"WE ARE HAVING UNFORGETTABLE DAYS IN PALESTINE. WITH THE SUN SHINING, IN CHEERFUL COMPANY": EXCEPTIONALLY RARE AUTOGRAPH SIGNED POSTCARD BY ALBERT EINSTEIN WRITTEN DURING HIS VISIT TO PALESTINE WITH BOTH AN ORIGINAL SELF-PORTRAIT SKETCH AND A SKETCH PORTRAYING HIS TRAVELING COMPANION ENTIRELY IN HIS HAND
EINSTEIN, Albert. Autograph postcard signed with original sketches. Near Jerusalem, circa February 5, 1923. Postcard illustrated with a rendering of the Red Star Liner Belgenland, measuring 5-1/2 by 3-1/2 inches, with two sketches by Einstein on the recto and autograph letter by Einstein in German (along with an autograph letter by his traveling companion) on the verso. $49,000.
Extremely rare autograph postcard signed written by Einstein during his visit to Palestine—one of only a couple manuscript items from this visit known to exist—featuring a very rare self-portrait sketch by Einstein as well as a sketch of the traveling companion he mentions in his letter. Letter in German.
Einstein writes to noted Zionist Arthur Ruppin in full (translated from German): "To my dear Mr. Ruppin, We are having unforgettable days in Palestine. With the sun shining, in cheerful company. Your wife is standing next to me and looking at what I am writing about her. She is counting the days until you come back. Yours, A. Einstein." (At the time, Ruppin had been on an extended fundraising trip in the United States, see: Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, December 15, 1922.) Above his note, Hanna Ruppin also writes her husband (translated): "Dear Arthur, A pleasant tour of the city. Included is a picture by Prof. Einstein. Warm greetings, Hanna." True to her word, on the recto, Einstein had drawn a diminutive self-portrait (signed below) together with a rendering of "Frau Ruppin." Above the drawings, he added the words, "Jerusalem," "Heiligenschein" (or "halo") with an arrow pointing to the halo-like marks over his self-portrait's head. Einstein's depiction of himself as a rotund, almost comical figure stands in contrast to the elegantly-dressed "Frau Ruppin" with her stylish hat, shapely figure and umbrella.
A newly minted celebrity following the reception of the 1921 Nobel Prize for physics, Einstein was on his return to Europe following a six-month lecture tour that took him as far as Japan in late 1922. He returned to Europe via Sri Lanka and the Suez Canal, stopping at Port Said on February 1, 1923 for two weeks in Palestine. Einstein made the stop at the invitation of Arthur Ruppin (1876-1943), an early Zionist thinker and leader. Academically trained in Germany in economics and law, Ruppin was awarded the Krupp prize in 1899 for his dissertation on Darwinism and industry. He joined the Zionist Organization in 1905 and acted as a land agent to purchase land in Palestine in order to facilitate the migration of European Jews. From 1933 to 1935, he headed the Jewish Agency which assisted German Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in settling in Palestine. At the time of Einstein's visit to Palestine, Ruppin was on an extended fundraising tour in the United States (Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, December 15, 1922, p. 10).
From Port Said, Einstein boarded a train for Jerusalem, where he was greeted not unlike a visiting head of state in light of his of recent scientific achievements, as well as his support of the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. The first night, Einstein was the guest of an aide to the British High Commissioner for the Palestinian Mandate and he spent the next two days informally touring the Old City, as well as taking a trip to the Dead Sea via Jericho.
February 5th marked the first day of his official tour organized by the Zionists. Writing in his travel diary, he recorded (translated): "Tour of two Jewish colonial settlements west of Jerusalem, belonging to the city. The construction is carried out by Jewish workers' cooperative in which the leaders are elected. The workers arrive without specialized knowledge or expertise and achieve excellence after a short time. The leaders are paid no more than the workers." According to corresponding sources, Einstein's first visit that morning was to the suburb of Beth Hakerem, in the west of Jerusalem, accompanied by Hanna Ruppin, together with Hadassah Samuel and Solomon Ginzburg. (see: Ha'aretz and Doar Hayom, February 7, 1923, and Kark and Oren-Nordheim 2001, p. 169).
On the afternoon of February 7th, Einstein delivered the inaugural lecture on the future sight of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, an institution in which he was intimately involved . There, he apologized for not being able to deliver his address in Hebrew and then proceeded to give a 90 minute talk (in perfect French) outlining his theory of relativity (Einstein, Collected Papers, Volume 13, p. lxvi). After Jerusalem, Einstein travelled to Tel Aviv, where Mayor Meir Dizengoff bestowed him the honor of honorary citizenship, upon which he remarked, "I have already had the privilege of receiving an honorary citizenship of the City of New York, but I am tenfold happier to be a citizen of this beautiful Jewish town." In his travel diary, Einstein recorded his favorable impressions of the young Jewish settlement: "The accomplishments of the Jews in just a few years in this city arouses the highest admiration… An incredibly active people, our Jews." (Travel Diary, February 8, 1923). His tour continued with visits to Haifa and Tiberious, and ending in Jerusalem before he departed via rail for Port Said the morning of February 14th. On February 16th, he embarked on the R.M.S. Ormuz for Marseilles. From there he travelled to Spain, delivering lectures in Barcelona and Madrid.
Although Einstein would never again travel to Palestine, he continued to support efforts to promote Jewish settlement and especially the Hebrew University. Upon the death of Israel's first President, Chaim Weizmann, Abba Eban, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, formally offered him the post. Although deeply moved by the offer, he did not believe himself qualified for such a position. (New York Times, Nov. 19, 1952, p. 1)
Although Einstein used a postcard for the Red Star Line, Belgenland, he did not sail aboard the ship as it had yet to make its maiden voyage (April 1923). However, Einstein's last voyage to Europe was aboard the Belgenland in 1933. Arriving in Antwerp, he learned that Adolf Hitler had become Chancellor of Germany. Realizing that he could never reside in Germany again, he left, first for Great Britain, and then the United States, where he became a citizen in 1940.
This letter is extremely rare. Letters written by Einstein during his only visit to Palestine are virtually unknown and no examples have appeared at auction for the past forty years. The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein record only two other pieces of manuscript (apart from his travel diary) written during this period: a February 11, 1923 ALS to Chaim Weizmann written from Haifa (location of original not presently known) and an ALS, February 14, 1923, written to Arthur S. Eddington (now part of the collections of the University of Cambridge). Although Einstein was known to accomplish drawings, signed self-portraits are virtually unknown. We are aware of only three other examples, none of which have ever sold at public auction (nor are we aware of a private sale of the same).
Faint horizontal crease with a tiny tear at left margin does not affect the drawings or Einstein's note on the verso, minor rub spot below address line. About-fine condition.