When Mark Twain visited Israel after the Civil War in 1867 he was witness to a very different country that now exists.
It is a credit to the Jewish People that the rebirth of the State of Israel 66 years ago came to fruition. What is of special interest to me personally is the fact that Mark Twain stayed in a Hotel in Jerusalem that now belongs to Ateret Cohanim. It is now the Wittenberg House which was purchased by the Wittenberg Trust not too long after Mark Twain stayed there - made famous in more recent times when Ariel Sharon moved into one of its apartments in the late 1980s.
It was not known at the time that it had been the very place Mark Twain had stayed. Mark Twain had a great deal of respect for the Jewish People writing in his own unique style in Harper's Magazine regarding "the Jew" stating, "He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages, and had done it with his hands tied behind him. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass but he remains". This is one of the many lessons Mark Twain has taught us.
In his writings about his travels throughout Israel entitled, "Innocents abroad" - published in 1869 - he described the desolation of the Holy Land as follows: "No landscape exists that is more tiresome to the eye than that which bounds the approaches to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is mournful, dreary, and lifeless. Palestine sits in sackloth and ashes".
In Twain's own inimical words about the Arabs in Israel he describes "its minuscule Arab presence, making use of virtually none of the available land for the people's own meager needs, could hardly be considered a serious counter to the claim of millions of Jews the world over to a State of their own."
Any claim by the Arabs that they were living throughout the land of Israel for any length of time before the Jews came back is totally and unequivocally debunked by Mark Twain's writings. In 1867 there were only a handful of Arabs in the Land of Israel. That is the sum total of it.
All of the Arab claims that they were descendants of Arabs living in Israel is just not true. Yasir Arafat's family came from Egypt, not the Land of Israel. The Arabs only moved in after the Jews had already settled many areas of Israel in the 1800's. Mark Twain's 150th Anniversary of his visit to Israel is soon approaching. We should do everything in our power to honor this great man who set the record straight for the Ages.