Friday, July 29, 2011

The Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City, 100 Years Ago

Closed for the Sabbath, 1900
The caption on the Library of Congress picture reads, "Closed shops of the Jewish Quarter on the Jewish Sabbath, Jerusalem."  The picture was published in March 1900. 
Jewish Quarter street

But the Jewish Quarter was no quiet, sleepy residential area for old rabbis and talmudic seminaries. 

The second picture shows a busy and lively "Street in the Jewish Quarter" and was taken on a week day somewhere between 1900 and 1920.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Children of Eretz Yisrael 90 Years Ago

Original caption: "Zionist colonies on Sharon.
Ben-Shemen, Kindergarten. Children at play"
circa 1920

The Moshav Ben-Shemen was established in 1905 in central Israel on the Sharon Plain. It was one of the first villages built on land purchased by the Jewish National Fund.

Original caption: "Ben-Shemen, two
young pioneers. Two healthy kiddies."

Original caption: "Ben-Shemen, a
youthful agriculturist. Child with

A youth village was etablished in Ben-Shemen in 1927 for orphans from the pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe.  After World War II, the village adopted orphans from the Holocaust. In the 1950s, the youth village assisted in the absorption of Jewish youth from Arab lands.  Today 1,000 students study at the village.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Picture of the New Jewish Neighborhoods outside of Jerusalem's Old City -- And Another Yemenite Surprise

Yemenite Jew in front of Yemin Moshe
This 1899 photograph bears the caption "Valley of Hinnom, showing the Jewish Colony, Palestine."

The long flat buildings belong to "Mishkenot Sha'ananim," the first neighborhood built outside of the Old City and intended as housing for indigent Jews. The first row was built by philanthropist Moshe Montifiore in 1860; the second row was built in 1866. The windmill, part of the Yemin Moshe project built in 1891, was meant to provide employment for the Jews, but it never operated.

But who is the man in the foreground?
Silwan resident

Almost certainly, he's a Yemenite Jew, characterized by the sidecurls (peyot) and probably from the nearby Silwan/Shiloah Jewish village. Presented here last month was the picture of a Yemenite Jew (left) standing in front of the village in a picture taken around the same time, also in a "stereograph" format.  The photographers of the time were apparently intrigued by the newly-arrived exotic Jews.

Mishkenot Sha'ananim/ Yemin
Moshe today
In 1881-1882 a group of Jews of Yemen arrived by foot to Jerusalem.  The new immigrants settled on Jewish-owned property in the Silwan/Shiloah Village outside of the Old City walls of Jerusalem.

In the 1948 war and its aftermath the Mishkenot Sha'nanim neighborhood was a battleground between Jewish forces (and then the Israel army) and the Jordanian army.  The buildings in the no-man's land remained uninhabited and in ruins until Israel reunited the city in 1967 and rebuilt the neighborhood.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Ancient Synagogues of Jerusalem – Part 1, the Exteriors

Two synagogues 1900
For centuries the Old City of Jerusalem was home to almost all of Jerusalem’s Jews. They chose to stay close to the Western Wall, and they also flocked to the synagogues and seminaries which were located throughout the Old City -- not just in the "Jewish Quarter." 

Only in the late 1800s did some Jews start to leave the safety and confines of the Old City to new neighborhoods Mishkenot Hasha’ananim, Yemin Moshe, Mea Shearim, the Bukharian Quarter and Batei Ungarin. 
Some of the synagogues of the Old City dated back hundreds of years.  Two of them had prominent domes, seen in this 1900 picture from the Library of Congress collection, -- the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue (left) and the Churva Synagogue.

Churva in ruins, Jordanian soldier
holding a Torah scroll (Wikipedia)

Both were blown up by Jordanian military forces in 1948 during and after the battle for the Old City.  Another synagogue, Ohel Yitzhak, also known as the "Shomrei HaChomos synagogue," was located in the "Moslem Quarter" and was abandoned in 1938 during the "Arab Revolt."
A future feature In "Israel Daily Picture" will show the interiors of the synagogues and how in some cases the synagogues have been rebuilt.

