Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hidden in a 74-Year-Old Newreel about Palestine:
The Foundations of What Would Be the State of Israel

The Jewish version of a "barn-raising" in what appears to be a new settlement
in the Jezreel Valley (British Pathé newsreels, 1940)
In our last posting we introduced readers to the latest archive released online -- British Pathé -- with its 85,000 newsreels uploaded to YouTube in April 2014.

Historians will have a field day. 

This Israel Daily Picture site presents early photographs and films and ends its research at the 1940 point. 

The British Pathé films include many films on the struggle to bring Jews into Palestine in the 1940s and the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

We were intrigued by one 8-minute silent film entitled Peasant Farmer Plugs Field With Bullocks, 1940. 





The film open with an Arab peasant tilling his field with a primitive plow.  But after that 10-second segment the films shows Jewish settlers building a new community in the Galilee, Jewish farmers plowing and irrigating their fields, a street scene in what appears to be Tel Aviv, Jews praying at the Western Wall, doctors and students on Mt. Scopus' Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University.  There are also segments showing the Arab shuk and the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount.

We invite readers to identify the location of the "barn raising" photo above and to "plow" through other films to find noteworthy scenes.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Breaking News: Thousands of Vintage Newsreel Films Just Went Online. Films Include Historic Scenes of the Holy Land

Scene of the Western Wall from a British Pathé newsreel
The giant newsreel archive, British Pathéreleased its entire collection of 85,000 films to the public this week.

The films, dating from 1896 to 1976, include hundreds of newsreels from Palestine prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948.  We found of particular interest the films of combat between British and Turkish forces during World War I and the brave attempts to push desperate Jewish refugees from Europe past British barriers in the 1930s and 40s.

"This unprecedented release of vintage news reports and cinemagazines is part of a drive to make the archive more accessible to viewers all over the world," British Pathé announced.

“Our hope is that everyone, everywhere who has a computer will see these films and enjoy them,” said Alastair White, General Manager of British Pathé. “This archive is a treasure trove unrivalled in historical and cultural significance that should never be forgotten. Uploading the films to YouTube seemed like the best way to make sure of that.”

We present here several of the exciting films now on the British Pathé YouTube collection. Many of the newsreels are silent films.


Video: Dedication of Hebrew University and speech by Earl Arthur Balfour (1925)

 
Video: 1929 disturbances against Jews, a crude Jewish barricade,  and the arrival of a
British naval ship in an attempt to restore order.





Item title reads - Thousands of American Jews take part in [1929 "monster"] demonstration before offices of the British Consul, demanding protection for their kinsmen in Palestine. New York, U.S.

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 35,000 Jews marched through New York City on August 27, 1929 in response to the massacre of 67 Jews in Hebron on August 24. Among the dead, according to JTA, were "12 American Jewish boys."


Responsible archivists and librarians digitize their
historical treasures.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The "Other" Passover Commemoration --
The Samaritans Still Sacrifice the Pascal Lamb
(Updated from two years ago)

Samaritan high priest Yitzhak ben Amram
ben Shalma ben Tabia (circa 1900). View
other pictures of priests here and here
The Samaritan population in the Land of Israel numbered more than a million people 1,500 years ago, according to some estimates.  This ancient people lived in northern Israel and claimed to have been descendants of those tribes of Israel which were not sent out into the Babylonian exile.  One line of Samaritans traces their lineage back to Aaron the priest, and they consider their "holy mountain" to be Mt. Gerizim outside of Nablus (Shechem) -- not Jerusalem.  

Samaritan family (1899)






The Samaritans worship the God of Abraham, revere a scroll comparable to the five books of Moses, and maintain Passover customs, including the sacrifice of the Pascal Lamb. 


Samaritan synagogue in Shechem
(1899). Also view here

Jews ceased the Passover sacrifice with the destruction of the second Temple.


Already in Talmudic days, Jewish authorities rejected the Samaritans' claims to be part of the Jewish people. The Cutim, according to rabbinic authorities, arrived in the Land of Israel around 720 BCE with the Assyrians from Cuth, believed to be located in today's Iraq.

Over the millennia, the Samaritans almost disappeared.  Persecuted, massacred and forcibly converted by Byzantine Christians and by Islamic authorities, the Samaritans' community today numbers fewer than 1,000 who are located on Mount Gerizim near Nablus (Shechem) and in Holon, Israel.


Baking matza on Mt. Gerizim (circa 1900)

 This year, the Samaritans celebrated their Passover on Sunday, April, 13, 2014.


Preparing a lamb (1900)


































The photographers of the American Colony photographed dozens of pictures of the Samaritans' sacrificial service.  Their photos, and other early photographers can be found in the Library of Congress online archives.


"The prepared carcasses
ready for the oven" (1900)


Praying on Mt. Gerizim (1900)


















According to Samaritan officials, the community totals 751 persons.  Here is the breakdown with the first figure showing the number near Nablus (Shechem) and the second number showing the number living in Holon.

On January 1, 2012, the Community numbered 751 persons [353 in Kiryat Luza-Mount Gerizim, Samaria; 398 primarily in Holon in the State of Israel: 396 males [190:206] and 355 females [170: 185].  These included 350 married persons [158:192], 215 unmarried males [104:111], 153 unmarried females [70:83];  7 widowed men [4:3]; 23 widowed women [15:8]; 2 Divorced Men [0:2]; 1 Divorced Woman [0:1].

 
 Color photographs of a recent Passover sacrifice on Mt. Gerizim can be viewed here.

Why Was a Ton of Matza Delivered to the US Army's 77th Division in France during World War I?
Special Passover Feature

A version of this article appears in today's Jerusalem Post Magazine
Original caption: "Packing shipment of Matzoths [i.e. matzos] for the 77th Division for
men of Jewish faith in the A.E.F. [American Expeditionary Force] for the Passover Holiday,
 at Warehouse #40, Q.M.C. Depot, St. Denis  [France] / Signal Corps. U.S.A."
(April 9, 1919, Library of Congress)
The Jewish tradition of eating matza (unleavened bread) on Passover is so profound that the armed services of several countries provide Passover supplies to their soldiers even at the front. That's the practice in Israel, for sure, but the archives of several libraries provide pictures of Jewish soldiers observing Passover in the British and American armies during World War I, almost 100 years ago.

The Jewish Legion soldiers of the British army celebrating Passover
in Jerusalem in 1918. (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)


But when we saw the picture above of perhaps a ton of matza sent to American forces in France we wondered why so much was required.

Thanks to the archivists at the Library of Congress' Prints and Photographs Division for acceding to our request and digitizing and publishing online the photograph above.  


The 77th Division and the "Lost Battalion"

The 77th Division was made up of draftees from the New York City area, one of the first draftee units deployed in combat in World War I.  They assumed the name of the "Metropolitan Division" or the "Statue of Liberty Division." Many of the men had lived a tough hardscrabble life on the streets of New York, perhaps a factor in their surviving a hard-fought battle in the Argonne Forest in October 1918 where the Division's "Lost Battalion" was surrounded by German troops and held out for a week without food and water.  In a 2001 film about the "Lost Battalion," the men were described as Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Polish "gangsters."

Of the battalion's 550 men, almost 200 were killed and 150 were captured or missing.

A Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Lee J. Levinger, served in France during World War I and wrote that the 77th Division had "thousands" of Jewish soldiers -- for whom the matza in the picture was intended.
Patch of the 77th Division

Levinger described several incredible moments in his memoir:
The great event of my service in Le Mans was our Passover celebration on April 14th, 15th and[77] 16th, 1919. The general order for Passover furloughs read:
"Where it will not interfere with the public service, members of the Jewish faith serving with the American Expeditionary Forces will be excused from all duty from noon, April 14th, to midnight, April 16th, 1919, and, where deemed practicable, granted passes to enable them to observe the Passover in their customary manner."
The full program included a Seder, four services, a literary program, a vaudeville show, a boxing  exhibition, two dances and a movie.... But certainly the most popular of all was the Seder. The soup with matzah balls, the fish, in fact the entire menu made them think of home. We held the dinner in an army mess hall, standing at the breast-high tables. The altar with two candles and the symbols of the feast was at the center of the low-roofed unwalled structure. Toward evening the rain, so typical of winter in western France, ceased; the sun came out, and its last level rays shone directly upon Rabbi Kaufman and his little altar. It was a scene never to be forgotten, a feast of deepest joy mingled with solemnity. Afterward we adjourned to the Theatre Municipale for a full religious service with a sermon.
Pvt Krotoshinsky: "You know a Jew finds
strength to suffer...."
During the Argonne Forest battle, the 77th Division's "Lost Battalion" was finally relieved after taking heavy casualties for five days.  Their rescue is often credited to a carrier pigeon that delivered a message to headquarters with their position.  Levinger told a different story:

