Map of Israel and Syria, Jerusalem, 1908
The title of this map, written in German and Hebrew, is “Map of the Land of Israel and Syria.” This map, drawn by Pinchas HaLevi Horowitz from Jerusalem, is one of the first attempts by Jews in the Yishuv (the Jewish population of pre-state Israel) to publish a map of the Land of Israel in Hebrew. While a close look reveals Hebrew letters, there are also many words in English, Yiddish, and German.
In addition to the topographical features of the area, such as seas, mountains, and deserts, the map also shows biblical sites, the areas inhabited by the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and the route taken by the Children of Israel when they left Egypt, which is marked as a long, thin double line stretching from Egypt to above the Dead Sea.
The Land of Israel is portrayed according to the biblical borders. In the north the border is Aleppo (Aram Tzova) and the Euphrates (River Prat), to the east the border is the Arabian desert and Moav, to the west is the island of Cyprus, and the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt are in the south.
In the Mediterranean sea there is a large ship with verses from the book of Isaiah curving around it (Isaiah 60:4, 60:9, 50: 10-11). These verses relate to the Israelites’ return to Israel and the power of God who will bring them back.
At the bottom of the map are two images of buildings from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Knesset Yisrael that was built in the 1892 as one of the first Jewish neighbourhoods outside the walls of the Old City. The purpose of the map was to raise money for the Jewish people of the Yishuv, specifically those living in Jerusalem. Their financial situation was precarious, and they depended on charity. It seems that the map was presented to people who donated to the charity or was a way of publicising the cause. On the bottom of the map are the names of Chief Rabbi Samuel Salant and Elia David-Rabinowitz Tumim who were in charge of the charity.
This map can be shown in Geography lessons as an example of a map of Israel or of a thematic map describing biblical times.
Jewish Studies teachers can use this map to show biblical sites and the areas where the different tribes lived as well as illustrating where Jews were living in the early 1900s. The map can also be used by Bible teachers when teaching the verses from Isaiah that are featured on the map and discussing the redemption of Israel and their return to the land or, more generally, to illustrate the Israelites’ path through the desert and the areas of each of the Twelve Tribes.
Hebrew teachers can use this map when teaching about the development of modern Hebrew, as it is one of the first times Hebrew geographical terms were used for the Mediterranean area.
Jewish History can show the images of the Knesset Yisrael neighbourhood when discussing the nineteenth-century history of Israel and the establishment of the new Jerusalem neighbourhoods outside of the Old City.
Which countries appear on this map?
Which seas appear on the map?
Which large island is featured?
Which cities and towns appear on the map? Make a list of five cities.
What is the thin double line stretching from Egypt to above the Dead Sea?
What are the different coloured areas in the centre of the map? (Use the legend to the left of the ship and use a dictionary if necessary.)
Around the ship there is a verse from the book of Isaiah. What is it?
Describe the pictures in the bottom right-hand corner.
Reading Between the Lines
Which historical period is depicted in this map?
Who created the map and when?
Why did the cartographer include verses from the book of Isaiah?
What is the connection of the verses to the map and to the time when the map was made?
The map was probably created in order to help raise funds for the Jews of Jerusalem at the beginning of the twentieth century.
How do you think this map helped do this?
Why did the Jews need help? What was the situation in Jerusalem at the time?
The images in the bottom left-hand corner show buildings from the new neighbourhood of Knesset Yisrael that was part of the westward expansion of Jerusalem at the time.
Find out more about Knesset Yisrael and about other new Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
How has Jerusalem changed since 1908 according to the images on the map?
Compare this map to another ancient map of the Exodus from Egypt. How are the maps similar or different?
Ask the students to draw a biblical map of Israel based on their knowledge of the Tanach. You could have a preliminary discussion with the students to help them decide which places to mark on the map, whether to add images or biblical verses and, if so, which ones.