On August 6, 1948, Scholem sent Smith a letter thanking him for the gift of a book, and filling him in on the recent events of the 1948 war.
How does an historian, someone used to studying history at a distance from old books and manuscripts, react when brought face-to-face with events of historical magnitude? Scholem appreciates a little bit of romance in his situation, mingled with the feeling that too much "history" is actually rather uncomfortable.
"The last months have been most eventful and we could go on and on talking about our experiences. It was a great time. Of course, no academic work could proceed orderly, but everybody has had his ﬁll of excitement and work, building fortiﬁcations, standing up to shelling and sniping, it was all very much (a little too much, perhaps) “Historic”. I was some kind of porter honoris causa with the Jewish H.Q. and have spent some time on Mount Zion when we took over the ‘Dormitio’ of the Benedictines. The good patres had ﬂed and we had to guard the place. You would not have recognized Jerusalem these days! The shelling (very much English-made) was disagreeable, distasteful and exceedingly noisy. Some fell around our house, but no damage was done. Nobody knows whether the whole thing is going to start anew, and both sides are preparing themselves. The optimism which greeted the second cease-ﬁre has vanished."
Scholem goes on to write that some of their mutual friends have died, but there is still some humour, as others, like a certain widow, now make for unlikely soldiers as they patrol the city with stenguns. Scholem ends his letter on a sober yet hopeful note that could stand in for the Jewish sector's experience of the Jerusalem siege as a whole.
"Everybody has become tall and meager and since the end of the siege we are living on food parcels from every corner of Israel. Everybody wanted to do something for us. To which we could not object reduced as we were in physical strength. Let us hope that the tribulations of Israel are soon over. And that we meet again in peaceful employment."
The first chapter may be read here. http://www2.trincoll.edu/~kiener/RELG308_Scholem_MTJM_Lecture1.pdf
Guy Stroumsa (ed
.), Morton Smith and Gershom Scholem: Correspondence 1945-1982 (Brill, 2008). On Secret Mark see Scott G. Brown, Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery (Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2005). http://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/press/Catalog/Excerpts/brown.shtml
Stroumsa, Correspondence, 25-26.