I’ve decided, after the heavy contemporary themes of the past couple of weeks, dip into the historical archives.
Marcus Landau (c1837-1913), a native of Gomel in the Pale of Settlement, worked as a shochet in his adopted London, where he married a girl from Bavaria and fathered eighteen children. To his credit, this interesting and clever man – among his inventions was a safety lamp for use in coal mines – insisted that his nine daughters should be well-educated and encouraged to achieve their full potential in life, just as their brothers were. As a result, his progeny, both male and female, included some notable figures in the annals of Britain’s Jewish community.
In 1900 his daughter Annie (1873-1945) became headmistress of the famous Evelina de Rothschild School for Girls in Jerusalem, founded in 1854 and renamed in memory of a member of the Rothschild family who died in childbirth in 1866. Miss Landau became the school’s headmistress, and remained so until her death.
During a visit to London on extended sick leave in 1903, Annie Landau gave the Jewish Chronicle (30 October 1903) her impressions of Jerusalem – giving its population as 40,000 Jews, 14,000 Muslims and 6000 Christians – and recalling the difficulty she encountered when she first arrived in Eretz Israel three years previously:
'There is no ill-feeling on the part of the rest of the population to the Jewish inhabitants, according to Miss Landau, except that the Israelites are kept at arm's length from the holy places – even the tombs of their own Kings and Prophets. But the Turkish Government are still very careful about the settlement of Jews in the Holy Land. Very often, by expedients well-known in Oriental countries, Jews are enabled to evade the law which forbids them to settle in Palestine. But whenever the Zionists give signs of activity the screw is put on, it appears, and even the almighty [Thomas] Cook himself is unable to smuggle his Jewish tourists in with the rest of his company. This extra care on the part of the Turk was noticeable at the time of the El Arish negotiations , and a similar cause placed Miss Landau herself in an unpleasant situation the very first day she touched holy soil, which was ... shortly after the meeting of the Kaiser and Dr Herzl [October 1898] ...
When Miss Landau reached the Port of Jaffa and attempted to disembark, a Turkish official intercepted her.
"Ĕtes vous Chrétienne?" he asked.
"Je suis Anglaise," answered Miss Landau, with intentional irrelevance.
The official glanced at her. "Ah!" he exclaimed, "Vous êtes Juive." Miss Landau could not deny the soft impeachment, and the name of Rothschild (the Rothschild School) on Miss Landau's luggage confirmed the man's worst fears.
So off the lady was marched to a sort of hut, and a guard of fifty villainous-looking soldiers was placed over her. Fifty soldiers! If Miss Landau had tried to escape, one feels that the Sublime Porte would have mobilised at least the first division of the Reserves.
However, the lady kept quite quiet, and in the hut she remained for an hour. Meanwhile, the people who had come to meet her had hied [i.e. sped] to the British Vice-Consul for help. This gentleman (a Jew) replied that Miss Landau was to be marched to his place. But Miss Landau, like the brave British subject she is, strongly declined the escort. The Vice-Consul must come to her!
The Jewish Mahomet duly came to the mountain. But all he could suggest was that Miss Landau should sign a declaration undertaking to leave the country for thirty days, and agreeing to deposit fifty napoleons as surety. One napoleon is twenty francs and fifty napoleons was, therefore, a big sum – more than Miss Landau had in her possession. But even if she had had the money she could have entered into no such foolish understanding, seeing that she had come out to Palestine to take up the post of Head Mistress of the Rothschild School. So she declined the Vice-Consul's suggestion.
In the end Miss Landau was allowed to land and proceed to her hotel, the idea being to refer her case to the British Consul at Jerusalem (who was expected that day). Sure enough the Consul, Mr Dickson, arrived, and smoothed things over. Miss Landau was allowed to settle in Jerusalem - but only by virtue of a firman especially issued by the Sultan.
The Cadi [judge] came to Miss Landau and apologised for the trouble to which she had been put. The gentleman was very anxious to be forgiven, and as a sign that he had found grace in Miss Landau's eyes he begged but one thing – that she should pay a visit to his harem. Miss Landau agreed. In the harem she found a whole room of women – from 15 to 20 of them. Their faces were painted, they had belladonna [sic; kohl] under their eyes, their fingernails and hair were coloured with henna, and they lay in what Miss Landau calls "languishing attitudes".
When the visitor entered, they sat and stared at her. Some of them regarded her, no doubt, as the latest recruit to the harem. One of them, with embarrassing politeness, took the narghileh [hookah pipe] from her mouth and offered it to Miss Landau for a smoke. But in those days ladies did not smoke in England, and this Miss Landau duly explained. However, no unpleasant contretemps occurred as a result. The lady resumed her narghileh [hookah pipe]; Miss Landau left the harem; and there was peace between the Cadi and the teacher all the days of their lives.
But two doubtful consolations remain to Miss Landau as a result of her adventures at Jaffa. She is the first British woman that has ever been under arrest in Palestine, and she is the only Jewess on whose behalf the Sultan has issue a special firman.'
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