Wednesday, August 31, 2011

1937: The Yishuv's Response to the "Arab Revolt" -- Building Ein Gev, a "Tower & Stockade"

 Ein Gev: Inside the settlement showing look-out tower
with mounted searchlight (circa 1937).  The Golan
Heights are the hills above.
At the height of the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Palestine, rural Jewish communities were under attack from local Arab militias.  Ambushes were constant threats on the roads.  The Yishuv (the Jews of Eretz Yisrael prior to Israel's formation) was in danger of losing lands purchased and farmed, in some cases, for decades.

Girls of the settlement
 mending fishing nets
 In order to circumvent the British Mandate's restrictions on new Jewish construction and to challenge the Arab aggression, the Zionist pioneers devised Tower and Stockade - חומה ומגדל  fortified settlement projects, which were built overnight as defensive posts. The 52 projects developed into agricultural communities. Most of the villages were kibbutzim or moshavim communal settlements.
Ein Gev pioneers, including Teddy Kollek (2nd from
the right), later mayor of Jerusalem
Ein Gev settlers at the armory
 inspecting rifles

Pictured here is the community of Ein Gev, established in July 1937 on the eastern banks of the Sea of Galilee.  Ein Gev was a frontline community, facing Arab attacks in the 1930s and 1948 war.  Until the 1967 war, Ein Gev was constantly in the gunsights of the Syrian army located on the Golan Heights above the kibbutz. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Photo Added to Last Month's Essay

Original caption - 1898
In July, we published "Nablus Road, Where History Marched."  We recently uncovered another photo, this one with the photographer's handwritten caption, "The [German] Kaiser passing our house [in the American Colony]."

Compare this photo to the one  published last month.  It shows a Jewish man on the left watching the procession.

Joseph's Tomb -- (Republication of our first photo essays)

Joseph's Tomb, (circa 1900)
Our first photo essays were actually an experiment to test the public's interest in these historic photographs.  We will periodically republish the first essays for our growing audience.

Joseph's traditional burial site is in the city of Schem (Nablus).  Below are pictures taken in 1900. The originals are here and here on the Library of Congress collection.  View another picture here.
 The Ottoman Empire ruled the land of Palestine in 1900.  Ostensibly, the guard pictured at the tomb is an Ottoman policeman.

Note how the tomb was located in an empty field.  Indeed, Jewish visitors to the tomb after the 1967 war remember it as a solidarity structure in a large field.

Today, it is surrounded by Palestinian buildings. 
Ottoman guard at the Tomb (circa 1900)

According to the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is obligated to safeguard holy sites and ensure free access to them. (Annex III, Appendix I, Article 32 of the Oslo 2 accord, signed on September 28, 1995.) The Oslo 2 accord (Article V of Annex I) also spells out specific arrangements concerning particular sites such as the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus, the Shalom al Yisrael Synagogue in Jericho, and the Tomb of Rachel near Bethlehem.

During the 2000 Intifada, Palestinians razed the site.  It has subsequently been rebuilt, but Jewish visits to the tomb are irregular and must be conducted with IDF escort.
Joseph's tomb surrounded by Palestinian buildings today

The razing of the Tomb in the 2000 Intifada

Friday, August 26, 2011

1936: The Start of the "Arab Revolt in Palestine" and the Assault on Jews in Eretz Yisrael -- Part 1

Palestine disturbances 1936. Palestine Arabs at Abu
Ghosh taking the oath of allegiance to the Arab cause, 
 to fight Jewish immigration, etc. (Library of Congress caption)
There are many reasons given for the start of the 1936 "Arab Revolt," an uprising of the Arabs of Palestine that would last for three years.  Among the reasons:
  • Nationalist movements were active in surrounding countries of Iraq, Jordan and Syria and were influenced the Arabs of Palestine.  In their midst, another nationalist movement, Zionism, was thriving.
  • Anti-colonial fervor was directed against the British.  The British often responded with a brutality that fanned the radical flames.
  • The immigration of Jews in the 1930s and their purchase of land in Palestine alarmed the Arab nationalists.  They feared a demographic shift and sought to reverse the Balfour Declaration's goal of a Jewish national home in Palestine.
  • The Jewish manufacturing, farming, and social enterprises were seen as threatening to traditional Arab societies.
  • The Mufti, Haj Amin el Husseini, sought to ride a wave of fanatacism and anti-Semitism that would also sweep away his moderate Arab foes.
  • Many Arabs were caught up in the Fascist movements developing in Europe and the Middle East.
Historians point to April 1936 as the start of the Arab campaign.  Jewish communities and vehicles were frequent targets.  The American Colony photographers documented many of the attacks against the British and Jews.

