For links to other parts of this series, see this chart.
For a statement on the unofficial nature (i.e., personal interpretation for discussion purposes, not necessarily representative of church doctrine) of these lessons, see this notice.
PROBLEMS OF THE AGE
Dealing with Religious, Social and Economic Questions and Their Solution.
A Study for the Quorums and Classes of the Melchizedek Priesthood. 1917-1918.
By Dr. Joseph M. Tanner
XII. – The Future of the Holy Land
Conquest of the Holy Land. – One of the great changes which present conditions are likely to bring about is the restoration of the Holy Land. The British army is on its border to the South and fighting near Gaza. It has been there for some months without making any headway. It may perhaps be postponing a further drive in order to build a railway to bring up supplies from Port Said in Egypt, and it may be that the abandonment of a further drive in Macedonia is the result of a plan to shift the troops to the Palestine front. The collapse of Russia suspended all movements in Asia, but there seems to be a set determination not to abandon the advance on Palestine. The whole Christian world is looking with joyful anticipation to the day when the soil of that country shall be free from the blight of Turkish rule. To the Latter-day Saints the day of its restoration is a divine promise. An invading army would not need to fight its way up through the mountains of Judea. It could pursue its course along the Mediterranean litoral through the valley of the Sharon to Mt. Carmel, and then around the Bay of Acre, thus following the route taken by the Crusaders. From the Bay of Acre it could cross the valley of the Esdraelon, down into the valley of the Jordan, and make a retreat of the Turks across the Jordan eastward necessary. What would happen to Palestine, once it was wrested from the Mohammedans? To whom would it belong? Russian ambitions to take it have not disappeared. No other country has any ambition for its possession., Great Britain would prefer to see it a buffer state to Egypt. The efforts already made by the Jews to reclaim it would make them the logical candidates for its possession. It is said that there are already about 100,000 Jews in this country. They have about 15,000 engaged in agricultural pursuits. The Zionist movement has been accumulating strength for a number of years. No extensive efforts have been made because of the opposition of the Turkish government to the settlement of that people in the land. The great uncertainty of what the Turks would do has made a pronounced movement unpopular among leading Jews of wealth.
A Waste Country. – The country lies in a state of waste, and its reclamation would be the work of pioneers. It is a desert. The great inflow of wealth which would be possible would lead to its rapid recovery. It is primarily a problem of irrigation which would make the land blossom as the rose. Today the colonists there are raising green grapes, almonds, and oranges. Grapes are grown in the valley of the Sharon without irrigation. They are of superior quality and have a good market. A grape grower once told me that if he could get half a cent a pound for his crop in the field he would do well. The Sharon valley is cultivated only in spots. Irrigation can be carried on only on a very limited scale. The mountains of Judea have been denuded of their forests, and the streams as a consequence have dried up. Reforestation would be one of the first things undertaken in the reclamation of the land. That would require years in the mountains, but the valleys under irrigation would respond rapidly to all vegetable growth.
Water systems could be quickly established, and the valleys made habitable. There are two great valleys in Palestine, the Jordan and the Sharon. The former could be redeemed by an irrigation system from the sea of Galilee. If the waters of that sea should be found too brackish, water might be brought from the Mountains of Moab, east of the river. Small streams run from them into the Jordan. There are numerous reservoir sites where water might be impounded and brought by pipe line across the Jordan on to the highest points of the valley. It is an excessively hot district, the hottest of the whole land; but not worse than Egypt. Near by are the mountains of Judea, to which the people might go after the harvest season. Semi-tropical fruits would grow there in abundance. It might also be made one of the finest winter resorts in the world.
Opportunities. – it would no doubt be the ambition of the Jews to secure the great table lands of the Moab where there are fine pastures and abundant opportunities for growing grain. The Dead sea would doubtless become a favorable bathing resort. Its waters are about the same density as those of the Great Salt Lake. The Jordan Valley might be made, without very great expense, a paradise, and no doubt there would be opened from New York a direct steamship line for Jafa, the seaport leading up to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, as it exists today, would have to be completely razed to the ground, except, of course, the most sacred places. Reservoirs and pumping systems could be installed to supply the city with water. The valley of the Sharon is much larger than the Jordan. In the south it is fully forty or fifty miles wide. The first work in redeeming its waste land would be a system of reservoirs. There are some artesian wells. The underground water is near the surface, and now pumped by means of cattle for the orange groves. An excellent place for electric plants would be the Jordan valley. Electricity might easily be carried over the low mountains of Judea to the Sharon valley, and water pumping systems established there much as they are in parts of Arizona.
The Present worth. – Palestine is, if we except Arabia, the most worthless part of the Turkish empire, from an economic point of view. Few people could exist there were it not for a place of pilgrimage. In the past, men undertaking to exploit foreign countries, have had their attention called to the wonderful possibilities of the Holy Land. Some have invested there without accomplishing their objects. Its inducements are many, but the Turks have discouraged all enterprises in the country. If the wealth of the Jews were poured into it, it would undoubtedly become one of the most beautiful and attractive spots of earth. They have a race pride that would induce them to make the land of their forefathers as near a paradise as possible. Already about $25,000,000 has been expended by the agricultural population.
