The Wandering Jew Has Arrived: Book Review


Book Title: The Wandering Jew Has Arrived

Author: Albert Londres (translated by Helga Abraham)

Publisher: Gefen Publishing House

Year Published: 2016

In 1929, renowned French investigative journalist Albert Londres set out to document the lives of Jews, an odyssey that began after meeting a rabbi who arrived in England from Galicia to raise funds to help his community survive. He would later journey to eastern Europe and Palestine, where he observed Jews of different stripes up close and personal. What emerged is a fascinating portrait of Jews at the time, which has now finally been translated in to English almost 90 years later.

The Wandering Jew Has Arrived is based on the series of articles Londres wrote for the French newspaper Le Parisien. His descriptions of the Jews he encounters are equal parts vivid and fawning; Londres is clearly a philosemite, and his admiration for the Jewish people is a welcome relief to one so accustomed to reading the current mainstream media.

This book gives great insight into the harsh living conditions of many of the Jews of eastern Europe, who were afflicted by poverty and antisemitism. Despite this, many are opposed to moving to Palestine. It is unfortunately a familar theme.

In Palestine, Londres sees a different type of Jew – one who stands erect and proudly. Yet even there, they cannot escape the pogroms, with the 1929 massacres of Hebron and Safed covered also by Londres.

But Londres ends off on an optimistic note. Referring to the Jews in Palestine, Londres asks “Is this a prophecy? Has the Wandering Jew arrived? To which he answers “Why not?”

What makes this work even more poignant is the realization that most of the Jews he observed in eastern Europe almost certainly perished in the Holocaust a decade or so later. As does the postscript to the story: Londres perished at sea in May 1932, after a fire broke out aboard the ship on which he was travelling. And just like that, the world was robbed of an intrepid reporter, talented wordsmith and philosemite, at the relatively young age of 48. But given Londres’ fascination with the Jewish people and seeming desire for them to succeed in establishing a home in Palestine, 48 somehow seems like an appropriate age to associate with him.

Besides Londres gift of language, I also really appreciated the translation, which not only made this French work accessible for me and many others, but also corrects Londres every time he gets something wrong about Judaism, which is more than once.

I highly recommend The Wandering Jew Has Arrived, especially for students of history, and anyone interested in Jewish life in Europe and Palestine before the Holocaust. You can purchase it here.

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A lawyer by education, David Lange - founder and managing editor of Israellycool - found his calling in advocating for Israel and the Jewish people. He is available for public speaking engagements.