Your Minister Agrees – Water from the Jordan River is the Best Option for Baptism

Meet the man from Kentucky who believed he could make it big selling waters from the Jordan River to Christians in America.

אנשי "החברה הבינ"ל למים מנהר הירדן" ונציגים עות'מאנים עם החביות המוכנות לייצוא. נהר הירדן, 1906

“On Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Colonel Clifford Nadaud of Covington, Kentucky in America arrived in our city.

Clifford Nadaud is the Colonel of the staff of the governor of that commonwealth and has come to our city on behalf of a company he has founded to supply waters from the Jordan River to the Christian world for baptizing children and other needs of the Christian religion. Colonel Nadaud brought special barrels to be used in transporting the water from the Jordan to the four corners of the earth. The water will be boiled ahead of filling the barrels that will then be stamped with the seal of the American consulate.”

Hashkafa, November 26, 1906. Click on the image for the full article

In the fall of 1906, a businessman arrived in the Holy Land from the great state of Kentucky with a vision: to make unholy money from holy waters. He came to the Land of Israel with dozens of barrels to be filled with water from the Jordan River. After all, who would not want to buy a bottle of water from the source where Jesus himself was baptized?

Clifford received permission from the Ottoman leadership to take the water and the American consulate in Jerusalem agreed to stamp and give diplomatic authentication on the water export.

“Do you believe, sir,” the reporter of the Israeli newspaper Hashkafa asked the shrewd businessman, “that this will be a big business that will bring in a good profit?”

“I hope… I’m certain! Of course!” replied Clifford, who, like many American entrepreneurs knew that business also requires patience. “Two or three years will go by without profit, and during that time we will spend a lot, but after that, the business will make a profit in favor of the company that invested in it.”

The Bee in Kentucky reports, 1906

Clifford did not view the business as a gimmick- he took his vision very seriously and the news of his activities spread forth from Kentucky and across the globe. It even made it all the way to New Zealand.

A report from a New Zealand newspaper, December 21, 1906. Click on the image for the full article

Within five weeks, the vision became a reality.

“Colonel Clifford Nadaud, from America, who arrived here several weeks ago on business for the River Jordan Water Company to supply the waters of the Jordan River to Christians for religious purposes has finished his work and will return to his country in two weeks time,” reported Hashkafa. “During his time here he sent 30,000 kilograms of Jordan River water to America. Each barrel was transported from the Jordan River to the railway station on a cart pulled by three horses.”

When asked again regarding the potential success of his product, the entrepreneur replied that he hoped River Jordan Water Company will be “big business.”

We did not manage to find out if this start-up became a “big business” but after writing this story, the diligent reporter from Hashkafa noted, “If our country does not export gold, silver and precious stones, perhaps we have alternative exports, one of them being the waters of the Jordan for the Christians. Perhaps soon a Jewish company will begin supplying Israeli dirt to Jews living in the Diaspora?”

Haim Gouri’s Box of Old Stories

Hamutal Gouri, daughter of Haim Gouri, writes of how her father taught her the near-magical power of stories - tales that can be pulled out of a box to help us make sense of the world.

Haim Gouri, 1952

I come from a storytelling people. Don’t we all?

I keep a box of old stories in my small study in Jerusalem. I open it often – whenever I need the kind of strong medicine that only stories can offer- from moral advice to the solace found in the warm embrace of the stories of my grandmother, Luba z”l. I open the box of old stories when I need their help in chasing away the evil arch-villians that occasionally burst into my life, uninvited: the Queen of Chilling Silence, Paralyzing Fear or Sleepy Indifference.

I open the box of old stories in search of the comfort found in sense-making; when the painful yearning for those I have loved and lost engulfs me and strips me of words and images. I open the box of old stories to summon the wisdom of my storytelling people when I need the courage to venture into uncharted waters.

This morning I opened the box to look for the story whose words would give shape and meaning to that which is yet unspoken. At the bottom of the box I found the story of Danny and his Little Red Car. My father told us this story about a little boy who wished more than anything to participate in the annual car race in his hometown. So, Danny built a little red car from scratch and on the day of the race, he stood proudly at the starting line with his little red car. The crowd burst out laughing, pointing fingers of dismissal at Danny and his little vehicle, but Danny did not care and would not let any of it cast doubt in his heart. Danny and his little red car raced all the way to the finish line, coming in first place and winning the race, with the whole town folks cheering: “The little car will win the race! The red car is number one!”

