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Emet m'Tsiyon

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Chateaubriand on the Jews in general and in Israel in particular

We have already presented Chateaubriand's description of the Jews living in Jerusalem whom he saw on his trip in 1806. Thirty years after his trip to East, he wrote again of the Jews in Israel and of how he saw the Jews in history. His dates are 1768 to 1848.

The Jews were dispersed, living witnesses of the living word [he sees the Jews as witnesses to Christianity], they survived, a perpetual miracle in the midst of the nations. Strangers everywhere, slaves in their own country, they saw the Temple fall of which stone did not remain upon stone [a NT prediction], as my eyes were convinced [when he was in Jerusalem].
One part of their population came in chains to Rome to raise up that other monument where Christians were to die [the Colosseum]. The chisel sculpted on an arch of triumph that is still admired [the Arch of Titus] the ornaments that shone in the ceremonies of Solomon, and of which, without this luck, we would not know the form; the pride of a Roman prince and the talent of a Greek artist hardly suspected that they were furnishing a proof of more than the grandeur of the defeated nation and of its mysterious destinies. Everything was to serve, both glory and ruin, to eternalize the memory of the people that Moses shaped and that saw Jesus Christ born.
[Francois Rene de Chateaubriand, Etudes Historiques, Oeuvres Completes, tome I (Paris: Desrez 1836), p. 279]

Chateaubriand sees the Jews from a Christian point of view, although he is not especially hostile. He sees the experiences of the Jews since the Destruction of the Temple [Hurban haBayit] as fulfilling New Testament predictions. It is also interesting that he recounts that Jewish captives built the Colosseum in Rome. Just a few years ago, a carved ancient rock was dug up near the Colosseum with an inscription reporting that the valuable gold and silver objects and the money looted from the Temple in 70 CE when it was destroyed had been sold to raise money for building the Colosseum. This rock was displayed for a year or so in the Colosseum where there are regular art and archeology exhibitions with themes and objects related to ancient times. Unfortunately, it was no longer on display when I was there. The Arch of Titus preserves a picture of the Temple menorah being carried by captives in a Roman victory procession in honor of Titus. Indeed, the Arch of Titus [2nd link on the Arch] is tangible proof of an important, indeed tragic, event in Jewish history. However, it is unlikely that the objects carried in the procession in Rome were the same as used in Solomon's time, since the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians more than 500 years before the Romans destroyed the Second Temple. Further, the First Temple was looted by Egyptian forces in the late 10th century CE, it is believed. In fact, Velikovsky claimed that the objects looted from the Temple were depicted extensively item by item in an Egyptian monument as war booty.

Chateaubriand wrote after his trip to the Levant in 1806 about the oppression of the Jews in Jerusalem.
One must see these rightful owners of Judea slaves and strangers in their own country. Itineraire de Paris a Jerusalem
In 1836 he published a similar description. They were slaves in their own country [as above]
It is interesting that many of the outstanding 19th century French writers and poets [Chateaubriand, Flaubert, Loti, Lamartine, etc] visited Jerusalem and wrote about the ancient Jewish aspect of the Land of Israel. Could Chirac and the editors of LeMonde please take notice?
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Coming: more on Jews in Jerusalem, Felix Bovet, Pierre Loti on Hebron, etc.

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