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Ohel Yitzhak Synagogue in ruins

Tiferet Yisrael in ruins (Wikipedia)

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Picture a Day -- Announcing the Sabbath in Jerusalem 80 Years Ago

Ashkenazi Shofar blower

Sephardi Shofar blower
Visit Jerusalem on a Friday afternoon and you are likely to hear in many neighborhoods a siren about 40 minutes before sundown.  It’s a warning call for observant Jews that it is time to stop work, light Sabbath candles, go to the synagogue.

What did Jerusalemites do before electric sirens?  Simple.  They relied on the ancient alert system dating back to the Bible – the Shofar (ram’s horn). 
These Library of Congress photos from the 1930s show the Sabbath Shofar blowers from both the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi communities.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jerusalem’s “Little Rascals” 80 Years Ago

"Tenement children just home from school,"
Bukharan Quarter
Among the 22,000 Matson-Library of Congress pictures, are wonderful 80-100 year old pictures of Jewish children in Jerusalem and new Jewish villages.  These two photographs were taken in the Bukharan neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Click on the photos to enlarge. Click on the caption to see the original.
Bukhari Jews, an ancient community from what is today the Central Asian country Uzbekistan, started moving to the Holy Land in the mid-1800s.  After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, more Bukharis moved to Israel where their community is estimated to number 100,000.
"Children just out of school," Bukhari Quarter
In 1891, as Jews began to move out of the walls of the Old City, Bukhari Jews purchased a large tract of land in Jerusalem from the Turkish authorities and began to build institutions and homes. 
The sign on the school building reads “Talmud Torah for ultra-Orthodox boys and Kindergarten, established in 5691 (1931)."
The pictures bring to mind a popular Israeli song of nostalgia by Yossi Banai (1932-2006) called “Me and Simon and Little Moiz.” [English subtitles provided.] Banai grew up in the area of the shuk in Jerusalem, not far from where these pictures were taken.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

“Jewish Settlements & Colonies” 100 Years Ago in the Holy Land

Degania circa 1920
Degania was the first “kibbutz” in the Land of Israel, founded 100 years ago on the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) while Palestine was still under Turkish rule.  Built on lands purchased by the Jewish National Fund, Degania served as a training ground for many of Israel’s leading socialist leaders.  Moshe Dayan, for instance,was born at Degania in 1915.

The Library of Congress collection lists this photograph of Degania (right) as being taken between 1920 and 1930. 

Click here to view a1937  film of Degania from the Spielberg Jewish film archives.

Settlers' first homes

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The next photos of settlers are also dated between 1920 and 1930, but the photos do not provide their locations.

Settlement camp

They bear this caption: "Jewish colonies and settlements. Commencing a Jewish settlement; a camp. Jewish settlers arriving."

Settlers arriving

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Really Cool Picture of the Western Wall 90 Years Ago

Two British soldiers at the Kotel, 1921
It’s hard to imagine a better picture to offer in the summer heat, especially on the 17th of Tamuz, the Jewish fast day commemorating the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the second Temple.

Two British soldiers at the Western Wall during a major snow storm in 1921.  (From the Library of Congress Matson collection. ) 

1921 snow in Jerusalem
And a bonus picture of kids doing in the snow what kids do, even 90 years ago, even in Jerusalem.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Picture a Day: A Mystery Picture -- Where Are These People Going?

A procession -- but to where?
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"A Jewish procession to Absalom's Pillar" is the caption on the Library of Congress' photo, dated sometime between 1898 and 1946.  That's a huge window of time.  The procession is walking down a ramp from the southeast corner of the Old City wall into the Kidron Valley. Presumably the hundreds of Jews came out of the Old City through the Dung Gate or the Zion Gate.