Haim Gouri, age 2 with a pencil in hand, 1925, from the NLI archives

Although I have heard this story dozens of times, I would sit and listen, tingling with excitement and anticipation as my father retold the story. He would make it more dramatic each time; Danny became younger and poorer, the competition fiercer and thus the triumph even sweeter. I still recall the first time he told the story to my son, Daniel, who sat on his lap, eyes, ears and heart wide open, taking in every single word so that one day, he could tell this story to a little boy or a little girl in need of the strong medicine of magic, love and inspiration encapsulated in this one simple story.

Haim Gouri,1986. From the National Library of Israel, Dan Hadani Archive, IPPA Staff Photo by Rachamim Shaul

I lost my father, Haim Gouri, on January 31st, 2018, on Tu Bishvat, the Jewish Festival of the Trees. The day marks a joyous spring in the midst of gloomy winter. My father was a poet, writer, journalist and documentary filmmaker and at his core, he was a storyteller in every one of his endeavors. He left behind a rich legacy of poetry and works of fiction, thousands of investigative journalism pieces, and a documentary trilogy about the Holocaust and the Jewish Resistance. He also left behind a family heritage of stories that comfort, inspire and call upon the human spirit to show up at its best, time after time.

We all come from storytelling people and our stories are both intimately personal and powerfully collective and universal. My childhood story of Danny and his Little Red Car is a story of the triumph of mind over matter. It is a story that celebrates the human spirit and its capacity to envision and hold steadfast in the face of great challenges and doubts. It is also, if you like, the nursery room version of the story of David and Goliath.

We all have stories to share and we all come from storytelling people. I invite you to open your own box of old stories and share one that has enriched your life. It can be a childhood bedtime story, a piece of family history or a recipe for a traditional specialty that has a great story by its side.

Stories are a magical resource. The more we use them, the more we have. Stories yield the best interest on our investments: We tell one story and get at least two in return.

This article was written for the NLI Gesher L’Europa European Day of Jewish Culture partnership which this year celebrate the Jewish culture of storytelling.  

Fake News Creates Fake History: Why We Archive the Web

Preserving and archiving the internet will have tremendous impact on the way future generations experience our world.

For many, internet browsing in the 1990 to the early 2000’s came with a belief that, if it was published on the internet, it must be true. While this belief has since faded away, there are still those who carry the belief that if it is on the internet, it will stay on the internet. In actuality, what is on the internet today could easily be gone tomorrow. You may find that the information you are looking at is no longer available by the time you pour your second cup of coffee.

The World Wide Web is an intrinsically ephemeral being. In a world where a 24-hour news cycle has been reduced to minutes with information spreading and sharing moving faster than ever before, web pages are constantly being updated; information is removed, changed or altered so the readers and visitors of the site can begin absorbing and sharing the next wave of information. This fast paced, ever-changing exchange of materials can leave a gaping hole in internet history and in the documentation of materials published on the internet.

It is important to recognize that the internet of today will be crucial in giving future researchers and historians a glimpse into our present, an understanding of what the world looked like, how the political atmosphere impacted society, what daily life included, how people behaved and how civilization operated. As information is deleted or removed from the internet, a significant part of history and future research goes along with it.

The practice of archiving the web preserves the internet and the content being produced and erased every day. In preserving our digital heritage, web archiving is the process of gathering, preserving and creating open access to the historical information published online, ensuring the materials will live on and long beyond their transitory purposes.

In celebration of 20 years of the Israeli internet and in recognition of the critical importance of web archiving, The National Library of Israel and the Open Media and Information Lab (OMILab) at the Open University of Israel, organized an international conference on “Web Archiving: Best Practices for Digital Cultural Heritage,” in April 2018. The conference brought together leading researchers and practitioners in the field of web archiving and web historical research from the United States, France, United Kingdom, Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal and Israel.

Prof. Niels Brügger from Aarhus University, Denmark explained that web archiving, a form of deliberate collecting and preserving of web material, is critical to conserving our digital heritage. “Without that preservation internet materials are doomed to disappear,” he said.

“The online web is not an archive,” explained Brügger. “It is volatile, subject to deletions and changes at an unprecedented pace compared to other media types.”

Brügger suggested that the maximum lifespan of the average webpage is about a year – and once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. The importance of archiving the web is significant – without it, the internet would have no memory.

