Readers Respond to Our July-August issue

Your thoughts on tourism in the Holy Land, Herman Melville and invasive pythons

Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe

“Very rarely am I compelled to read a magazine cover-to-cover,” a reader named Dave Jemo said of our July-August issue. “But the wide spectrum of well-written articles found me doing just that.” How inspiring of the author William T. Vollmann to retrace Herman Melville’s steps in the South Pacific, Jerry Loeffelbein said: “With new insight I will once again read Moby-Dick and likely his other books.” The image of Smokey Bear by the illustrator Corey Schumann prompted speculation he had gone too far in mirroring artwork by Charley Harper. Schumann, though, says he was paying homage to Harper. Our cover story about Holy Land tours led by both Israeli and Palestinian guides provoked the greatest response, stirring passions on all sides of the Mideast conflict. Some readers grumbled about omitted details. Others disputed facts that are, in fact, disputable. And many found that Geraldine Brooks’ carefully reported narrative was, as Theresa Flynn said, “heartening.”

Building Bridges in the Holy Land

I began reading “A New Way to See the Holy Land” and thought what a wonderful way to tour the area—everyone should strive for a balanced approach. Then I came to the part where it said they were also using this approach in Northern Ireland. My initial thought was, “That’s not right, there are not two sides to that issue.” After a minute, I looked at my initial reaction. In a part of the world where I have no strong feelings about an issue, I was willing to listen to both sides. But in an area where I have strong feelings, I was cutting off any dialogue. It made me question my ability to maintain an open mind—and that’s the best part of any article.

— Mary Jo McMullen | Tucson

Having served in Jerusalem with the United Methodist Church, I greatly appreciated Oded, Aziz and Mejdi Tours. As they say, “It’s complicated.” But I’m convinced that authentic peace will not come from the top down but from the ground up. When more Israelis and Palestinians are permitted to hear one another’s desperate stories, walls will start coming down, literally and emotionally, and life will begin to change. I’m grateful to them for educating us and their own people.

— Rev. Bob Hannum | Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Moby-Dick, Manifested

About 120 years after Melville set foot on Nuku Hiva, I did likewise in 1965. For days I touched and inhaled what I continue to consider the world’s most beautiful tropical island. You can appreciate the thrill I felt reading your fine article, which revealed much about Melville that I did not know or had forgotten.

— Barnett L. Cline | Blanco, Texas

Florida’s Foe

SnakeLandia” seems to imply that invasive pythons didn’t have a breeding population in Florida before the 1990s. In the mid-1970s, I worked as a journalist near the Everglades. All the Floridians I knew were already aware of a breeding population of Burmese pythons. May I suggest the current seriousness of the problem is a direct result of Florida state agencies refusing to believe the first reports by Floridians nearly half a century ago?

— Trish Johnson | Katy, Texas

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus