Mordecai Kaplan on a Donkey in Palestine (1925)


This photograph of Mordecai Kaplan on a donkey in Palestine was taken in 1925. Kaplan went to Palestine to represent the ZOA at the opening ceremonies for the Hebrew University. It appears on p.203 of Communings of the Spirit, Mel Scult’s edited first volume of Kaplan’s journals.

About the trip, I observed these mixed bits:

–Kaplan did not like what he regarded as the imperialism to Weizmann’s calling the Mediterranean a “Jewish sea,” nor did he feel “any sense of holiness” at the Western Wall (p.201)

–Balfour’s speech at the ceremony impressed him, namely his pointing out to the view of the Jordan River where the Israel crossed into the Land, and the idea that Jews and Arabs worked “here” nine hundred years ago and could do so today (p.202).

–Kook was supposed to speak for eight minutes at the opening ceremony and went on for more than a half an hour, and Bialik’s speech was as long as the exile (p.205).

–In Tel Aviv at a gathering of important people (Ahad Ha’am, Bialik, Tchernikovsky, among others), Sokolow gave a speech that Kaplan thought was moving and full of substance, about the hand of God revealed in Palestine. Kaplan was told afterwards by Fishman that Sololow did not mean a word of it, that it was just rhetoric. With this, Kaplan did not agree at all (p.206).

Mostly, what I’m left with is the image of Kaplan on a donkey, in a suit, wearing a panama hat, and sunglasses.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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