Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ancient Synagogues of Jerusalem - Part 3 - The Churva

Al Aqsa dome (left), Churva (right)
circa 1864
A Tribute to the Churva's Builder, Avraham Shlomo Zalman HaTsoref, on the 200th Anniversary of His Arrival in Eretz Yisrael

For 100 years, the dome of the Churva synagogue in Jerusalem's Old City prominently shared the skyscape with the domes of the al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.  Note the enlargement from the 150-year-old title page photo above.

In 1700, Rabbi Yehuda HaHasid acquired land called "the Ashkenzi compound" in the Old City for an Ashkenazi synagogue and institutions. Part of the funds for the purchase were borrowed from local Arab sources.  When the rabbi died soon thereafter, the Jews were unable to repay the debt.  The Ashkenazi community fled, and the synagogue was destroyed by the Arabs in 1721.  The site became known as "Churvat Rabbi Yehuda" -- Rabbi Yehuda's ruins.

For 100 years Ashkenazi Jews avoided the Old City, only entering disguised  in Sephardi garb.

Avraham Shlomo Zalman HaTzoref

The Churva interior (circa 1935)
In 1811 -- almost exactly 200 years ago -- a man arrived in the Land of Israel, and he changed the landscape and humanscape of Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael to this day. 

Avraham Shlomo Zalman HaTzoref, born in Lithuania and a student of the "Gaon of Vilna," moved to Jerusalem where he was determined to reverse the fortunes of the Jews of Jerusalem.  He traveled to Europe to raise funds for the community, and in 1836 lobbied the ruler of Egypt and Palestine, Muhammad Ali Pasha, to cancel the Jewish community's century-old debt and to permit new Jewish construction.

Local Arabs were angered by the cancellation of the debt and the restored Jewish life in the Old City, and they attempted to assassinate HaTzoref.  In 1851 he was hit in the head in a sword attack and died months later, almost exactly 160 years ago.  HaTzoref is listed in the modern annals of Israel's history as the first victim of Arab terrorism.

His son Mordechai and grandson Yoel Moshe took on the family name of "Solomon."  They were pioneers in establishing Jewish communities outside of the Old City such as Meah Sha'arim and Petah Tikva. Yoel Moshe established the first Hebrew printing press and newspaper in the Holy Land in 1863.
Jordanian soldier displaying Torah scroll
in the Churva ruins
The Churva today (Chesdovi)

The Churva Synagogue was completed in 1864 and was considered the most beautiful synagogue in Eretz Yisrael

During the 1948 war, it was the epicenter of the fighting between the Jewish Haganah forces and the Jordanian Legion in the Old City.  The Churva was captured and blown up. 

Israel recaptured the Old City in 1967.  The Churva, with all its previous splendor, was rebuilt and rededicated in March 2010.

View Part One of the ancient synagogue series.  View Part Two here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Have a Sweet Year --
with the Honey Produced in the Holy Land

Borochov Girls Farm, bee culture.
(circa 1925)
According to Jewish tradition, when the Bible describes the Land of Israel as the "land of milk and honey" it meant the sweet honey extract of dates and not the produce of honey bees.

Nonetheless, Jews have adopted bees' honey for the Rosh Hashana custom of dipping apples in honey and wishing loved ones, "May you have a good and sweet year."

Six agricultural training schools were established for young Jewish women in the Eretz Yisrael in the 1920s, and the American Colony photographers were frequent visitors.  Here is a "sweet" photo taken at the Borochov girls school more than 80 years ago.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Blow the Shofar at the New Moon...Because It Is a Decree for Israel, a Judgment Day for the God of Jacob" - Psalms 81

Yemenite Jew blowing the shofar (circa 1935)
Jews around the world prepare for Rosh Hashana later this week, the festive New Year holiday when the shofar ram's horn is blown in synagogues.

The American Colony photographers recorded a dozen pictures of Jewish elders blowing the shofar in Jerusalem some 80 years ago.  The horn was also blown in Jerusalem to announce the commencement of the Sabbath.  During the month prior to Rosh Hashana, the shofar was blown at daily morning prayers to encourage piety before the High Holidays.
Ashkenazi Jew blowing the shofar to announce the Sabbath
Yemenite Rabbi Avram, donning tfillin for his
daily prayers, blowing the shofar

View the American Colony Photographers' collection of shofar blowing here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Solving Another Mystery: "The Russian Proselytes of Khudera"

Who are these "Russian Proselytes of Khudera?"
The Library of Congress' American Colony photo collection is full of mysterious pictures, some of which have been presented on these pages.  Here's another one, captioned "Khudera, Russian Proselytes," with the date listed as "between 1898 and 1934." Who or what is "Khudera?" 