Attacks against Jewish vehicles in 1936:
Palestine disturbances. 1936. Jaffa. Jewish car
 burnt, occupant killed, April 19, 1936

Remains of a burnt Jewish passenger
 bus outside Haifa, July 1936

Palestine disturbances 1936.
 Two motor cars burnt on the
highway, owners Jews

Future features: 

The Convoys of 1936

The British Counterattack

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Extinct Jewish Communities in the Middle East - Part 3 - Aleppo

Poor Jewish family of Aleppo
(circa 1900)
The photographers of the American Colony were a peripatetic bunch, traveling not only the length and breadth of the land of Palestine, but also to neighboring areas of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq.   The American Colony photographers took pictures of Jewish communities as they traveled throughout the Middle East, including Alexandria, Damascus, Constantinople (Istanbul), and the Kifl (Iraq), the site of Ezekiel's tomb.

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Aleppo Jews, another pose, with another
 baby on the lap, and sister (far left)
still scratching her head

The Jewish community of Aleppo may date back to Biblical days, with some claiming that it was Aram Tzoba mentioned in the book of Samuel.  The classic Aleppo Codex was an ancient and complete text of the Bible cited by Maimonides as the most authoritative text. 

Aleppo was the destination of many Jews expelled from Spain in the 15th century.  But Aleppo was no safe haven.  Pogroms and blood libels plagued the Jewish community. 

The merchants of Aleppo and Damascus who traded along the spice and silk routes lost much of their business when the Suez Canal opened in 1869.  Jews emigrated to Palestine, South America and Europe.  Later, at the start of 20th century, the threat of forced conscription into the army led many families to leave, some to North America

In 1947, after the UN partition vote, a pogrom devastated the Aleppo Jewish community. After Israel's founding, the Syrian Jewish community was severely persecuted.  Virtually the entire Jewish community left Syria in recent decades.  A large community of Syrian Jews lives today in Brooklyn, NY.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Every Tourist Goes to Masada -- Even 110 Years Ago

Scaling Masada's topmost cliffs.
The climb above the ramp (c 1930)
 The famous Israeli archeologist Yigal Yadin didn't discover the desert fortress of Masada in his 1963-1965 archeological expedition.   It was discovered a century earlier. 

Yadin role was to unearth Masada's many secrets. 

On top of Masada
Click on a picture to enlarge. Click on caption to view original.
Scholars were familiar with the story of Masada from the works of the first century historian, Josephus Flavius, but only in 1835 did American scholar Eward Robinson look at the mountain with a keen eye:  "I could perceive what appeared to be a building and also traces of other buildings... Subsequent research leaves little room to doubt that this was the site of the ancient and renowned fortress of Masada."

Other explorers examined the mountain in the 1850s and 1860s.
According to Yadin, "the most profound and pioneering study of Masada was done by the German scholar Adolf Schulten, who was among the first scholars to spend a whole month at Masada in 1932.... His plans laid the foundation for the future study of the ruins."
Roman camps and Dead
Sea below (circa 1900)

The way up to Masada

Some of the Library of Congress photographs of Masada that appear here were taken around the same time as Schulten's expedition to Masada.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

The Enigmatic Photograph from the Library of Congress:
A Jewish Children’s Parade a Long Time Ago

Many questions: Who, Why, Where?
This report appeared in The Jerusalem Post Mazine today
Among the thousands of very old and recently digitalized pictures from a Library of Congress collection of photos from Palestine, there is this captivating picture 
All the Library of Congress caption tells us is that the picture was taken between 1910 and 1930 and that it is  a “Group of children and adults in procession in street, some holding a banner with a Star of David.”

Click on a picture to enlarge. Click on caption to see the original.
Who are the hundreds of children?  Why are the boys and girls separated?  Where are they marching to? Where is this picture taken? And why is there a tent compound on the left horizon?
Photo analysis and comparison to an aerial photograph from 1931 and contemporary pictures indicate that the children are walking south on the Nablus Road (Derech Shchem) in the direction of the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem. Behind them is the road that veers to the right toward Mt. Scopus.  The road leads to a neighborhood built around the grave of a High Priest named Shimon the Righteous  (Hatzadik) who lived in the days of the Second Temple. 
The boys and girls come from ultra-Orthodox schools, evidenced by the boys’ hats and frocks.  The girls are wearing ultra-Orthodox fashion: shapeless, modest smocks.  But wait, the second batch of girls, those behind the Star of David banner (might they be from a “Zionist” school?) are wearing more stylish dresses and hats.
Enlargement of the army camp. Note the permanent
structure surrounded by tents.
The tents belong to a British army camp after they defeated the Turks in 1917 and were deployed along the northern ridges stretching from Nebi Samuel to the Mount of Olives. The compound appears similar to other British army compounds in Library of Congress photographs.  
The day started off cool, and the girls have shed their sweaters.  It’s a warm Spring day, and from the shadows it’s probably around 2 PM. 
Shimon Hatzadik's tomb today
In fact, the day was Tuesday, April 30, 1918.  The procession is almost certainly an organized outing of several Jerusalem schools taking place on Lag Ba’Omer, four weeks after Passover.  Traditionally, on Lag Ba’Omer Jews flock to the Galilee mountaintop of Meiron to the grave of Shimon Bar Yochai, one of the most famous scholars in the Talmud.  But some 100 years ago, travel to Meiron would have taken days.  Instead, the children took a hike to Shimon Hatzadik’s grave, a known custom 100 years ago in Jerusalem.
The parade route today (picture taken from the 8th floor
of the Olive Hotel)

