Americans have for two centuries had a special tie to the Holy Land, and Davis, professor emeritus of American Jewish History and Institutions at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has devoted much of his career to illuminating this connection.
The somewhat casually written volume under review includes such interesting facts as: In 1788, during the Constitutional Convention, the Hartford Courant published a letter from a reader who argued that the president of the United States should not also be commander-in-chief, on the grounds that "should he hereafter be a Jew, our dear posterity may be ordered to rebuild Jerusalem." In contrast, the first Zionist declaration by an American politician came in 1819, when John Adams wrote, "I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation." Emma Lazarus, author of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty and of the lines about "Give me your tired, your poor," also believed that Jews would find their haven in Eretz Yisra'el. Mark Twain wrote of American pilgrims to the Holy Land that "they could no more write dispassionately and impartially about it than they could about their own wives and children." Nearly four hundred villages, towns, and cities in the United States have names from the Jewish Bible, ranging from the twenty-seven incidences of Salem to the whole pseudo-biblical geography around Salt Lake City.
Davis argues that these many signs point to an attitude of considerable political importance: "helping the Jews in Eretz Israel not only conformed to the spirit of America but enhanced it."