New York Times, November 5, 1953












Private Abraham Krotoshinsky ... was awarded the D. S. C. [Distinguished Service Cross] for bearing the message which informed the division of the exact location of the unit, and was instrumental in releasing[118] them. Krotoshinsky was an immigrant boy, not yet a citizen, a barber by trade. His own words give the story simply enough:

"We began to be afraid the division had forgotten us or that they had given us up for dead. We had to get a messenger through. It meant almost certain death, we were all sure, because over a hundred and fifty men had gone away and never come back. But it had to be done. The morning of the fifth day they called for volunteers for courier. I volunteered and was accepted. I went because I thought I ought to. First of all I was lucky enough not to be wounded. Second, after five days of starving, I was stronger than many of my friends who were twice my size. You know a Jew finds strength to suffer. Third, because I would just as soon die trying to help the others as in the 'pocket' of hunger and thirst.
"I got my orders and started. I had to run about thirty feet in plain view of the Germans before I got into the forest. They saw me when I got up and fired everything they had at me. Then I had to crawl right through their lines. They were looking for me everywhere. I just moved along on my stomach, in the direction I was told, keeping my eyes open for them.... It was almost six o'clock that night when I saw the American lines. All that day I had been crawling or running doubled up after five days and nights without food and practically nothing to drink.
Then my real trouble began. I was coming from the direction of the German lines and my English is none too good. I was afraid they would shoot me for a German before I could explain who I was.... Then the Captain asked me who I was. I told him I was from the Lost Battalion.[119] Then he asked me whether I could lead him back to the battalion. I said, 'Yes.' They gave me a bite to eat and something to drink and after a little rest I started back again with the command. I will never forget the scene when the relief came. The men were like crazy with joy."
[Note: Later Krotoshinsky moved to Palestine to try his hand at agriculture.  Unable to make a living there, he moved back to New York with his family, but he was still unemployed.  He received a presidential appointment to work in a New York post office.]
Watch "The Lost Battalion" Movie here.
Rabbi Levinger described another incredible event during the fighting:  A soldier in a famous fighting division ... sought a private interview with me. It seems that in the advance on the St. Mihiel sector he had rescued a Torah, a scroll of the Law, from a burning synagogue. Throwing away the contents of his pack, he had wrapped the scroll up in the pack carrier instead, and carried it "over the top" three times since. Now he wanted permission to take it home to give to an orphan asylum in which his father was active. A soldier was not ordinarily allowed to take anything with him besides the regulation equipment and such small souvenirs as might occupy little room, but in this case a kindly colonel became interested and the Torah went to America with the company records.

Click on pictures to enlarge
Responsible archivists and librarians digitize the historic photographic treasures in their institutions.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rabbi Kook and Mr. Cook -- in Jerusalem on Passover, 1928


Original caption: "Jewish Pilgrims Celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, 1928." (Harvard Library/
Central Zionist Archives)
The Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives collection provides a series of pictures from 1928, all captioned "Jewish Pilgrims Celebrate Passover in Jerusalem."

No other information is provided, but we can deduce quite a bit.

The picture above shows the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Abraham Isaac Kook, delivering a Torah discourse to a large audience.  Where? Quite possibly near his home between Jerusalem's Prophets Street and Jaffa Road. While women are sitting separately from the men, the audience is most certainly not an ultra-Orthodox crowd.  With their heads covered, they are more likely a religious Zionist grouping.  Their holiday dress suggest that it either the Passover holiday or the Sabbath of Passover.


