTL will exist in the Levant to the present day. At some point in the 1860s, he determined that it was time to return to the Holy Land and led thousands of followers out of the Ethiopian highlands. Accounts vary as to how far they got – some say they reached the Red Sea, others that they were stopped by the terrain along the way – but all agree that they eventually were stranded and that most of them died of privation or disease. ITTL, the Sanhedrin had the money and logistical capacity to mount a rescue, so most of them made it to Jerusalem and from there dispersed to other parts of the region. Abba Mehari himself is in the Galilee as of 1878; we’ll meet him later.

4. The hucksterism shown at the pilgrimage sites is very much historical – if anything, it’s more widespread and equal-opportunity ITTL – and the fighting between monks at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher also occurs on a semi-regular basis IOTL. There are six churches that claim jurisdiction over particular parts of the Holy Sepulcher, and they’re very protective of their turf. Other holy sites aren’t quite that gerrymandered, but they too have their conflicts; as mentioned earlier in the thread, something like the Ottoman jurisdictional agreements exists and is very necessary.

5. Russia’s relationship to, and ambitions in, the Holy Land are subtly different from OTL. On the one hand, Christians in the Zaydani and Nabulsi states don’t need much protecting – they’ve been equal under the law since the Napoleonic era in Jerusalem and before that in the Galilee, and they don’t face special taxes or exactions. On the other hand, Russia sees itself as protector of the Orthodox Christians, and wants to re-establish the pre-equality pecking order under which the Orthodox churches were privileged as compared to other Christian denominations. It has to use subtle methods – obviously, it’s in no position to invade or dictate to the Levantine states – but it has the money and the ecclesiastical presence to support the other Orthodox churches in Jerusalem and compete for influence in local politics. And with Britain and France putting the financial squeeze on Egypt and imposing unequal trade regimes throughout the region, some – not only Orthodox Christians, but Muslims and even Jews – might see Russia as an appealing counterweight.

Also, while there was no Jerusalem flashpoint during the runup to the Crimean War, the war did still happen – Russia was spoiling for a fight, and if it didn’t have that excuse, it would find another one.

6. I will not apologize for the Fiddler on the Roof line, not in the slightest.

7. As can be seen, Purim has become a bit political. This isn’t entirely without precedent, but historically, it isn’t very common (it’s much more modern-traditional to politicize Passover) – the difference ITTL is that, because of Mardi Gras from the Jodensavanne, Purim has become a much more public holiday. Purim parades and carnivals go back only to the early 20th century IOTL, although masquerading and plays began earlier; the institution of similar events in the 19th century ITTL has brought the celebration to the streets, which means it can also be a part of street protest and street satire.
 
INNOCENTS ABROAD
II: JERUSALEM, MARCH 1878

Leaving Egypt in a hurry, Grant decided, had its good and bad points.

On the credit side of the ledger, there was no pomp and ceremony when the packet boat landed at Ashdod – no drum and bugle band, no endless speeches from local dignitaries when one would rather take a nap. Nor was it hard to find the railroad station. Ashdod was rough and boisterous like all ports, but it was a modern city with a neat grid of streets and the station was only a few blocks from the harbor. John Russell Young, the journalist who’d accompanied the Grants since the tour began, paid a guide three piasters to show them the way, but he wasn’t really necessary.

On the debit side, there hadn’t been time to arrange a private car. Simon Wolf had cabled ahead from Cairo, but such luxuries took far more than a day to organize in this country. So there was nothing for it but to buy tickets at the station, get themselves and their grips aboard a common carriage, and settle in as best they could.
Again der altneuland by accident.
It wasn’t bad at first; the train pulled out of the station almost on time, and while the benches weren’t the most comfortable, the scenery outside was pleasant. Unlike the parts of the coastal plain that lay further north and were being reclaimed from swampland, the countryside here was dotted with centuries-old farmsteads and villages. Most of their citizens, to Grant’s eye, looked Arab, although some, particularly in the dairy farms, were Jewish; they were poor by American standards but not desperately so, and by Egyptian standards were quite prosperous. They had enough.

A quarter-hour into the trip, though, someone looked at Grant and then, after a second and sharper look, said “Grant Bey!" And suddenly it seemed that everyone in the carriage wanted to crowd around the Grants’ party, to speak to them, to shake their hands. Grant himself took it well – he was, after all, a politician. Julia, though, was a much more private person, and she shrank visibly.

