Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Edmond de Rothschild visits Central Asia

Edmond de Rothschild came apparently by train to Samarqand in 1889 and was
entertained there by a certain Benjamin Abrahamov. He then went to Bukhara
where he stayed five days with Joseph Maman's grandson and another five with
Mulla Haim ha-Cohen,84 son of the rabbi who had jumped off the Kalān minaret
and remained unharmed. While dining in Samarqand the baron enquired about
the origin of the delicious grapes which he was offered, and when his host said
they grew in his own vineyards, he asked for 500 cuttings to replace the vines of
his colonies in Palestine, recently decimated by the phylloxera vine-pest. This
was done, and the baron, who knew that his proud coreligionists would accept
no financial help, sent a silver tray to Abrahamov which, as his own Hebrew name
was also Benjamin, he had had inscribed with the words 'from one Benjamin to
another'. Although doubt has been cast on this story, it seems likely that the
baron did visit the area, for there are at least two other accounts of his visit, and
he had been to Odessa and Russian Turkestan the previous year. Two other
visitors to Bukhara at about the same time were Shmuel Moshe Rivlin, after
whom a street would be named in Jerusalem, and Shlomo Zalman ha-Cohen
Kook who was to become the chief rabbi of Jerusalem.

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