Why was there a procession to the tomb of King David's rebellious son, Absalom?  It's not a very popular destination for Jerusalemites today.  Some historians relate that there was a custom to take children to the shrine and throw rocks at it to remind the children to behave.  Were there so many mischievous children?  The long dresses on many of the people in the procession suggest many women were also involved. 

An enlarged segment of the
procession picture
Luckily, the Library of Congress site provides a TIFF download that permits enlarging the photo and provides incredible detail.  And the enlargement shows that the procession consisted almost entirely of ultra-Orthodox men wearing their long caftans. 

The funeral near Absalom's Pillar
Also fortuitous was discovering another picture elsewhere in the collection entitled "Various types, etc. Jewish funeral."  It shows a funeral party at the bottom of the Kidron Valley moving up the Mount of Olives.  It may very well be the "flip side" of the same procession, with two photographers on either side of the valley.  The shadows suggest that the time of day -- morning, with the sun shining in the east -- was nearly the same.  The second picture, however, does include women walking up the ramp from the Valley.  And yes, the women are Jewish. Despite the dark scarves on their heads, they are neither nuns nor Muslims.
Women heading back
to the Old City

Lastly, while the Library curators recorded a number, 4340, on the first negative, they missed that the second photo, dated between 1900 and 1920, had the number 4343, suggesting that the two were part of a series. 

This match was pointed out to the curators who will finally pair the two photos after almost 100 years.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Picture a Day -- The Western Wall on Yom Kippur 100 Years Ago

Prayers at the Kotel
The Library of Congress Matson collection labels this picture as "Atonement Day crowd. Closer view at the Wailing Wall."  As for a date of the picture, the various labels on this picture suggest that it was taken anywhere between 1898 and 1933. 

[The Library of Congress site provides a TIFF download that permits enlarging the photo and provides incredible detail.]

What clues does the picture give us?  A relatively dark graffiti on the wall -- actually memorials to loved ones-- provides the Hebrew year 5664 which correlates to 1904. The darkness of the writing suggests that it was written relatively close to the time of the photograph.

The shadows suggest that the sun is setting in the West, and the Day of Atonement is nearing the end.

The worshippers are all men, but it appears that all the way on the left are a number of women with their heads covered. Could they be men with prayer shawls - talitot? Perhaps, but none of the men in the foreground is wearing talitot.  Today it is customary for Orthodox men to wear their talitot on Yom Kippur.  Has the custom changed in the last century? 

The hats worn by the worshippers are a mixture of styles: Hassidic fur hats, the non-Hassidic fedoras, the Sephardi fezzes, and the tourist wearing the straw hat "boater."

All the worshippers are standing.  That rules out 1928 when Jews brought in chairs and screens to separate the sexes. The British authorities overseeing the site moved in, claiming that the Jews had changed the status quo as established by Turkish fiat years earlier. The British forcefully removed the screens, beating some of the women who tried to prevent their removal.  They brutally removed the chairs under elderly worshipers.  The incident led to protests from Jewish communities across the globe.  But the Jewish furniture also inflamed the Moslem leadership of Palestine.  Tensions escalated over the next months, leading to the bloody massacres in Hebron and Safad in August 1929.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Picture a Day – Unveils a Yemenite Surprise in Siloam/Shiloah