Grant was about to say something when a dark-skinned, sidelocked fellow with the look and size of a dock worker, who’d also noticed Julia’s discomfort, barked a command in a foreign language. One or two people looked like they might be inclined to argue, but they thought better of it after a second look at the stevedore, and the car fell silent.

“He said, ‘leave the lady alone, you louts,’” said a thirtyish man in a gray sack suit on the bench across the aisle – his English was fluent, and with allowances for education, it was purest Philadelphian.

“Did he? Good man.” Grant stood up and saluted the dock worker, and the others on the car – including those who’d been most insistent just a moment before – gave a cheer. Whether they were cheering him or the stevedore, Grant wasn’t sure, but he’d take it all the same.

“And who might you be, sir?” he asked the man who’d translated. “You know the language, that’s plain to see, but you’re Pennsylvania born and raised…”

“There’s more than one language you need to speak here, General. You’re right, though – I’m Ben Ingersoll, clothier, of Rittenhouse Square.”
Arabic (and several different varieties thereof) Geez Hebrew Yiddish Greek Turkish Adyghe off the top of my head
“Your clothes don’t seem to be the fashion here,” said Clemens.

“More so every year. But I’m not here on business. My family’s had ties here for decades – my grandmother was the Galilean consul-general to the United States – and I like to come every few years. Not a pilgrimage, not quite, but it feels like a visit home.”

Grant’s curiosity was piqued – Ingersoll’s grandmother had been a diplomat? – but his attention was drawn to Julia pointing out the window at a ruined Crusader castle high on a hilltop. A few minutes later, by an old serai that was now a restaurant, the valley narrowed and the train began to climb; a short time after that, it pulled in at Abu Ghosh.
rebeccoa
Abu Ghosh was a real town, noticeably more prosperous than the villages below, with a domed mosque to one side of the station plaza and a filigreed Damascus-style mansion to the other. “They used to charge tolls to pilgrims here, until the Nabulsi emir bought them out…” began Ingersoll.

“At swordpoint?” asked Young.

“Come to think of it, I do believe that grapeshot played a part in the negotiations. But the zaim is still mutassalim of twelve villages and a member of the emir’s council – a man to be reckoned with.” The train was beginning to rumble out of the station, and Ingersoll swept his hands around to include the town and the hills ahead of them. “This is traditional country here – maybe not east Jebel Nablus traditional, but the old ways die hard.”

Julia, who’d come to see the places where Jesus walked, nodded her head. Places which were named in the Bible should be traditional.
The scene that awaited them when they finally reached Jerusalem, though, had little of tradition in it. Grant and Young manhandled everyone’s grips out of the carriage, exchanged farewells with the dock worker and other well-wishers, counted up their party to make sure everyone had debarked, and made their way through the crowds on the platform – and saw that they were surrounded by shops and row-houses that, but for the pale limestone with which they were built, might have graced Cincinnati or Chicago.

“There are traditions and traditions,” Ingersoll admitted – he’d stayed to help with one of Julia’s bags, and his youth had been welcome. “This neighborhood is in the new city – they’d never knock down the wall to run tracks through it – but the people are as old-fashioned as they come.” He gestured in one direction toward a knot of Russian mitnagdim in sober black, and in the other to a second group of men just as sober but in robes far more colorful and with the map of Africa on their faces.
true different eras
“Are those the Ethiopians?” asked Clemens. “We’ve heard something of them…”

Ingersoll nodded. “One of them came forty years ago, another ten years after that, a few more one at a time – and then six thousand all at once. One of their monks, Abba Mehari…”

“A Jewish monk!” exclaimed Julia.

“… decided it was time, and led his followers down to the Red Sea – when the Sanhedrin learned they were there, they sent ships to pick them up. Most of them are up north, but some stayed here – there are some of every nation to whom Jerusalem calls. And” – he pointed to the hansom cabs, drays and donkeys that crowded the station plaza – “they’ll take you through the gate to where the call comes from.” He slung the bag in his hand onto the nearest of them and gave Julia a formal nod. “Ma’am, it will be all you dreamed.”
_______​

Nine days later, Grant still wasn’t sure. Jerusalem’s old city indeed lived up to its name; one could imagine, among the narrow alleys and the flow of Hebrew and Arabic conversation, that one was indeed walking in the path of Jesus. Even he and Clemens, relative skeptics that they were, couldn’t help imbibing the sense of history; Julia, far more religious, was in ecstasy. She’d knelt in prayer at several points on the Via Dolorosa, and at Calvary she’d wept.