Veteran Jerusalemite Shmulik Huminer wrote in his memoirs:

“Anyone who could travel to Meiron on Lag Ba’Omer would go, and there take place miracles and wonders.  But the residents of Jerusalem who couldn’t afford to travel to Meiron have as compensation the cave of Shimo Hatzadik located at the edge of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood north of the Old City.”
Today, Lag Ba’Omer is a day when Jewish children still go out to parks and forests to celebrate.  In Jerusalem, many traditional Jews still visit Shimon’s grave. 
Comparison of buildings from 1918 and today. Second stories
were added to the buildings over the years.
The houses around the grave where Jews lived 100 years ago were abandoned under threat of Arab pogroms in the 1920s and 1930s.  The Hadassah convoy massacre in 1948, in which almost 80 Jews were killed, took place on the road beneath the building with the very prominent arches.
 In recent years, however, Jewish families have returned to the Shimon Hatzadik neighborhood.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel: the First Jew to Rule Eretz Yisrael in 2,000 Years?

New era in Palestine. High Commissioner Samuel
arrives in Jaffa Port, June 30, 1920
After defeating the Ottoman army in 1917, Britain sought to replace its military occupation of Palestine with civilian rule.  The first civilian High Commissioner of Palestine was a British Jewish politician named Herbert Samuel, appointed in 1920.

Samuel and Colonial
Secretary Winston Churchill
planting tree on Mt Scopus
Hebrew University site
Already in 1915 Samuel submitted a proposal to establish a protectorate for Jewish rule in Palestine.  The proposal received scant notice at the time, but it served as a basis for the Balfour Declaration in 1917 in which "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."  The appointment of a practicing Jew and Zionist was opposed by some British politicians, the Arabs of Palestine and the British military leadership in Palestine. 

Samuel being received in Rishon Lezion, July 1920
Soon after his arrival, Samuel met with Arab and Jewish leaders of Palestine and toured new Jewish towns and communities.  The pictures here are from his visit to Rishon Lezion, founded by Jews in 1882.

During his five years in office, Samuel attempted to balance policies between Arab and Jewish demands, but some of his policies to appease the Arabs had disastrous results, such as his appointment of the radical anti-Semite Amin el-Husseini as Mufti of Jerusalem and his limiting of Jewish immigration to, and land purchases in, Palestine.

Samuel's reception in Rishon Lezion 1920

Samuel leaving Rishon synagogue 1920

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Two Incredible Portraits -- Rabbi and Young Woman, 1889

Jew from Jerusalem (1889)

The Library of Congress collection of photos from the Holy Land includes several collections by other photographers.  

An Arab Jewess (1889)
One such photo-grapher was the Italian-born Tancrede Dumas who opened a studio in Beirut in 1860 and filmed throughout the Middle East until 1890.

We present two of his portraits today.

Can anyone identify either of the two?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

King David's Citadel - Part 2 - The British

King David's Citadel today
Part 1 of the King David Citadel feature, showing the Turkish control of the historical site, can be read by clicking here.

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. 

The British-led "Gendarmerie" at the Tower of David

When the British Army defeated the Turks in 1917, they acted immediately to restore order in Jerusalem.  The tower, stronghold and police barracks (known as the "Kishle") were almost immediately used for the reorganized military police.

Allenby investiture

The next photo depicts the "investiture" of honors and medals on General Edmund Allenby and individual soldiers.  The pictures of the investiture ceremony bear the conflicting dates of December 1917 as well as March 1918.

During the Arab Revolt (1936-1939), attacks were carried out against British facilities and Jewish communities. The Old City was occasionally "conquered" by Arab gangs who took control of the Old City gates.  British military operations had to be launched to "lift the siege."