Where are the pilgrims heading?  They appear to be walking in the area of Prophets Street.  There seems
to be a commotion in the back of the march, with men turning to see what happened. We welcome
suggestions from readers. (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)





















The next picture shows the pilgrims' destination -- the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City.  The crowd entered the Old City through Jaffa Gate and is streaming into the shuk at the end of David Street on the way to the Kotel.  The Thomas Cook travel office was a prominent landmark already prior to 1898 and could be seen in the last picture on this page.

The crowd entering the Arab shuk of Jerusalem's Old City. (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)
 
David Street, inside the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City. The picture appears to have been taken prior to 1898
when the moat on the right was filled in and the road widened to allow entry of the German emperor. 
(Credit: Keystone-Mast Collection, California Museum of Photography at UCR ARTSblock, University of California, Riverside)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Celebrating Passover in the Holy Land 100 Years Ago

"National Passover Party" in Rehovot, 1900.  The march of the students of
the Gymnasium (school) in Jaffa. (Harvard/Central Zionist Archives)

Passover in Israel is marked by two weeks of school holidays, tourist visits, hikes into nature preserves, and special programs at museums, amusement parks, and theaters.

So it was 100 years ago, as well.


Three women riding on a camel at Passover celebration in Rehovot
(Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives, 1912)
Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv and established in 1890, was the site of a national fair during Passover in the early 20th century.  Photographs and even an early film show Jews flocking to the town for amusement and sports competition.  Note the Turkish flag in the video.

The same photo of three women riding on a camel appears elsewhere in the Harvard Library as "Visitors at the camel and donkey show in Rehovot," dated from the 1920s. The 1912 date is probably more accurate and explains the armed guard -- possibly Turkish.  Rehovot was the target of  attacks by Arab marauders in the early 20th century.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Who Ever Heard of a Jewish "Mukhtar*," and in Tiberias, no less.
The story of the Varhaftig-Amitai family over the generations

The "Mukhtar" and the Varhaftig-Amitai family of Tiberias, 1917
*Mukhtar means "chosen" in Arabic and refers to the head of a
village in many Arab countries and Turkey.
Morris Amitay of the Washington DC area sent this picture of his Tiberias ancestors in 1917.  He wrote:

The picture was taken in 1917 before the Turks fled Palestine and Allenby marched in. The old man in the middle was my father’s grandfather – and the “mukhtar” of the Ashkenazi community in Tiberias appointed by the Turks. His wife is alongside, and my dad’s sister is in front.

The “Alter Mukhtar” was Alter Pinchas Elazar, and the family name was gradually being changed at the time from Varhaftig to Amitai [later to Amitay]. His wife was Freidl and his granddaughter (my father’s sister) was Sara. In the back row from left to right is Yehoshua, Yona, Asher, Yitzhak and Leibl.  Note the diversity of my father's uncles! A Turkish soldier, Chasid, two Turkish businessmen (fez and all), and one perhaps "Modern Orthodox."
Gravestone of Ya'akov Moshe Varhaftig in Tiberias (source:
Morris Amitay).  Nava Safrai's family history explains that
he was a pharmacist who died in a cholera epidemic. He
saved many during the epidemic, Safrai writes.


One son, Amitay's grandfather, Ya'akov Moshe, passed away in 1902.  A tombstone on his grave reads:

Here is buried the young Talmud scholar (avrech), our dear grandfather Ya'akov Moshe Varhaftig-Amitai, son of Alter Pinchas Eliezer, mukhtar, grandson of Avraham Peretz Moshe, died 2 Heshvan 5663 (November 2, 1902).

The "Alter Mukhtar" of Tiberias, Pinchas
Elazar Varhaftig-Amitai, 1916. (Source:
Morris Amitay)





Morris Amitay wrote that his father was proud of his "family's origins in 'Palestine' in 1777."  Research done by one of Amitay's cousins reports, "The Varhaftigs originated from Slonim, (near Minsk and Vilnius) in Lithuania. They departed February, 1777 for Palestine via Turkey, arriving six months later in Acco. They settled in Safed until 1781, and then  moved to Tiberias."  According to another family account published in Israel by Nava Safrai, a granddaughter of Sara from the 1917 picture, the Varhaftigs arrived in 1808 from Pinsk.  