In the 19th century, a Christian sect in Russia kept Saturday as their day of Sabbath, thus earning the name "Subbotniks."  They read the Old Testament and had a loose identification with Judaism.

Yoav Dubrovin (Dubrovin Farm
In the late 1800s, two emissaries from Eretz Yisrael (one, Meir Dizengoff, would become mayor of Tel Aviv) traveled to Europe to encourage Jews to move to the land of Israel.  In Kovno they encountered a successful Subbotnik farmer named Dubrovin who peppered them with questions about the Bible and about farming and weather conditions in the Galilee.  The respected sage of Kovno, Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan Spektor, had befriended Dubrovin and after several years converted Dubrovin, now named Yoav, and his family to Judaism.

In 1903, Dubrovin moved to the land of Israel with his family of 13.  In 1909, he established a very successful farm in Yesod HaMa'aleh in the upper Galilee.

So who are the "Russian Proselytes of Khudera?"  According to Yoav Dubrovin's biography, the family lived in Hadera before purchasing their farm in Yesod HaMa'aleh.  Elsewhere in the Library of Congress collection there is reference to Jewish towns "Jewish coastal colonies: Herzlia, Ranana, Nathania, Khudeira. Herzlia" -- apparently what we call and spell as "Hadera."

 The mystery photo is likely a Dubrovin family portrait (minus Yoav who was in his 70s at this time) and was probably taken around 1906. Yoav Dubrovin lived to the age of 104.

Yoav Dubrovin's son donated the farm to the Jewish National Fund in 1968, and today the farm house has been restored and is the centerpiece of the Dubrovin Farm Museum.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Does Anyone Know about the Massacre of 19 Jews in Tiberias in 1938?

Tragically, there is a long list of massacres of Jews over the last 100 years in Eretz Yisrael:  1929 in Hebron, 1929 in Safad, 1948 the Hadassah Hospital convoy, 1948 Kfar Etzion, 1972 Lod Airport, 1978 Coastal Road, Passover 2002 Park Hotel in Netanya, to list just a few.

Torched Tiberias synagogue (Not from the
Library of Congress collection)
But missing from many of the martyrs' lists and the Israeli public consciousness is the massacre of 19 Jews of Tiberias on October 2, 1938, in the height of the "Arab Revolt in Palestine."  An organized force of Arab militiamen attacked the neighborhood from several directions.

Why is the account missing? Perhaps because of the absolute failure of British authorities and Orde Wingate's (Jewish) Special Night Squads to protect the Tiberias community. The Mandate was aflame, but virtually no one was guarding the 6,000 Jews of Tiberias.  Just three weeks later, an Arab assassin gunned down the Jewish mayor of Tiberias, Zaki Alchadeff, in broad day light.

Original caption: "A little Jewish boy patient in the
Scots Mission Hospital, Tiberias"

A lengthy annual report of the British Mandate, 1938, included these three sentences:  

"On October 2nd there occurred a general raid on the Jewish quarter of Tiberias. It was systematically organized and savagely executed. Of the 19 Jews killed, including women and children, all save four were stabbed to death."

Receive a Daily Picture by subscribing in the right sidebar and clicking "submit."  Click on the photos to enlarge. Click on the captions to see the originals.

The photographers from the American Colony photography department visited Hebron soon after the massacre in 1929 and produced the photos published here more than 80 years later. 

It is quite possible that the photographers traveled to Tiberias after the massacre.  A series of pictures were taken at the Scots Mission Hospital in Tiberias, but the photos are dated as "between 1934 and 1939."  One picture shows "a little Jewish boy."  Another picture shows two British soldiers.  Other pictures show unidentified patients.

Is it possible that these were survivors of the October 1938 attack?
Two British soldiers.  Were they
wounded in the Arab attack?

Mother and baby, but no
caption provided in the
collection.  A Jewish woman?