A Yemenite Jew looks at his village in Silwan (circa 1901)
The Shiloah Village outside of the Jerusalem Old City walls dates back to biblical days.  Its famous Shiloah spring was utilized for Temple libations.
The caption on this Library of Congress photograph reads, "The village of Siloam [i.e. Siloan, Shiloah, Silwan] and Valley of Kedron, Palestine." But whoever wrote the caption, perhaps 110 years ago, missed an important fact.  The man standing above his village is a Jew from Yemen.
The most famous Jewish Yemenite migration to the Land of Israel took place in 1949 and 1950 when almost 50,000 Jews were airlifted to Israel in "Operation On Eagles Wings -- על כנפי נשרים" also know as "Operation Magic Carpet."
But another migration took place 70 years earlier in 1881-1882 when a group of Jews of Yemen arrived by foot to Jerusalem.  They belonged to no "Zionist movement." They returned out of an age-old religious fervor to return to Zion.
The new immigrants settled on Jewish-owned property in the Shiloah Village outside of the Old City walls of Jerusalem.
A Jewish Yemenite family (circa 1914)
The gentleman in the photograph above wears the distinctive Jewish Yemenite clothing of the time, according to a Yemenite expert today.
The photo collection also contains portraits of Yemenite Jews, such as this family portrait from the early 1900s.  Look at the picture, presumably of three generations.  And realize that if that baby were still alive today, 100 years later, he would be the family elder of another three or four generations of Jews in the Holy Land.
The Jews of Shiloah were the targets of anti-Jewish pogroms during the anti-Jewish riots in 1921 and again during the 1936-39 Arab revolt when they were evacuated by the British authorities.
Jewish families returned to Silwan/Shiloah after Israel reunited the city of Jerusalem in 1967.

PS. I have already had an interesting response from a descendent of a resident from the Shiloah village:
לעניות דעתי התמונה של הגבר על רקע הכפר היא של יהודי חבאני ( יהודי חבאן היו גבוהי קומה)  ושל המשפחה נראה שהיא משפחה שעלתה מצנעא
In my humble opinion, the man in the picture with the village in the background is a Jew from Habani (the Jews of Haban were tall) and the family looks like a family that made aliya from Saana.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Picture a Day -- Jerusalem's Light Rail Train Has Been Seen Before

Will it finally happen?
Jerusalemites have been waiting impatiently for years for the completion of a light rail system.  Construction began in 2002 and is scheduled to begin service in August 2011.  But further delays may occur.

Jerusalem station circa 1900
Incredibly, a light rail system was in operation more than 90 years ago.  Planning began and some routes were constructed under the Turks in the 19th century.  Also incredible are the 1918 pictures from the Matson-Library of Congress collection of trains passing over the ancient Tombs of the Judges located in northern Jerusalem on their way north to Ramallah.
The railroad played an important military role for both the British and the Turks and their allies during World War I with lines from Egypt to Gaza, Beersheva, Ramla and Jerusalem.

Light railway from
Jerusalem to Ramallah 1918
Jerusalem station 1900

"Light railway crossing over
ancient tombs" 1918

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Picture a Day -- EArtHqUAkE! 500 Killed in 1927

Ruined home on Mt. of Olives. 3 died here.

Jerusalem 1927
84 years ago this week (July 11, 1927 at 4 PM) a powerful earthquake struck the Holy Land.  With its epicenter located in the northern Dead Sea area, the towns of Jericho, Jerusalem, Nablus (Shchem) and Tiberias were badly hit.  An estimated 500 people were killed in those locations. 
 Some of the Matson-Library of Congress collection do not record where their pictures was taken.  Since the photographers were based in Jerusalem, it can be assumed that those pictures were taken there. 
Wreckage of the Winter Palace Hotel, Jericho

Blocked-up street in Nablus, choked by fallen
 houses which entombed many inhabitants

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Picture a Day – Jewish Children in the Jezreel Valley in the 1920s

"Zionist children at play. A spring group.
Children picking wild flowers"
The Jezreel Valley is a large fertile plain in northern Israel.  Biblical cities such as Megiddo, Beit Shean, Shimron and Ophra were located in the region.  In the 1870s a Lebanese family purchased the valley from the Ottoman Empire, and 40 years later they sold 80,000 acres to the American Zion Commonwealth and Jewish National Fund for the purpose of Jewish settlement.  

The picture, probably taken in the 1920s shows the children of an agricultural settlement, perhaps Nahalal, a moshav founded in 1921.

A Picture a Day -- King David's Citadel - Part 1 - The Turks

The Citadel and Tower today
The structure is one of the most famous landmarks in Jerusalem, standing like a sentry at Jaffa Gate.  But "King David's Citadel" as we know it certainly does not date back to King David's time. 