“Jerusalem is full of holiness for those who care to find it,” Young said, and not only Jerusalem – it was fifteen minutes on the train to Bethlehem and less than an hour to Hebron.
Herod and the cave of Machpelah. Due to no Zionism as we know it, Modiin remains a small village no one remembers without Ben Yehudah and Jabotinsky and their precursors trumpeting Hasmonean nostalgia.
The city was welcoming in other ways as well. On their second evening in the city, the Grants dined with Emir Marwan, who’d come down from Nablus, and the members of the city council – it seemed it wasn’t possible to avoid ceremony altogether. The council included all the notables of the city – the ashraf families, the elected mukhtars of the quarters, the more substantial Christian and Jewish businessmen – and to a man, they were keen on trade with the United States and spoke admiringly of American liberties. Grant was reminded of the thought he’d had at his last supper in Cairo – there was a legend of America here too.

Julia, at the same dinner, had been charmed by the emir’s wife Zeina, who’d gone to the university at Acre and had assumed far more of a public role than prior Nabulsi women, and she was even more charmed by the number of women doctors in the city. It seemed there were even more of them than at Cairo – some called them hakimas as the Egyptians did, others called them the nagidah’s nieces – and women who were coming to the end of their courses and often found them painful, as Julia did, could find a remedy even more easily and discreetly than in America.

But there was also another side of things.

Every holy place had its hucksters. On the Via Dolorosa, they sold ceramic pieces and woodcuts showing the stations of the Cross; in Manger Square, they sold carved cradles; on the Mount of Olives, they had paintings and prints of Jesus ascending to heaven. Some claimed to have actual relics; at Gethsemane, one particularly enterprising salesman hawked vials of His tears.
Venice, Britain, Rome is that you guys?
Nor were the Jews and Muslims immune. The Wailing Wall itself, which Grant prevailed upon Ingersoll to visit with them, was solemn, but the alleys of the Mughrabi Quarter immediately outside were a marketplace, with half a dozen stalls selling note paper that had been blessed by one rabbi or another and on which prayers could be written. “The Sanhedrin sends shomrim here sometimes to close the stalls and issue fines,” Ingersoll said, “but they’re good at outrunning the patrols and they make good money in the meantime. And I could name at least ten rabbis in the Sanhedrin who are in on it.”
only ten?
“If it were me,” said Clemens, “I’d catch a basking shark, fry it up on the Temple Mount, tell the Jews they can eat of the fish that swallowed Jonah, invite the Christians to partake of the miracle of loaves and fishes, and offer the Muslims Bahamut with a sprig of thyme.”
he was having financial troubles due to the automated typewriter, wasnt he IIRC>
“Shhh,” Ingersoll had replied, putting a finger over his lips. He was obviously amused, as Grant was, but there was a touch of distaste, and for John and Julia, far more than a touch.

And the morning after that, they’d been treated to a genuine holy fistfight.

They’d gone to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – they’d been there on the first day, to see Calvary, but they wanted to see the church more closely – and no sooner were they through the door than they were greeted by shouted insults and monks throwing punches. It was an all-out brawl, as vicious as Grant had ever seen in a lifetime in the army, and the monks fought dirty, not hesitating to gouge and hit below the belt.

“I was hoping you wouldn’t see this particular attraction of the city,” said Ingersoll, “but it happens, and it’s been happening more often lately. The priests in the Russian Compound are stirring up the Greeks and Armenians against the Catholics and the Copts, and the Syriacs are courting them too. They’ve been getting aggressive, pushing the boundaries of the agreements.”
The religions in Jerusalem being used as proxies for their European coreligionists as IOTL
They were aggressive indeed, Grant thought, and watched bemused as a troop of Nabulsi guardsmen poured in to break things up. They were all Muslim or Jewish – in other words, not inclined to take sides – and they handled the monks with uncharacteristic gentleness, absorbing blows that they wouldn’t have taken from anyone else and overwhelming the battlers with sheer numbers. At length the combatants were pushed back to their corners, and no doubt sent to their rooms without supper, though Grant didn’t say that out loud even to Clemens.

“The Russians are responsible for this?” asked Julia, the outrage plain in her voice at the desecration of a church fifteen hundred years old.

“The monks fight with or without the Russians – the Turks had to discipline them, and no doubt the Mamluks before that. But Russia is angling for influence – there’s a faction in the city council that wants closer ties with them – and when they can get the Orthodox monks and the Copts to fight, that’s almost as good as going to war against Egypt. They’re even courting the Russian Jews…”

“That doesn’t sound very Russian of them,” observed Young.