Common grave in Tiberias for 19 victims
 Other hospital pictures can be viewed here, here and here.

Read the words of The Last Survivor of the 1938 Tiberias Massacre.
Read Ha'aretz' account from October 3, 1938.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Who Is a Jew -- More than 100 Years Ago in Jerusalem?

Sometimes it's hard to tell the Jewish players in Jerusalem today without a scorecard.  It was probably even harder 100 or 140 years ago.
Original caption: "Ashkenazim
 (German Jews)" 1876.  The term "Ashkenazi"
 generally refers to Jews from western or
eastern Europe
Original American Colony caption: "Group of
Ashkenazim Jews" 1900. These Jews are most
definitely not from Europe. They are "Sephardi"
 Jews from Arab lands, and most likely from Yemen

Which Jew is Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yemenite, Chassidic, anti-Chassidic misnaged, anti-Zionist Satmar, etc.?  Sometimes it's difficult for veteran Jerusalemites to tell today.  Imagine how difficult it was for the Christian photographers of the American Colony photographic department 100 years ago.  Usually, they got it correct, but not always.
"Arab Jew from Yemen" (1898)
note the term "Arab Jew"
"Moorish Jew" (1900) from
The photographers clearly enjoyed taking pictures of the picturesque and exotic Yemenite community that arrived in Jerusalem in the 1880s.  The elderly, bearded pious Jewish rabbis were also a favorite subject.

Note the American Colony's original captions.

From all the photographs one conclusion is certain and elementary: The Jews -- all sorts of Jews --were a part of the Jerusalem landscape 100 years ago and even 150 years ago when photography was in its infancy. 
Elderly Jewish? (sic) man, seated
under tree (1898)

Group of old Jewish men (1900) The sign above the door on
 the right reads Corridor 5, 6, 7.



Click on the photos to enlarge. Click on the captions to see the originals.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Gates of Jerusalem Then and Now, Part III -- The Lions Gate

Lions Gate also known as St. Stephen's Gate 1860
The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by four kilometers (2.5 miles) of walls built by the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, in 1540.  Seven open gates serve as points of entry into the Old City.  Several other gates, some dating back to the days of the Second Temple, are sealed. 

The Lions Gate is the only open gate facing east toward the Mt. of Olives.  It stands adjacent to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

British soldiers guarding Lions Gate
during Arab disturbances in April 1920

The "lions" carved on both sides of the gate are actually panthers, the symbol of the Mamluk Sultan Baybars (1223-1277). The panthers were believed to have been part of a Mamluki structure and placed at the gate by Suleiman to commemorate the Ottoman victory over the Mamluks in 1517.

Previous essays in this series presented the history and pictures of Zion Gate and Damascus Gate.  
1967 War -- IDF troops enter the
Old City of Jerusalem through Lions Gate

1967: Entering Jerusalem through the
Lions Gate - from the right IDF Chief
of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, Defense Minister
Moshe Dayan, and Jerusalem Commander
Uzi Narkis. Gen. Rehavam Ze'evi's head
is turned. (Ilan Bruner/GPO)
The Lions Gate was the point of entry for the Israel Defense Force's capture of the Old City in the June 1967 war.  The Paratroop Brigade, commanded by Gen. Motta Gur and Uzi Narkis, led the forces through the Gate.

Over the last four years the walls of the Old City have been repaired, restored and cleaned by the Israeli government in a $5 million project. 

Lions Gate today (courtesy)

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Surrender of Jerusalem to British Forces in 1917
The American Colony Photographers' Most Famous Picture

Handwritten caption: "The Mayor of Jerusalem Hussein
Effendi El Husseini meeting with Srgts Sedwick and
Hurcomb..., London Regiment, under the White Flag
of Surrender, December 9th at 8 a.m."
This article appears today in the Jerusalem Post Magazine in a shortened version.

The fighting of World War I was not confined to Europe. Simultaneously, a major war was being waged in the Middle East. Fighting in the Sinai and Palestine, beginning in January 1915 and lasting until October 1918, was vicious and took a heavy toll on both sides.

British Empire troops fought the Ottoman army supported by German and Austrian officers and troops from the Suez Canal, through the Sinai, Gaza, Beer Sheva, Jericho and from Jaffa up the steep road to the outskirts of Jerusalem.  See earlier photo essay on the critical battle of Nebi SamuelAfter capturing Jerusalem, the British Army pressed the Turkish army northward all the way to Damascus.

