October 12


Maimon at his birthplace, Cordoba in Spain

I wonder what Jerusalem was like, when Maimonides - Moshe ben Maimon his Hebrew name - finally reached it, this day in 1165. In his book about the city, Colin Thubron notes that: "Of the four centuries between the rising of the Dome [of the Rock, begun by Abd el-Malik in 687] and the coming of the Crusaders [around 1100 - the First Crusade was launched at Clermont in 1095], scarcely a building in Jerusalem remains. What we know now is the Moslem city, enlarged by the Turks, modified by the Christians, added to by the Armenians, dug in its tel by a century of archeologists." I think it is fair to claim that Maimonides did not visit our Jerusalem at all, but a mythical Jerusalem, bred in the poetry of ibn-Ezra and the Psalms of David, a Jerusalem of the heart and mind. And actually, isn't that the sum of it for all of us as well?

Wondering is not the same as researching of course. Leo Schwarz, in his "Memoirs Of My People", quotes from Maimon's letters and diary:
“I put to sea on Sunday, the fourth day of the second month, and on the following Sabbath we encountered very rough weather... On Sunday night, the 3rd of Sivan, I landed safe and happy in Acco and thereby escaped enforced apostasy. So at last we arrived in the Land of Israel... We left Acco on Wednesday, the 4th of Marcheshvan, and reached Jerusalem after a perilous journey. I spent the entire day, as well as the following two days, praying at the remains of the ancient Temple. On Sunday the 9th of Marcheshvan, I left Jerusalem for Hebron...”
And that is it - a mere postcard! Posterity, cheated by humility. Come on, Maimo, do you not know that it is your duty to be more than pious and self-effacing? You are one of history's miracles, and here you are, fulfilling the dream of millions; and this, this is all you have to say! And what about simple arithmetic, you genius philosopher? If Wednesday was the 4th, Sunday can't have been the 9th, can it? How can we ever trust you again?

More on Maimon on March 30More on Jerusalem, soon, in my book about the city

Amber pages

Ralph Vaughan-Williams, English composer, born today in 
1872 - though surely that should read "Welsh composer"?

And today in 1960 was the one on which Nikita Khrushchev pounded the desk with his shoe while making a speech at the United Nations.

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