A few days ago I published a story about the relationship between the Said family and Martin Buber based on an account offered by Uri Davis and a caption for an image of Buber’s home on a Flickr account, both of which repeated the false information that the home at 3 Hovevey Zion had belonged both to the Said family and to Martin Buber. Prof. Joseph Agassi, husband of Martin Buber’s granddaughter, Judith Buber Agassi, has set me straight.
Martin Buber did live in an apartment in the home of Boutrous Said at 10 Brenner Street in Jerusalem from 1938-1942. On its return from Egypt and at the end of apartment lease, the family sought to reclaim the apartment. There was a legal dispute and Buber was forced to leave. He moved to the Dajani home in Talbiyeh in 1942 and lived there until 1947. During mounting hostilities, the Jerusalem Anglican Bishop insisted on taking Buber and his wife away from the “flying bullets.” They moved to a pension on Ibn Ezra Street in Rehavia. After the war, they purchased the home at 3 Hovevey Zion after Buber determined that the previous owner had “returned to Turkey.” They lived there for the remainder of their lives.
My apology for the errors I’ve repeated. Others apparently have their own ideological, political axes to grind.
I’m glad to report that Buber appears to have acted righteously and that other sources seem to have ulterior motives in spreading stories that aren’t accurate. I should also note that Edward Said spoke quite favorably of the politics of Martin Buber and the Brit Shalom movement he helped found:
“During the inter-war period, a small but important group of Jewish thinkers (Judah Magnes, Buber, Arendt and others) argued and agitated for a binational state. The logic of Zionism naturally overwhelmed their efforts, but the idea is alive today here and there among Jewish and Arab individuals frustrated with the evident insufficiencies and depredations of the present. The essence of that vision is coexistence and sharing in ways that require an innovative, daring and theoretical willingness to get beyond the arid stalemate of assertion and rejection. Once the initial acknowledgment of the other as an equal is made, I believe the way forward becomes not only possible but attractive.”
I also have to report a depressing historical irony: Prof. Buber’s home at 3 Hovevey Zion is now owned by Michael Steinhardt, the chief funder of the Birthright program, a devout Jewish neocon and pro-Israel apologist. I could hardly think of a more depressing decline in the intellectual and moral value of the historical occupants of this property than this one.
I do have a historical question for any readers with further information: if anyone has any information on the owner who preceded the Bubers at Hovevey Zion, I’d be very interested to know who they were and something of their history before and after they lived in the home. If anyone has pictures of the Bubers and the Brenner Street house that they can share I’d be grateful.
Saree Makdisi, whose mother lived in the Said family home at 10 Brenner Street, informs me that Menachem Begin “gave” it to the International Christian Embassy in the 1980s. He understands (and I haven’t been able to confirm this) the original home was torn down, which would explain why this picture differs from the other one displayed here. It is indeed yet another cruel irony that the Said’s were dispossessed and the Israeli leader responsible for the other even more violent acts of dispossession like the Deir Yassin massacre, “gifted” its home to Christian Zionists who’ve become handmaidens of the Israeli nationalist enterprise.
Thanks to Ran Greenstein, readers of this blog, and Prof. Agassi for help in unraveling the particulars of the story.