Mt. Scopus cemetery
Visitors to Jerusalem should pause for a few seconds when they pass the 2,500 graves at the British cemetery on Mt. Scopus which include the graves of several dozen Jewish soldiers from the British army.

The capture of Jerusalem in December 1917 was major success for the British army, commanded by General Edmund Allenby.
The two sergeants with
Jerusalem behind them

But, imagine the surprise of two British scouts, Sergeants James Sedgewick and Frederick Hurcomb on the morning of December 9, 1917 when they were met by a Jerusalem delegation of dignitaries on the western approaches of  Jerusalem.  Walking beneath a white flag of surrender were the mayor of Jerusalem, Hussein el Husseini (with the walking stick and cigarette), the chief of the Jerusalem police (at the far left, resplendent  in his parade uniform), several police officers, and a handful of hangers-on. They bore a letter of surrender from the Ottoman Governor Izzat Pasha. El Husseini also brought a young photographer from the American Colony photographers, Lewis Larsson.

Sergeants Sedgewick and Hurcomb refused to accept the letter, preferring that senior officers take the responsibility.  Eventually, the surrender was received by Brigadier-General C.F. Watson, (who was delayed when his car got stuck in the mud) but, according to Palestinian Arab publisher Mohamed Ali Eltaher (1896-1974), the British brass were upset that a photograph of the surrender to sergeants existed. "When Commander in Chief General John Shea learned that young Larsson had captured on film the real moment of surrender, and not the moment when he stood on the steps of David’s Tower to proclaim martial law, he demanded that Larsson destroy the negatives and all copies of the picture. He sent an officer to see that his order was executed," Eltaher wrote.
But copies of the photograph survived, and the picture became one of the icons of the modern history of the Middle East.
World War I memorial
on the site of the surrender
in Jerusalem neighborhood
of Romema (circa 1930)

The memorial today. The Jerusalem Central Bus Station
is in the background

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Who Is this Man, and Why Was He So Hated?
Hassan Bey, Turkish Commandant of Jaffa, 1914

Hassan Bey the Tyrant of Jaffa
Until their defeat in 1917, the Turks ruled Palestine, often with an iron first. The American Colony photographers maintained a photo album of the last years of the Turkish control.  Of this man, Hassan Bey, the album bore this caption: "The Tyrant of Jaffa."

The opinion was shared by the Jews of Palestine who were often rounded up and in many cases expelled from the country.  Turkish rulers were particularly harsh against "Zionists" who were often viewed as "separatist" agents for foreign countries like Russia.

In 1921, the Zionist Organization of London presented a report, entitled "Palestine during the War," to the Twelfth Zionist Congress.
Jaffa mosque (circa 1915)

According to the report,
The harshest and most cruel of all the Turkish officials was the Commandant of the Jaffa district, Hassan Bey. He was the very type of an Oriental satrap. It would suddenly come into his head to summon respectable householders to him after midnight, and hours after they would return to their expectant families with an order to bring him some object from their homes which had caught his fancy or of which he had heard — an electric clock, a carpet, etc. Groundless arrests, insults, tortures, bastinadoes [clubs] — these were things every householder had to fear.
 Hassan Bey also had an ambition to beautify the towns. For this purpose he suddenly had whole rows of houses pulled down without offering any reason, and forced the owners to sign legal documents stating that they gave up all claim to their property. Both they and the other inhabitants were compelled to provide building materials and money. He forced the laborers under threat of the lash to give work without payment.
Hassan Bey continually demanded from the Jewish institutions money for and active participation in the execution of public works (building of a mosque in Jaffa, erection of the Mohammedan schools founded by him, etc.). The Jewish communal committees particularly excited his wrath. When Hassan Bey presented a demand to a colony, he usually reinforced it with a threat to attack the colony with his soldiers and wipe it out if his request was not fulfilled.
Marble grave stones used by the Jaffa
Tyrant Hassan Bey to build the mosque
The Hassan Bek mosque today (courtesy)
The mosque referred to is the Hassan Bey (also known as the Hassan Bek) Mosque between Jaffa and Tel Aviv.  Hassan Bey intended to limit the growth of Tel Aviv southward, so he placed the new mosque north of Jaffa.