A wave of Hassidic "aliya" to Eretz Yisrael took place in the latter part of the 18th century and early 19th century, including the son of the "Karliner Rebbe."  The Varhaftig family belonged to the Karliner Hassidic group, and one member of the family, Mordechai Wolf, traveled to Tzfat to visit a leading Karliner rabbi in 1837.  A catastrophic earthquake hit, destroying much of Tzfat and killing Mordechai Wolf.

Alter Pinchas Amitai (born 1851) was appointed the "Mukhtar" (village elder) of Tiberias in 1891 by the Turks.  According to Safrai, the "Alter Mukhtar" was forced from the position in 1915 by the Turks because of his forging documents to help Jews avoid the Turkish draft. 

Note that one son in the 1917 family portrait was a Turkish soldier or policemen, perhaps precisely because of his father's experience with the Turkish authorities.

We also present an 1886 picture of Tiberias, part of our photo essay on Jewish life in the Galilee town. We uncovered this picture in the photo archives of the University of Dundee Medical School.

Patients waiting outside of the Scottish Mission hospital in Tiberias, 1886. (Torrance Collection)
Postscript:  Morris Amitay, a descendant of Tiberias Jews, was a senior aide to U.S. Senator Abe Ribicoff of Connecticut.  The only other Jewish senator at the time was Jacob Javits of New York.  Javits' mother, Ida Littman, was originally from Tzfat, not far from Tiberias.  Amitay went on to head the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Celebrating Passover in Jerusalem 95 Years Ago with the Jewish Legion -- Part 1 -- Updating a previous posting

Updating earlier postings which appeared here and here.

The British army captured Jerusalem from the Turks in December 1917 and continued their Palestine campaign for another year until the capture of Damascus. Meanwhile, the Jewish Legion, consisting of Jewish volunteers, sat in Cairo chafing at the bit to join the fight in Palestine.  They finally joined Allenby's forces in June 1918 and fought against the Turks in the Jordan River Valley.

Jewish soldiers of the British army celebrating Passover in Jerusalem in 1919. (Harvard 
Library/Central Zionist Archives)  The photo is signed by Ya'akov Ben-Dov who moved to
Palestine in 1907 from Kiev. He was drafted into the Ottoman army during World War I and
served as a photographer in Jerusalem.  Ben-Dov filmed Allenby's entry into Jerusalem in 1917
The Jewish battalions of the Jewish Legion were manned by volunteers from Palestine, Europe, the United States and Canada, soldiers stirred by the call to action by Zionist leaders Zev Jabotinsky and Yosef Trumpeldor.  Colonel John Henry Patterson, the unit's first commanding officer, described the Legion:

Recruiting poster for Jewish soldiers
(Library of Congress)
"The Jewish Legion was the name for five battalions of Jewish volunteers established as the British Army's 38th through 42nd (Service) Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. The initial unit, known as the Zion Mule Corps, was formed in 1914-1915 during World War I, when Britain was at war against the Ottoman Turks, as Zionists around the world saw an opportunity to promote the idea of a Jewish National Homeland."
Enlargement from the picture above. Who is the rabbi?













Read more about Colonel Patterson and the Jewish Legion at The Seven Lives of Colonel Patterson: How an Irish Lion Hunter Led the Jewish Legion to Victory.


Jewish soldiers -- their headgear and uniforms suggests they are from from various units -- celebrating 
Passover at the British Jewish Soldiers Home in Jerusalem, 1919 (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)
Father and daughter?

Note the soldier in the front, possibly an officer, with a child on his lap and a young boy behind him. 

We invite readers to respond if they can identify any of the soldiers in the photos.  

The following picture is dated Passover 1918.  The uniforms and hats are even more varied and include Australian bush hats and Scottish tams.

Jewish soldiers from various British units celebrating Passover in
Jerusalem, 1918.  (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)

Jewish soldiers in the British army in Jerusalem for Passover, 1919 (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)
Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of Jewish men from Canada and the United States volunteered to fight in the British Army's Jewish Legion to liberate the Holy Land.


The caption on this Wikipedia photo reads "Jewish Legion soldiers at the Western Wall after British
conquest, 1917."  Was the photo taken in 1917 after the British captured the city in December, in
 which case this was a group of Jewish soldiers from various  units, or after June 1918 when the
Jewish Legion was first dispatched to Palestine?

