Imagine: It’s 1825, and the idea of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel is a pipe dream. But a man named Mordecai Manuel Noah has a plan that starts small: with a temporary Jewish homeland on the border of the U.S. and Canada. He called this future settlement Ararat, after the mountain where the biblical Noah’s ark came to rest.
Ararat never became the Jewish destination that Noah had hoped it would (in fact, only the cornerstone for the settlement was preserved), but his idea has intrigued scholars for nearly two centuries and, recently, a handful of artists, too. Melissa Schif, Louis Kaplan, and John Craig Freeman have designed Mapping Ararat which includes an augmented-reality tour to guide visitors through what might have become of Noah’s dream. A Noah’s Ark theme park, synagogue, sukkah and more. What else might have been in a counterfactual history?
For those who can’t make it to Grand Island, the team has also created site visit videos. Noah might be confused by the groups of tablet-wielding Jewish tourists, but he’d be proud that his idea continues to inspire.