Click to view Part 2 -- The Citadel and the British

Troops drilling circa 1900

Archeologists have found traces of previous fortresses dating back to Herod 2,000 years ago.  The Romans garrisoned troops there after destroying the Jewish Temples.  Arab, Crusader and Mamluk conquerers used the site for their troops.

The current structure was built in the 1500s by the Ottomans who added a mosque and the famous minaret that stands above the Citadel.  The Ottoman Turks used the Citadel as barracks and parade grounds.  Today's "Picture of the Day" publishes pictures of King David's Citadel as it was used by the Turks until 1917. 

Late in 1917 the British defeated the Turks, and for the next 30 years the British army ruled the Citadel and King David's Tower. Stay tuned for Picture a Day, Part 2, featuring the British army.

Today, the Citadel houses a magnificent museum, and the adjoining barracks area is an Israeli police station.
Turkish officers  circa 1910

Turkish soldiers circa 1910

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Picture a Day -- 1917: General Allenby Proclaims Martial Law in Jerusalem

After bloody battles on the approaches to Jerusalem at Nebi Samuel and Tel a-Ful, the city of Jerusalem surrendered to the British.  [The actual picture of the surrender in 1917 is saved for another day.]  Field Marshall Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby issued this proclamation of martial law. [Click to enlarge, click on caption to see the original.]

Gen. Allenby's proclamation in English, French and Italian

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Picture a Day -- Batei Machaseh in Jerusalem's Old City

1903 funeral
The Library of Congress' photo collection includes this 1903 (1908?) photo of the "Funeral services for a Jewish Rabbi, Jerusalem."  

Is it possible to determine where in Jerusalem the photograph was taken?  Most definitely. 

The building is the Rothschild building in the Batei Machaseh compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, donated by Baron Wilhelm Karl de Rothschild of Frankfurt.  The building still bears the Rothschild family's coat of arms.

 The compound was built between 1860

and 1890 to provide housing for Jerusalem's poor.  An old lintel stone nearby  reads "Shelter home for the poor on Mt. Zion." 

Rothschild building,  fleeing Jews
 and Jordanian soldier

During the 1948 war and seige of Jerusalem many of the Jewish Quarter's residents found shelter in the building which also served as the headquarters of the Quarter's defenders. This famous Life Magazine picture (right), taken by John Phillips in 1948, shows the surrender of the Jews to the Jordanian army in the courtyard of the Rothschild building.

The Batei Machaseh complex was looted and destroyed in 1948. 

After the 1967 war the Jewish Quarter and the Rothschild House were restored.  Today the courtyard of the complex is crowded with tourists and Jewish children from the surrounding apartments. 

A family celebrating beneath
the Rothschild building arches
An inscription from the book of Zacharia (8: 4-5) adorns a courtyard wall:

"Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem... and the city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing."

''... עוד ישבו זקנים וזקנות ברחובות ירושלים, ואיש משענתו בידו מרוב ימים. ורחובות העיר ימלאו ילדים וילדות משחקים ברחובותיה''

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Picture a Day -- Agriculture in the Holy Land

circa 1890. Photograph was hand-colored
It is fairly certain that the 1890 picture (right) is not of a Jewish farmer. (Also pictured here.) The method of plowing is strictly prohibited in the Bible:

"Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together." (Deuteronomy 20:10) 

(לֹא תַחֲרֹשׁ בְּשׁוֹר וּבַחֲמֹר יַחְדָּו (דברים פרק כב

The next set of photographs are undated but they were certainly taken very early in the 20th century. According to the Library of Congress collection, they show "Harvesting at a Jewish colony."  These "colonies" were usually collective farming communities built on land purchased by Jewish philanthropists or the Jewish National Fund.
Harvesting in a "Jewish colony"

Harvesting in a "Jewish colony"