View American volunteers from the British army's Jewish Brigade here and here and here


Friday, March 28, 2014

"Austrian" or "Australian," What's the Difference?
Plenty If You Were a Soldier Fighting in Palestine in WWI

Jewish soldiers in the Australian (sic) Battalion standing next to the Western Wall, 1916. (Harvard  
Library/Central Zionist Archives)  The soldiers were actually from Austria.
The photographer, Ya'akov Ben-Dov, moved to Palestine  in 1907 from Kiev. He was
drafted
 into the Ottoman army during World War I and served as a photographer in Jerusalem
World War I was not only waged in Europe, but across the Middle East as well. The armies of Turkey, Germany and Austria fought the British Empire's armies from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India.  The Austrian soldiers in the picture above marched into Jerusalem in 1916.

[Another copy of this Kotel photo -- damaged -- appears elsewhere in the Harvard Library collection with the correct caption of "Austrian" soldiers.]

Update, April 2: We received the following note from a librarian in Harvard Library's Judaica Division:
We are  in the process of updating the caption to read "Austrian soldiers" instead of "Australian soldiers".  The caption should be updated within one or two days.  Thank you very much for alerting us to this error.

The Australians arrived in Palestine with General Allenby's troops in 1917, and were famous for their daring cavalry charge that captured Be'er Sheva before German and Turkish troops could blow up the wells of the oasis.

Austrians marching into Jerusalem, 1916 (Library of Congress, American Colony Collection)

Australian Light Horsemen in Jerusalem (1918) in a badly damaged Library of Congress photo

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Passover Nears.
Time to Recall that a Biblical-Scale Plague Struck the Holy Land 99 Years Ago

The American Colony photographers  took
hundreds of pictures of the  locust plague
and the insects' metamorphosis from larvae to adult
A version of this posting appeared in January 2012.

World War I brought widespread devastation to the Middle East as German and Turkish armies fought British, Australian and New Zealand troops in battlefields from the Suez Canal in the south to Damascus in the north. 

The war also meant a cut-off of aid and relief to the Jews of Palestine from Jewish philanthropists in Europe and the United States. 






As many as 10,000 Jews were expelled from Jaffa-Tel Aviv in April 1917 by the Turks, and many perished from disease and hunger.

But the famine that struck the residents of Palestine was also caused by a massive plague of locusts that swarmed into Eretz Yisrael in March 1915 and lasted until October.  Accounts of the locusts and the subsequent starvation and pestilence recalled the plagues of Bible.

A New York Times account from April 1915 described deaths from starvation.  By November 1915, the Times detailed a cable from the American Counsel General in Jerusalem in which he described "fields covered by the locusts as far as the eye could reach."  The diplomat reported on efforts made by the Turkish leader of Palestine to combat the locusts.  A Jewish agronomist, "Dr. Aaron Aaronsohn, who is well known to the Department of Agriculture at Washington, was appointed High Commissioner" to the "Central Commission to Fight the Locusts." 

A tree before the locusts arrived
The same tree after the locusts finished














[Aaronsohn would go on to establish the anti-Turkish NILI spy ring in 1917.  His sister Sarah was captured by the Turks for her involvement in the spy ring, and after torture, she committed suicide.]

American funds and food were essential for keeping the Jewish community in Palestine alive, and aid was delivered by U.S. Navy vessels.

The American Colony in Jerusalem established soup kitchens to feed starving residents in Jerusalem.  The colony's photographers documented more than 200 pictures of the locusts' devastation, efforts to combat them and the locusts' life cycle.  An album of color (hand tinted) photographs is stored in the Library of Congress collection.


"Locusts stealing in like thieves through
the window"
The Times reported, "Few crops or orchards escaped devastation.  This was especially true on the Plain of Sharon, where the Jewish and German colonies, with their beautiful orange gardens, vineyards, and orchards, suffered most severely... In the lowlands there was a complete destruction of crops such as garden vegetables, melons, apricots and grapes ... upon whose supply the Jerusalem markets depend... few vegetables or fruits [were] to be had in the markets."

Click on photos to enlarge.
Click on captions to view the original pictures.