Present Conditions. – The commercial prospects of the country will be greatly enhanced by the construction of railroads connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa. Already there has been constructed a railroad most of the way between Constantinople and Bagdad by the Germans. It runs much to the north of the Holy Land. Out from it branch lines have been constructed. The one running to Damascus is connected by the Haifa road in the northern part of Palestine on the Mediterranean. It opens the rich valley of the Esdraelon, and connects it with the uplands of Moab. A railway runs up from Jafa to Jerusalem for the accommodation of the pilgrims. Just before the outbreak of the war another road was begun, going down from Jerusalem to Port said, where it would connect with the line running to Cairo. The English were carrying out the plan of Rhodes to construct a line from Cairo to Capetown; but the Germans objected to a right-of-way over their territory in East Africa. They saw its strategic value to the English, and planning a war of conquest many years ago, they determined to balk the plans of Great Britain in the construction of this through road which would have connected also Jerusalem with Capetown.
The commerce of Palestine on the Mediterranean has been greatly handicapped from lack of suitable harbors. There are really only two, one at Jafa, the other in the Bay of Acre at Haifa. At both, the ships must anchor a considerable distance from the shore and send their merchandise and passengers by small boats. Large and expensive piers would be necessary to overcome this difficulty. Such improvements the Turks have been unable to make, and then the inland traffic did not justify it.
Jews Now in Palestine. – The Jews are really adepts in the use of mechanical tools, and have a monopoly of the carpentry and cabinet work of the country.
More than four fifths of the Jews now in Palestine practically live from the alms sent them by their richer brethren in foreign lands. They are there from religious motives. Some have taken money with them sufficient to eke out an existence. They were always in a poverty-stricken condition. Their condition now must be pitiful. They are greatly given to lamentations, and seem to have an idea that Jehovah will aid them through the exercise of their prayers and suffering. In the future they would really be a bar to the material development of the country. Those who first began agricultural life in Palestine were at a disadvantage because of the habits of life in the countries from which they came. They greatly exaggerated their ability to make money out of the Fellaheen or native laborers. The aspect of the early Jewish colonies was not a very thrifty one. So far as known, there is no coal or iron in the country to justify the hope of manufacture there. Fruits, grain, and live stock would provide the chief employments.
Jewish children learn easily and readily to adapt themselves to new environments and a variety of work and study. One has been led to wonder what the language of the country would be. Fully twenty languages are spoken in Jerusalem. But what language will the Jews adopt? They come from different nations of the earth. Most of them speak Yiddish, “a spoiled German.” Here is what Mossinsohn has to say on the subject of schools in the Holy Land:
With the growth of the po9pulation and its approximation to human life, the need for public education began to make itself felt, and the Zionist organization undertook the establishment and support of a complete system of public and high schools, in which the language of the instruction is Hebrew. Every Jewish settlement was provided with a kindergarten and elementary schools, and high schools were established. Hebrew thus became a living tongue once more. Even in America, Yiddish-speaking parents have found it necessary to master Hebrew in order that they may be able to keep in spiritual touch with their children. Only in Palestine the parents, loving the new old-tongue, are mastering it as completely as the children for whom it is the only language – the language of play, of study, of romance, of ambition, of life itself. Before the war there were plans for a Jewish university. We now have the curious innovation of the Hebrew language printed above shops and business places of Arabs and other nationalities. The Arab is the principal language of Palestine today. There are very few Turks in the country. They are the government officials. How much of the modern Hebrew the ancient Jews would understand is questionable. It is certain that modern Hebrew will have to incorporate a large number of words from foreign languages to meet the progress of life in art and science. The Jews learn foreign languages rapidly. In their scattered condition they have been compelled to speak a variety of tongues so that their children have inherited a linguistic genius.
A general Jewish movement to the Holy Land would have a marked social and business effect on many leading nations of the world. It is not easy to compute the enormous control exercised by this race in the United States. Clothing, railroads, and manufactures are rapidly falling into their control. Their genius for trade is known the world over. They are without doubt the most tenacious race in the world today. What other people could have withstood the shifting conditions of life as they have withstood them? They are truly a “peculiar people.”
Since the above was written Jerusalem has fallen into the hands of the British (See Improvement Era, January, 1918, pp. 254, 259).
Revelation – “And this I have told you concerning Jerusalem, and when the day shall come, shall a remnant be scattered among all nations;
“But they shall be gathered again, but they shall remain until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
“And in that day shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them, and they shall say that Christ delayeth his coming until the end of the earth.
“And the love of men shall wax cold, and iniquity shall abound” (Doc. and Cov. 45:24-27).
Key to John’s Revelation. – What is to be understood by the two witnesses, in the eleventh chapter of Revelation?> A. They are two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days, at the time of the restoration, and to prophesy to the Jews, after they are gathered, and build the city of Jerusalem, in the land of their fathers. (Doc. and Cov. 77:15).