The following pictures show the "war-like scene on the roof of the Tower of David" in 1938.
On the roof of the Tower of David (1938)

British snipers on David's Tower. Note their view of the
Temple Mount

Monday, August 15, 2011

Renovations of King Hussein's Palace in Jerusalem?
Actually, Not Just a "Hill of Beans"

Hussein's "palace" on the site of a bloody 1917 battle
between the British and the Turks and on the site
of King Saul's palace 3000 years ago
News reports this week claim that the Waqf, the Muslim authorities of Jerusalem, sent earth-moving equipment and fencing in order to claim the hilltop in northern Jerusalem where Jordan's King Hussein started to build a palace in the 1960s.  The frame of the palace was erected, but construction stopped as war drums started to beat. Jordanian military bunkers and trenches were dug, and Jordanian M-47 Patton tanks were dispatched to the hill, called Tel el-Ful ("Hill of Beans").  The deployment of American-supplied tanks by Jordan's army was in violation of the weapons provision that restricted their use only to the east bank of the Jordan River.

Turkish dead at Tel el-Ful

Tel el-Ful's location and height have made it a strategic site for 3,000 years.

When the 1967 war broke out and Jordan shelled the Jewish side of Jerusalem, the Israeli Defense Forces flanked the Old City from the north, capturing Tel el-Ful on their way to reuniting Jerusalem.
British burial party after burying
Turkish dead

But it was not the first time the Hill was drenched with blood.  Two weeks after the city of Jerusalem surrendered to the British army on December 9, 1917, the German commander unleashed a Christmas counterattack that was blocked at Tel el-Ful with heavy Turkish casualties, as documented in the Library of Congress photo collection.  It was the last gasp of the Turkish campaign in Palestine.

The hill was also known as Gibeah/Givah, a Biblical town responsible for a near civil war in the early stages of the Israelites conquering the land of Israel.  King Saul established his court at the location for 38 years, earning the location's name "Givat Shaul." It also served as a Philistine redoubt.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Women at the Western Wall 100 Years Ago

Women at the Kotel (after 1921)
Tonight marks the 15th day of Av in the Hebrew calendar -- Tu B'Av.  Traditionally, it's one of the happiest days in the Jewish calendar, commemorating various acts of reconciliation between tribes in the Bible. 

Today in Israel the day is called Chag HaAhava -- Festival of Love -- a kind of Valentine's Day.

In the days of the Temple, the Talmud explained, the day was the first day of the grape harvest, and unmarried girls of Jerusalem would dress in white garments and go out to dance in the vineyards to meet their future husbands. 
Women at the Kotel (after 1903)

אָמַר רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל, לֹא הָיוּ יָמִים טוֹבִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל כַּחֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר בְּאָב וּכְיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים, שֶׁבָּהֶן בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם יוֹצְאוֹת בִּכְלֵי לָבָן שְׁאוּלִין, שֶׁלֹּא לְבַיֵּשׁ אֶת מִי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ. כָּל הַכֵּלִים טְעוּנִין טְבִילָה. וּבְנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלַיִם יוֹצְאוֹת וְחוֹלוֹת רוקדות בַּכְּרָמִים...

Click on a picture to enlarge. Click on caption to view original.

Women at the Western Wall (circa 1900)
Note the Yemenite Jewish man on the right
In honor of Tu B'Av we present pictures of women at the Western Wall.  A couple of interesting historical points can be seen in the pictures: 

The women in these pictures were generally on the left side of the Kotel; after the 1967 war and Israel cleared the area in front of the Wall, women prayed on the right side. 

Because of restrictions originally imposed by the Ottoman authorities and demands by the Muslim Mufti of Jerusalem there were no physical partitions between the men and the women visible in these pictures. Any attempt to set up screens or bring chairs were met with protests and attacks.  The worshippers honored a separation of sexes.

The writings on the Wall are memorial notices, often with dates of the subject's death.  The picture is obviously taken after the date on the wall and gives us an estimated date of the picture.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Women Farmers of Eretz Yisrael -- 90 Years Ago

"Zionist agricultural zeal...Grandfather helping
 granddaughter to plow" circa 1920 in the Yizrael Valley
One of the Zionist dreams was to take Jews out of the European ghettos and create a "new man" in the fields of Eretz Yisrael.  But the dream also meant a "new woman." 

The photographers of the American Colony clearly enjoyed taking photographs of these women farmers and field workers.  Here we present several of the dozens in the Library of Congress collection.

Click on a picture to enlarge. Click on caption to view original.
"Foot of Carmel. Zionist girl farmers" collecting grapes
Borochov. Girls' farm,
 Polish girl immigrant.
Elsewhere named as
"Davora Rushkin"
 Picking almonds in Rishon
Lezion (circa 1920)

"Maiden of Rishon Lezion" with basket
of almonds

Borochov. Girls' farm, feeding poultry

"Nahalal Girls' Agricultural
training school. Picking violets.  A better class city girl  immigrant turning to

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