Team waving flags tries to push a swarm of locusts into a
trap dug into the ground.  The Turkish governor demanded
that every man deliver 20 kilo (44 pounds) of locusts
 









"In Jerusalem and Hebron," the report continued, "the heaviest loss from the onslaught of the locusts has been in connection with the olive groves and vineyards.  Olive oil is a staple of food among the peasants and poorer classes....The grape, too, is a similar staple among all classes."

Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem,  before the locusts
Garden of  Gethsemane, Jerusalem, after the locusts














"When the larvae appeared near Jerusalem," the Times related, residents were mobilized "for immediate organized resistance....Tin-lined boxes were sunk in the earth in the direction in which the locusts were advancing." Men, women and children were given flags and "the flaggers would drive the locusts together in a dense column toward the trap..."

Both the forces of war and nature combined to take a terrible toll on the residents of Palestine during World War I.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Another Library of Congress Treasure:
The Matza Factory in New York in 1858, but the Accompanying Article Is Full of Errors

Caption: "General view of preparations and baking matzot, the unleavened bread for the Passover" (Frank Leslie's
Illustrated Newspaper, New York, April 18, 1858, Library of Congress)  Note the rabbi watching.
The Library of Congress Archives has preserved several 150-year old engravings of Jewish customs in New York from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper.  [See Purim celebration] 

The story we bring today is unusual because of the writer's attempt to describe the New York Jewish community and the Passover holiday.  The first element, rich in Faginesque imageries,  would be considered anti-Semitic by today's standards.  The second element, a description of the holiday customs, is woefully full of mistakes.  Excerpts below:
Any one taking a morning walk through Chatham street will meet enough men whose low stature, shining black eyes, crisp laky hair, stooping shoulders, and eager movements proclaim them of the Hebrew race, to convince him that Jews are prevalent in our city in large numbers.  Exactly how many thousands of the Hebraic people have their present sojourning in New York we have no means of ascertaining, but the number is very considerable, and is on the rapid increase.
Weighing and kneading of the flour with the rabbi
 The Israelitish race preserve to this day their peculiar characteristics as strongly marked, and their national prejudices is as full force as in the days of Darius, King of Persia.  They exist among us, a distinct race, preserving an identity of their own... but whilst constantly intermingling in trade and business with the Gentiles, keeping themselves as separate from the uncircumcised dogs in all social and religious intercourse....They could not keep themselves more apart if they were walled out from the Christian world....
The eating of the unleavened bread for the seven days of the Passover is obligatory on all of the Jewish faith, and it is observed with the most punctilious exactitude by all, old and young, and no matter how poor or rich.  During the seven days this unleavened bread is the only sort permitted to be used, no meat is allowed, and no drop of wine or spirits or fermented liquors.  Fish and some kinds of vegetables are eaten sparingly....

 Click on pictures to enlarge.

Click on captions to view the original pictures.

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Time to Get Ready for Passover.
The Matza Factories Are Hard at Work

With Passover just a few weeks away, Jewish households around the world are purchasing or making their matzot (unleavened bread) for the festival.

One of Judaism's oldest customs, the baking of matza goes back to the Jewish exodus from Egypt.  Ever since, Jews often went to great trouble to bake their cracker-like bread. Jewish communities in Europe and the Arab world faced "blood libels" for making their matza. Ancient synagogues in France built matza bakeries under their synagogues. Jews in Nazi concentration camps risked being shot to bake their Passover "bread." In the former Soviet Union, Jews baked their matza in secret, lest they be discovered and sent to the Gulag.  During major wars, armies made sure to provide matza to their Jewish soldiers.

A matza factory in Haifa.  The signs on the left read "For the purpose of the commandment of matza" -- a reminder to the workers to keep their intentions on the commandment.  The signs on the right, in Hebrew and French,
 read "No smoking" and "No Spitting"  (from the "Cigarbox Collection" provided by Othniel Seiden )
 
No smoking or spitting
Keep in mind the matza commandment


 
Children baking matza in kindergarten in the Holy Land. The teacher is in the center, and it appears there 
 is a tiny oven in front of her   (Harvard/Central Zionist Archives, circa 1920)

A future feature:  Matza baking in the "New World" 150 years ago