Repeatedly interceding on behalf of the Jews of Palestine in 1914 were the American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau Sr., and the American Consul General to Jerusalem, Otis GlazebrookWhen the American naval cruiser, the USS North Carolina, was dispatched to Jaffa to bring $50,000 to the desperate Jewish community. Morgenthau lobbied hard to block Hassan Bey's attempts to steal the money.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Children of the Old Yishuv -- Jerusalem, 80 Years Ago

"Little boy, Moshe & Shlomo go to Wailing Wall with their father" (1934)
The American Colony photographers clearly loved to take pictures of Jewish children as they traveled around the Holy Land 80-100 years ago.  Most of their pictures are group shots of children in the "New Yishuv," the settlements established by the Zionist movement after 1880.   Many of these pictures have appeared in these pages in the past.

But their collection also includes pictures of children of the "Old Yishuv," the Jewish communities of Eretz Yisrael, predominantly ultra-Orthodox Jews, who lived in the holy Jewish cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad and Tiberias.  Some of them are descendants of Jews who lived in Palestine over the centuries.

See previous posting on the children of the Bukharan Jewish community in Jerusalem.  The Sephardi community moved to Jerusalem from the area of Uzbekistan in the 1890s.
Orthodox Jew with 2 youngsters, on
Sabbath walk to Wailing Wall
Jewish boys on Sabbath, trying to avoid
being photographed (1934). See also here

Many of the Library of Congress pictures were taken on the Sabbath as the Orthodox Jews were walking to and from the Western Wall.  The Jews did not want to be photographed and many tried to hide their faces from the photographer.

Click on a picture to enlarge. Click on a caption to view the original.  Receive a Daily Picture by subscribing in the right sidebar and clicking "submit."

Jerusalem children on a balcony
The Library of Congress collection contains this picture (left) of children on a Jerusalem balcony, dated sometime "between 1925 and 1946." 

Blowing Sabbath Shofar

Batei Rand (courtesy)

But wait, elsewhere in the vast Library collection is this picture (above right) of an "Ashkenazi Jew blowing Sabbath shofar" to announce the beginning of the Sabbath.  The picture is dated 1934-1939.  Yes, it is the same balcony, even some of the same children.

Where was the picture taken? The architectural style suggests the Batei Ungarin complex built in 1891 outside of the confines of the Old City for Hassidic Jews from Hungary.  But then as today, the neighborhood was known for its insularity and xenophobia, and not likely to allow photographers to take pictures. 

Another, more likely choice is the Batei Rand complex built in 1910 by a Hassidic Jew from Poland.  Note the lintels, windows and security bars on the windows in the shofar blower's picture and this modern photo.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Arab Revolt in Palestine, Part III
The Railroads, Defending against Arab Attack 1936-1939

Derailed locomotive, 1936
New picture added of hostage on railroad tracks. (January 2012)

The Arab attacks against the Jews and British in Palestine were frequently directed against motor vehicles and railroads. These pictures from the Library of Congress-American Colony collection show the extensive damage to the trains and the special measures taken by the British, including armed escorts.
Derailed train, 1936

The British government's annual reports on the Administration of Palestine and Transjordan lists monthly attacks against the rail system. According to the 1936 report, for instance,

"During June 1936 there were twelve acts of sabotage on the railway, and on two occasions trains were wrecked, one of the derailments near Lydda on the 26th June causing four deaths and considerable damage to the line and rolling stock. In consequence of this act of sabotage, which followed closely upon an organized attack on the Civil Airport at Lydda, a curfew was imposed on the town of Lydda." 
British army guards with machine guns riding in a special
armored rail car
British marines guarding the trains

Arab hostage on flatbed in front of vehicle checking the
tracks for mines. (This photo was miscaptioned in the
Library of Congress collection)
At one point the British army even put Arab hostages on a flatbed in front of a rail car as they checked the rails for mines.
Arab hostages sitting in a rail cart as
 British troops patrol the train
 tracks (1936).  Not from the Library
of  Congress collection

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Yemenite Surprise in Siloam/Shiloah Village of Jerusalem
Re-Posting One of Our First Pages

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 known 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 [Shiloach] village in the background is a Jew fom Habani (the Jews of Hamani were tall) and the family looks like a family that made aliya from Saana.