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Altneuland - Book Five- Jerusalem


Twenty years before, Kingscourt and Friedrich had entered Jerusalem by night and from the west. Now they came by day, approaching from the east. Then she had been a gloomy, dilapidated city; now she was risen in splendor, youthful, alert, risen from death to life.

They came directly from Jericho up to the top of the Mount of Olives with its wide views. Jerusalem and her hills were still sacred to all mankind, still bore the tokens of reverence bestowed upon her through the ages. But something had been added; new, vigorous, joyous life. The Old City within the walls, as far as they could see from the mountain top, had altered least. The Holy Sepulcher, the Mosque of Omar, and other domes and towers had remained the same; but many splendid new structures had been added. That magnificent new edifice was the Peace Palace. A vast calm brooded over the Old City.

Outside the walls the picture was altogether different. Modem sections intersected by electric street railways; wide, tree-bordered streets; homes, gardens, boulevards, parks; schools, hospitals, government buildings, pleasure resorts. David pointed out and named the important buildings. Jerusalem was now a twentieth century metropolis. Fascinating indeed....but the Old City drew their eyes back ever and again. There she lay in the afternoon sunlight, on the farther side of the Kidron Valley....Kingscourt had put all sorts of questions, and David had answered them all. Now he asked, what was that wonderful structure of white and gold, whose roof rested on a whole forest of marble columns with gilt capitals? Friedrich's heart stirred within him as David replied, "That is the Temple!"

Friedrich's first visit to the Temple was on a Friday evening. David had engaged rooms for the party at one of the best hotels near the Jaffa Gate, and at sundown invited his guests to go with him to the Temple. Friedrich walked ahead with Miriam, David and Sarah following. The streets which at noon had been alive with traffic were now suddenly stilled. Very few motor cars were to be seen; all the shops were closed. Slowly and peacefully the Sabbath fell upon the bustling city. Throngs of worshipers wended their way to the Temple and to the many synagogues in the Old City and the New, there to pray to the God whose banner Israel had borne throughout the world for thousands of years.

The spell of the Sabbath was over the Holy City, now freed from the filth, noise and vile odors that had so often revolted devout pilgrims of all creeds when, after long and trying journeys, they reached their goal. In the old days they had had to endure many disgusting sights before they could reach their shrines. All was different now. There were no longer private dwellings in the Old City; the lanes and the streets were beautifully paved and cared for. All the buildings were devoted to religious and benevolent purposes-hospices for pilgrims of all denominations. Moslem, Jewish, and Christian welfare institutions, hospitals, clinics stood side by side. In the middle of a great square as the splendid Peace Palace, where international congresses of peace-lovers and scientists were held, for Jerusalem was now a home for all the best strivings of the human spirit: for Faith, Love, Knowledge.

Whatever a man's attitude toward religion, he could not escape a reverent mood in the streets of Jerusalem when he saw the quiet throngs exchange the Sabbath greetings as they passed.

Miriam and Friedrich met an old gentleman leaning heavily on his cane, and greeted him respectfully. He stopped to wait for Sarah and David, who then slowed their pace to his. "This old man, too, has found peace here," whispered Miriam to her escort. "You must get my brother to tell you how he found and converted him. David had gone to Paris on business, and met this M. Armand Ephraim by accident. You know our David - people always like him. M. Ephraim was very much attracted to him, more than to his own relatives, who were merely waiting for his death to enjoy his fortune. All his life M. Ephraim had done nothing but earn money and spend it on his pleasures; and then, when he became too old for pleasures, he did not know what to do with his money. But he did know one thing, that he did not want to leave it to his frivolous heirs. David persuaded him to come to Jerusalem. He took him to the Peace Palace, which is an international center for great undertakings. Its activities are by no means limited to Palestine and the Jews, but include all countries and all peoples.

"In the New Society," she continued, "we have found the answers to many of the troublesome old problems. Unfortunately, though, there is still much misery in the world, which can be alleviated only through concerted effort. When a disaster occurs anywhere in the world-fire, blood, famine, epidemic-it is reported here at once. Large sums of cash are always available here for emergency relief, because contributions continually flow into a central fund. A large permanent international council sees to the just distribution of the funds.

"Inventors, artists, and scholars also turn to the Peace Palace for encouragement. They are attracted by the motto over its portals: 'Nil humani a me alienum puto'-'Let nothing human be alien to me.' When such men are found worthy, they are aided as much as possible. M. Ephraim enjoys attending the committee meetings at which appeals for relief are considered, and he always leaves them lighter in heart and in pocket. He is gradually giving away his whole fortune except what he needs for the rest of his life. Whatever is left will go to good works."

"If he carries out that intention," smiled Friedrich, "his heirs will mourn him indeed."

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