Named not in hubris but in honor and memory of Austin M. Wright, who taught me critical thinking, and his teacher, Wayne Booth, who coined the phrase.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The SS President Arthur: The Zionist Mayflower Part VI: A Very Late Arrival

Despite the drumbeat of hype about the President Arthur's speed, the ship did not arrive in Haifa until Tuesday, March 31, not a week early but a week late, and the day before the dedication ceremonies for Hebrew University. It was too late for the anticipated “special trains . . . from Jerusalem . . . with delegations to welcome the President Arthur.”[i] 

When the ship arrived, Jacob Drapekin’s coffin, "draped in the American flag . . . was placed on deck. The last rites were performed in Hebrew and English by Rabbi Ashinsky. The Captain also said a few words” and Drapekin's body was taken across the road to be buried in Haifa's cemetery.[ii] 

Then, according to Herman Hirsch:
all was confusion on the ship. It seems that there was no system prepared for the departure of the passengers. The Arabs swarmed on the ship to take the baggage. I was almost the last to leave the ship. A fleet of small boats rowed by Arabs received the passengers from the ship to deliver to the shore. The Arabs demanded one dollar from each passenger for this service. I paid the dollar, but others refused to do so for the reason that it was an outrage and the amount was exorbitant. The result was that the Arabs refused to propel the boat further. Seeing the difficulty a tug boat was dispatched from the shore and we were pulled in. The next difficulty was in getting our baggage. I appealed to an Arab policeman who had to almost fight to get my baggage. The baggage was then taken to the custom house for inspection. Arrangements had been made by me previously for passage on the special train to Jerusalem, but, while being detained in the Customs House, at which place I was unable to exchange my money, the train pulled out, leaving me, a stranger, in a strange city, surrounded by Arabs with whom I could not make myself understood. I at last succeeded in making myself understood that I wanted a Jewish hotel, and I was shown to the Hotel Tel Aviv.[iii] 

Hebrew University Founding, Mount Scopus
Both Ha’aretz and the Palestine Bulletin reported that “the Arab oarsmen in the port of Haifa have decided to boycott [the ship] as a protest against the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine.”[ix]

The cable the Times printed from the New York office of the American Palestine Line, however,  described the scene quite differently:
It seems as if all of Palestine crowded down to the waterfront at Haifa to witness the arrival of the first ship bearing the flag of Zion.

As far as the eye could see every available inch of space along the shore was thronged with eager humanity. Some had commandeered crafts . . . and so crowded was the harbor that the Arthur had difficulty in picking its way so as not to upset some of the smaller craft. . . .

So great was the crowd that swarmed to the vessel, all eager to get aboard to see the first ship to fly the Jewish flag, that the passengers had difficulty in alighting. . . .

It was noticed that among the crowds that came down . . . were a goodly number of Arabs, who, whatever their political ideas might be, seemed glad at this closer linking of their land with America and the closer commercial relations that will undoubtedly result.”[iv]

Once the ship had landed, good news continued to emanate from the offices of the American-Palestine Line. In its April 3, 1925, issue, the Chicago Sentinel, reported that
A special effort to enlist the interest of the future preachers and teachers of Israel will be made in connection with the Palestine Vacation Tour, which the American-Palestine line is projecting this summer. . . . delegations from the Hebrew Union College, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Yeshivah, Dropsie and other Jewish rabbinical and teacher institutions” would be encouraged to experience “the renaissance of Jewish life . . . and the chance of attending at least a few of the sessions of the Hebrew University.[x]

The next cable that Strahl shared with the Times recounted “messages of congratulation and good wishes” sent “by King George V of England, King Victor Emmanuel III, of Italy and Premier Mussolini.” The "special ten-day cruise of the Mediterranean" was an obvious bit of puffery, given that the ship already had been scheduled to pick up freight in those same ports between landing in Haifa and departing on April 17.[xii]

[i]  “Zion Liner Due at Haifa.”
[ii]  Hirsch, op.cit.
[iii]  Hirsch, op.cit.
[iv]  “Holy Land Greets New York Steamer,” New York Times, April 2, 1925, 8.
[v]  “American-Palestine Line,” Palestine Bulletin, March 12, 1925.
[vi]  “Quicker American mail to Palestine,” Palestine Bulletin, March 16, 1925, 3.
[vii]  “’President Arthur’ Delayed,” Palestine Bulletin, March 22, 1925, 3.
[viii]  “S.S. ‘President Arthur,’” Palestine Bulletin, March 29, 1925, 1.
[ix]  “’President Arthur’ and the Arabs,” Ha’aretz, March 31, 1925, 31; “Oarsmen Boycotting S.S. ‘President Arthur,’” Palestine Bulletin, March 31, 1925, 3.
[x]  “Plan Tour of Rabbinical Students to Palestine,” Sentinel, April 3, 1925, 4.
[xi]  “Kings Greet Zionist Ship,” New York Times, April 4, 1925, 7.
[xii]  “Zion Flag Aloft as 400 Sail to Promised Land.”

No comments:

Post a Comment