“The mitnagdim would agree. The Hasidim are another story – some of their grandfathers fought for the Tsar’s grandfather, and they remember the war against Napoleon more than what happened later. And right now, the Hasidim are bringing in refugees from Romania, and with the Yerushalmi and Tzfati rabbis feuding again, the Sanhedrin money isn’t getting to them as fast as it should. May the Name bless and keep the Tsar far away from us, but since he is far away, what’s the harm in getting some help from his agents?”
he might not remain far away and the Porte may dislike it.
“Indeed,” said Grant, and wondered whether he ought to cable Washington and see if he could shake loose a few dollars to feed and house those Romanian Jews until they could get on their feet. Better that America be owed a favor than the Tsar, but that, too, he didn’t say out loud.
_______​

On the tenth day came the parade.

The night before was Erev Purim – Jerusalem celebrated Purim the day after all other cities.
Shushan Purim
The Grants had stayed in, watched the fireworks from their hotel room, and made an early night of it. On Purim, Jews were commanded to drink until they couldn’t tell whether they were cursing Haman or blessing Mordecai, and Grant had done more than enough of that when he was younger never to want to do so again. What would happen this morning in the streets of the Jewish quarter would be far from sedate, but it would be sober.
good idea.
“The parade is newer than you might think,” said Ingersoll, who was with them again – he was proving quite a useful fellow when it came to Jewish things, and besides, Julia liked him. “The Jews from Dutch Guiana started it, with their secret societies…”

At least three of the Grant party held up their hands at the same time – Jews, Dutch Guiana, and secret societies weren’t words any of them were used to hearing together.

“They’re freedmen, you know – descended from the slaves the Dutch Jews kept, and had enough of that in Paramaribo before they came here. In Guinea, where they lived before they were slaves, they have secret societies that do masquerades. They had their first parade in Acre fifty, fifty-five years ago, but now everyone joins in.”

“I thought,” said Young, “that your Sanhedrin wants everyone to keep to their own custom.”
that is the official policy
“What they want and what happens are two different things. In liturgy and ceremony, yes, but when it comes to fun, they lost that battle long ago.”
true the people will mix festivities and food and other customs and languages by contact regardless.
Grant nodded; it seemed as sensible way to run things as any. And the parade was coming into view: musicians, dancers, floats painted with topical scenes, carved wooden masks proclaiming their owners to be Mordecai or the Persian king or Queen Esther. It reminded him of Mardi Gras more than anything, and that was always a good time. The onlookers crowded in the street applauded and cheered; so did the Grants from their balcony two stories above.

“In Acre or Tzfat, this would be riotous,” whispered Ingersoll. “Two Vashtis for every Esther, and songs that would make King Solomon blush.”
Im not so sure while Vashti is popular as a contrast to esther and a heroine if you look at the text she's more a plot device to explain why ahashverosh doesnt know Esthers Jewish. Youd probably see Hannahs Judiths Yaels Shlomtzions and Marriammes if those could be distinguished or identified (an issue I had as a contrarian child Id go as James not Harry Gandalf or Saruman not Dumbledore and correct people to show off)
“It’s still good fun,” said Grant, admiring a group of tumblers who, though masked, cartwheeled and somersaulted their way through the street, miming a battle between the Jews of Shushan and Haman’s men. And as they passed, he realized that the parade was less sedate than it looked. The Ahashverosh and Esther masks on the float below them were obviously carved to resemble Emir Marwan and Zeina, the scene painted around them was a polling place on election day, and the dance Esther did to persuade her royal consort to agree to popular government had the crowd doubled over in laughter.
Purim remains social commentary
The next float had them laughing too, though neither Grant nor Ingersoll was versed enough in the happenings of the city to know why. And the float after that turned the laughter into shouts and gasps, and this time the reason was obvious; Mordecai’s mask was the face of King Ismail of Egypt to the life, Haman’s carved face was none other than Tsar Alexander, and a mock gallows had been erected immediately behind him.

It took a moment for the people on the streets to realize what they were seeing, and after what he’d seen and heard at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Grant could hardly be surprised by what happened next. The mitnagdim and others who were wary of Russia began whooping and cheering wildly; the Hasidim and others of the pro-Russian party, including a few men whose hats and embroidered vests marked them as lately arrived from Romania, shouted curses and derision. And it took only a moment for the first punch to fly.
Memories of a Parisian Purim with Asser
“Break it up, you fools!” came from a dozen throats, and down in the roadway, the men who belonged to neither party rushed in to quell things before they turned into a general brawl. “Gentlemen, I think we have a duty,” said Grant, and he rushed downstairs to join the people who were breaking up the fight, Ingersoll, Young and even Clemens close at his heels.

