Ephemera of a Promised Land: Two Travel Guides in a Reconstituted Jerusalemite Family Archive


  • Micaela Sahhar




Mandate tourism, Palestine, biblification, modernity, archives, national narratives


This article investigates Christian Palestinian involvement in tourism and Western pilgrimage in Mandate Palestine, and focuses on the tension between political identity and mercantile aspirations. It makes use of an ephemeral archive that highlights the possibilities of reconstructing a picture of Mandate-era Jerusalem based on such transient documents. The article examines two 1930s travel pamphlets, published in English and co-authored or co-edited by a Greek-Orthodox Jerusalemite, George M. Sahhar (1901–1976). Sahhar tourism enterprises in Jerusalem catered to an English-speaking British and American clientele, some associated with the British-Israelite movement. Both guides offer insight into Christian tour operators and the tastes of their clientele and indicate Western appetite for biblical and pseudo-historical narratives of Jewish connections to Palestine. Together, they illustrate the ambivalent instrumentality of Christian Palestinian entrepreneurs in biblifying Palestine for the Western imaginary and even propagating ideas of Palestinian progress as facilitated by Zionist modernity, a strategy now implicated in normalizing Israel’s 1948 creation and later deployed in Israeli national narratives.

Author Biography

Micaela Sahhar

Micaela Sahhar is a writer and educator. She currently co-heads the History of Ideas program at Trinity College, The University of Melbourne. Her poetry, essays, and commentary have appeared in the Griffith ReviewArtlinkCorditeOverland, Southerly, and the Conversation among others. Her research has been published in journals and edited book collections, more recently in Afterstorm, edited by Charles Green and Jon Cattapan (Art + Australia, 2021), and Unsettled Voices: Beyond Free Speech in the Late Liberal Era, edited by Tanja Dreher, Michael R. Griffiths, and Timothy Laurie (Routledge, 2021). She was a 2021 Next Chapter Fellow at the Wheeler Centre and is a Round 7 grant recipient from the Neilma Sidney Literary Travel Fund.


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