Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why Your Trip Need Never Be a Failure

 There's a story common among newsmen about the cub reporter sent out to cover a launching.  He came back with an apology: there was no launching:--the ship sank. Hand the mike to Michael Gilleland, channeling Laurence Sterne in Sterne's Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768): 

I pity the man who can travel from Dan to Beersheba, and cry, 'Tis all barren;—And so it is; and so is all the world to him who will not cultivate the fruits it offers. I declare, said I, clapping my hands chearily together, that were I in a desert, I would find out wherewith in it to call forth my affections—if I could not do better, I would fasten them upon some sweet myrtle, or seek some melancholy cypress to connect myself to;—I would court their shade, and greet them kindly for their protection—I would cut my name upon them, and swear they were the loveliest trees throughout the desert: if their leaves wither'd, I would teach myself to mourn; and, when they rejoiced, I would rejoice along with them.

So it all depends on what you are looking for.   I'd be just as glad if my tour operator didn't try to fob me off with that excuse but I agree, bar one important qualification: Dan and Beersheba are not all barren, not even to the jaundiced eye.  In fact it's one of the most important things when I first visited Israel just a few years ago.  I mean, I  think of myself as a person of some imagination and I had certainly done my Sunday School homework, but I had to see for myself to grasp the first principle of Biblical geography:  Beersheba is a desert but Dan is green.  Indeed, that is the whole point: Galilee is a garden, Israel is a rock garden.  Two different things. Other than that, yes, and as Yogi Berra perhaps did not say, you can see by observing.

1 comment:

Ken Houghton said...

The only two things you need to understand the Biblical tales, and the history of Palestine, are to do a fairly close reading of the travels (primarily the real book, though The Sequel--excepting all those bloody personal letters--doesn't hurt) and to find the water tables. The explanations for all the battles follows that.

It's not that all is barren between; it's that what is between is not--and never will be, never can be--Dan or Beersheva itself.