Prof. Niels Brügger. Photo: Hanan Cohen

Social Media: Our personal web archives

Web archiving has also begun to play an important sociological role in preserving the personal history of the everyday person. The internet has become a gold mine of memories – of family photos, personal narratives and videos of special moments.

With the rise of social media, people are sharing and uploading more information about themselves, their families and their friends than ever before. By sharing statuses or tweets, we provide a synopsis of our day-to-day lives. By sharing images and videos, we give a primary look at our personal experiences and present a picture of what our greater world looks like. This wealth of valuable data is uploaded by users to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sources – data that could be invaluable to future generations.

“Social media makes preserving and archiving the internet more challenging but it also makes it even more important because what humans are sharing is inherently ephemeral,” explained Mark Graham, Director of the Wayback Machine, a digital time machine in which over 20 years of internet archives are accessible.

“This information that people are sharing has real time value that emphasizes the ephemerality of the internet, replacing longer-term and more physical objects like books and magazines,” he explained.

Mark Graham. Photo: Hanan Cohen

How do we choose what to preserve?

Web archiving is accomplished with the use of web crawlers that comb the web, gathering information in real time. The material is then stored in its (sometime fragmented) HTML form. The vast expanse of the internet makes it difficult to conceptualize what it would take to preserve all of the information on the web. The ethical question presents itself – what should be stored and what should be prioritized in the current expanse of the internet? What should be preserved and how do we ensure that what is being digitized is real information and not “fake news?”

For experts like Brügger and Graham, the answer is simple: digitizing everything – or as much as possible. Nothing should be left behind.

According to Brügger, “The archiving of web material is collecting what should be preserved – whether it was real or fake-if it was online, it should be preserved.”

Fake news is a part of our reality. It existed on the internet and therefore it should be preserved for future generations to study and understand. If we succeed in archiving as much as possible, the fake news will fall by the wayside in real time context.

“Just as we can’t stop people from producing fake news, we cannot expect to protect the internet archive from fake news,” Graham explained. “What we can do is use sunlight as a disinfectant. We can help people differentiate fake news from real news within the greater context.

“We need build tools to allow people to evaluate the information more easily and to allow them to make smart and educated decisions. The longer-term work needs to be done through education to give people what they need to exercise good judgement,” said Graham.

The ultimate goal of web archiving

The objective, and ultimately the most difficult challenge of archiving the web, is to find a way to open the archive to researchers and to the public at large, noted Oren Weinberg, the Director General of the National Library of Israel (NLI).

“The National Library of Israel serves as the collective memory of the Jewish people…the web is the history of tomorrow so we need to take it upon ourselves to preserve it for generations to come.”

In archiving the web, we can retain and appreciate an entire generation’s way of thinking and existence. Without these efforts, we lose that piece of history – the art, the photos, the videos, and the overall experiences of the human collective. By archiving the web, by looking at the past and recognizing its significance, we open the door to societal progress and a greater historical appreciation.

When the Future King of England Celebrated Passover With the Chief Rabbi

In 1882, the young Prince George, later King George V, joined his brother on a tour around the world, recording his impressions of the locations he visited - including the Holy Land.

Jaffa Gate and the Citadel. Jerusalem from the west as Prince George probably saw in 1882. Oil painting by Vasily Polanov from 1882.

“… Its children [of the Land of Israel] will come here from all over the world, and a new Jewish Nation will be resurrected in the Holy Land …” – Prince George, the future King George V, supposedly wrote  in his diary, during his visit to Jerusalem in the spring of 1882.

This quote attributed to the future ruler of the United Kingdom was published as part of Yakir Warszawski’s article in the Yiddish newspaper “Di Presse” on April 23rd, 1948, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Although the author passed away in 1942, his article was published as an allusion to an event that was to take place in three weeks: the declaration of the State of Israel on May 14th, 1948.

“When the King of England Celebrated the Passover Seder in Jerusalem” – Yakir Warszawski’s article in the Yiddish newspaper “Di Presse”, April 23rd, 1948

Thirty-one years before his coronation, young Prince George joined his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor (Eddy), who was serving as junior officer aboard HMS Bacchante.” Together, they toured much of the globe. In March 1882 the royal siblings reached Egypt and from there they made their way to what was then Ottoman Palestine. During the voyage, Prince George also  became a junior naval officer. He began keeping a private diary in 1878, recording his time on the tour.