Yes, he thought, he’d send that cable to Washington. Today if not sooner.
that might ease tensions or inflame them more
 
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only ten?
that he can name there surely are more that are better hiding it

also interesting how Grant seem to be going to end dragged into the politics of the Holy Land which are probably going to be a whole other beast compared with anything he has ever encounter before

also funny the part of the holy brawl although hopefully things aren't going to escalate the last thing the Zaydani need are the Christians killing one another in Jerusalem
 
Arabic (and several different varieties thereof) Geez Hebrew Yiddish Greek Turkish Adyghe off the top of my head
Ladino - declining and merging into Galilean Hebrew, but it's still one of the languages the kollel katan uses for prayer. Farsi, probably some Tat and Bukharian, and the new kid in town, Malayalam. Puts the poly in polyglot.
Herod and the cave of Machpelah. Due to no Zionism as we know it, Modiin remains a small village no one remembers without Ben Yehudah and Jabotinsky and their precursors trumpeting Hasmonean nostalgia.
The Hasmoneans will be remembered as long as Chanukah exists, but yes, Modi'in becoming a shrine is very contingent. For that matter, without the Revisionists in the picture, historical memory of the Great Revolt and the Bar-Kokhba rebellion (especially the latter) might be more mixed. If I get to the 20th century with this, one of the plot points may be how the Yishuv ITTL looks on Masada.

Also, with the Galilee being the center of gravity, the holy sites there might get more attention - Mount Meron might be an even bigger deal at Lag b'Omer than IOTL, and places like the Peki'in synagogue and the Tomb of the Matriarchs might enter the big leagues. There's certainly someone ITTL who might be inclined to promote the latter site.
Venice, Britain, Rome is that you guys?
Tourism is tourism since the Hellenists invented it.
only ten?
As @Yeiro says, ten that Ingersoll knows of. And he doesn't live there.
The religions in Jerusalem being used as proxies for their European coreligionists as IOTL
With Egypt - and eventually Ethiopia - also a player via the Copts.
Im not so sure while Vashti is popular as a contrast to esther and a heroine if you look at the text she's more a plot device to explain why ahashverosh doesnt know Esthers Jewish. Youd probably see Hannahs Judiths Yaels Shlomtzions and Marriammes if those could be distinguished or identified (an issue I had as a contrarian child Id go as James not Harry Gandalf or Saruman not Dumbledore and correct people to show off)
You'd see them too (and there would no doubt be standard elements in the costumes to tell who was who), but Vashti's story is salacious - having her in the parade is a way of tweaking the Sanhedrin, which has been a community sport in Acre for some time now.
Memories of a Parisian Purim with Asser
I'll admit I had that in mind.
that might ease tensions or inflame them more
Could go either way, yes - America is more likely to be seen as disinterested, but that isn't guaranteed. And this might be the first time that Grant is entangled in local politics, but it won't be the last.
also interesting how Grant seem to be going to end dragged into the politics of the Holy Land which are probably going to be a whole other beast compared with anything he has ever encounter before
It'll be more like diplomacy than domestic American politics - he was called upon to do some of that during his OTL tour too, and a couple of the members of his team aren't bad at it.
also funny the part of the holy brawl although hopefully things aren't going to escalate the last thing the Zaydani need are the Christians killing one another in Jerusalem
As I mentioned, these fights happen IOTL too - there seems to be a bench-clearing brawl in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre every few years - and AFAIK they end with bruised heads and bruised egos but no fatalities. Monks in the Holy Land aren't trained fighters, at least not since the Hospitallers and Templars decamped for other parts.
 
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The Wailing Wall itself, which Grant prevailed upon Ingersoll to visit with them, was solemn, but the alleys of the Mughrabi Quarter
now that's one thing i was thinking about yesterday!
Are there any descriptions of how the area around the wall looked like before Teddy took the mughrabi quarter down? How much space was between the wall and the houses? Were there houses built against it?
 
Great chapter! Love the alt-Adloyada

For my question - Who currently politically controls the coast north of Jaffa and South of Haifa (the Sharon)? There is mention of reclamation efforts on the swamps in the area, but who's doing them?
 
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