Prince George in 1882 as a junior officer

The unofficial visit of Prince George and his brother to Jerusalem, including their participation at the Passover Seder held at the home of the the Sephardi Chief Rabbi Raphael Meir Panigel, is also documented in the Hebrew booklet “The Visit of the Princes of England in Jerusalem” (Hebrew) written by the famous writer and scholer Pinchas Graiewski (1873-1941) together with Baruch Priver.

“… Mr. Nissim Bekhar, the principal of the Alliance Israélite Universelle school, translated the Haggadah for them all and explained the rituals. The guests were moved by the ceremony, listening to every word and every whisper, paying attention to every custom with great interest until the reciting of ‘Ga’al Yisrael’… On their return to London, their father sent a letter of thanks to the Rabbi, accompanied by a souvenir picture of himself. “

Graiewski’s and Friver’s booklet from 1935. The two dedicated the booklet to the occasion of the jubilee celebration of the coronation of King George V. (The text regarding the king’s participation in the Passover Seder was written in 1925 and was published again by Graiewski in 1929)

Prince George documented this emotional event in his personal diary as well. His diaries received special attention in the book “King George the Fifth – his Life and Reign”, a biography written by Harold Nicholson published in 1953. However, other than the visit to the Land of Israel, Nicholson’s book contains no reference to the Passover Night spent at the home of the Chief Rabbi. In fact Nicholson notes in his work:

“They went up the Nile as far as Luxor and the month of April was spent on a tour of the Holy Land. Prince George was not impressed by the stories related to him by the local guides: ‘All the places’, he wrote on April 20, 1882, ‘are only said to be the places”.

All of King George V’s diaries, written between 1879 and 1936, were officially published by his granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II, in 2005. The Queen approved the reading of the diary over several days on the British radio station, Channel 4. Craig Brown of The Telegraph wrote on 31 June 2004: “…The advance publicity proudly trumpeted it as a major exclusive; up to now, King George V’s diaries had not seen the light of day.”

Sections of the diaries of Prince George and his brother Prince Albert had in fact been published already in 1886 in the book “The Cruise of Her Majesty’s Ship ‘Bacchante’ – 1887-1882”. Warszawski, who apparently relied on the above book, quoted Prince George’s diary as follows: “Around 6:30 in the evening we went to Passover Seder at the house of Sephardic Rabbi Rafael Meir Panigel, an old man with a white bonnet and a long coat that he wore over other clothes. There we also met a second old man, Rabbi Nissim Baruch [Apparently referring to Nissim Bekhar, the director of the Alliance Israélite Universelle school mentioned by Graiewski and Friver in their booklet]. (The Yiddish text of Warszawski’s quotations is not an exact translation of the respective English text in the book published in 1886).

“The Cruise of Her Majesty’s Ship ‘Bacchante’ – 1879-1882”, published in London, 1886

Warszawski notes that the future King repeatedly mentioned his visit to the Holy Land in his diary. This is the text of his quote:

“… I moved from the Temple to the Western Wall, where the Jews pray to God. I saw the presence of the Divinity, which seemed to me like a seagull spinning in a storm in the form of lightning.
At the Seder table I heard verses from the Passover Haggadah which is the story of the Exodus from Egypt, a story about a people who came through the hot desert to the Land they remember until this day; It’s children will come here from all over the world and a new Jewish nation will rise in the Holy Land. “

(These quotations in Warszawski’s article do not appear in the compiled diaries and letters published in London, 1886).

King George V in 1923

It is no wonder that Yakir Warszavski’s writing, despite that fact that he died in 1942, was published on the eve of Passover in 1948, about four months after the UN General Assembly’s historic vote approving the Partition Plan, and about three weeks before the declaration of independence of the State of Israel. Apparently, the editor of the Yiddish newspaper “Di Presse” sought to link two historical events: the Exodus from Egypt and the Eve of Passover prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, with a Passover stopover in the Land of Israel in 1882, taking it as a sign of British support for the gathering of the Jewish Diaspora, at a very early stage of  the modern Jewish settlement enterprise in the Land of Israel.


Yakir Warszawski’s article is part of the Zvi and Lea Schwarz Archive at the National Library of Israel. The Schwarz’s were the publishers of the Yiddish monthly “Shriftn” in Buenos Aires.