Wednesday, November 30, 2011

That Temporary Market Featured Below? Here's the Location Today

The building today.  (
The "temporary vegetable market" photographed by the American Colony photographer in the 1930s is on Jerusalem's Jaffa Road in the Romema neighborhood.  The building in the picture may be boarded up, but the arches, windows and columns are identical.

The address is 167 Jaffa Road, not far from the main bus station.
 View of Jaffa Road looking east toward the Old City.
The building is on the right, (

The "temporary market," possibly set up
when the Old City was held by terrorists
in 1938.


A Strange Picture of a "Temporary" Arab Vegetable Market in a Jewish Neighborhood in Jerusalem in the 1930s
More from the Arab Revolt 1936-1939

"Temporary vegetable market" in Romema, Jerusalem (picture
taken between 1934 and 1939)
This picture of a market (right) is something of a mystery.  Why would there be a "temporary market" in the middle of the Jewish neighborhood of Romema, particularly when most of the customers are Arabs? Moreover, the time frame of the picture, 1934-1939, was marked by strife between Arabs and Jews, especially after the outbreak of the "Arab Revolt" in 1936.
"British army breaking into the Old City's
Damascus Gate, evacuating and
arresting certain individuals, rebels,"
 Oct. 19, 1938 

Lifting the siege. Arab residents waiting
to enter Damascus Gate. Oct 22, 1938

Distributing bread to residents after the
siege was lifted. Another picture here.
We'll take a guess and suggest that the picture was taken in October 1938 when Arab terrorists captured the Old City of Jerusalem and held it for a week.  Food and water were cut off.  The Arab market in the Old City would have been closed.  A temporary solution was found, we suggest.

On October 19, the British army broke in and recaptured the Old City, killing 19 terrorists. 
Providing water after the siege

Nurse on duty at Damascus Gate,
October 22, 1938
The women's clothing in the mystery picture appears to be light, even summer clothes, challenging our hypothesis. Was the clothing appropriate for October?  Actually, yes. Viewing the clothing of the soldiers and nurses in the October pictures, the days were apparently warm.

In its 1938 annual report, the British Mandatory office wrote,
Lifting the siege

"The Old City of Jerusalem, which had become the rallying point of a large number of bandits and from which acts of violence, murder and intimidation were being organized and perpetrated freely and with impunity, was fully re-occupied by the troops on the 19th of the month."

The Library of Congress' American Colony collection contains several dozen pictures of the British retaking the Old City.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Russians Are Coming!
Russian Pilgrims to Palestine 100 Years Ago

"Russian priestesses" (circa 1900)
Except for a few historians, does anyone know why the Crimean War (1853-1856) was fought and between whom?

It’s a fact that one of the causes of the Crimean War was a dispute over who controlled the Christian holy sites in the Holy Land. The primary combatants were the Russian Empire versus an alliance of the French, Ottoman and British Empires.

In 1851 Napoleon III sent an ambassador to the Ottoman court to convince the Turks to recognize France as the sovereign authority over the holy sites in Palestine, effectively meaning Roman Catholic control over the sites. After Russia protested, the Ottomans reversed the agreement with the French and proclaimed that Russia was the protector of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire (not too much to the liking of the Greek Orthodox).
Russian pilgrims on the way to Jericho
France responded with “gunboat diplomacy.”  The Turkish Sultan reversed his ruling again, giving authority over Christian sites to France and the Roman Catholic Church.
Russian pilgrims on the Jordan River

The dispute over the holy sites was part of the general balagan as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated, leading to widespread warfare, predominately in the Crimean Peninsula along the northern coast of the Black Sea.
Hospital in the Russian Compound,

Russian Pilgrims on the road
between Jerusalem and
the Jordan River
After the war, Russian Czar Alexander II sent agents to purchase properties in Jerusalem and Nazareth.  The Russian Palestine Society was established in 1860 to encourage and subsidize pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Russian churches, hostels and even hospitals were built to accommodate thousands of pilgrims. The large “Russian Compound” was established in Jerusalem. 

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Click on the captions to see the originals.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The First Motion Picture in Jerusalem - 1897

Scene from first movie
Railroad Station (1900)
Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière were photographic inventors who began to experiment with motion pictures in the early 1890s. 

The Frenchmen's first footage was recorded in March 1895.  In 1897, they produced the first motion picture made in the Holy Land, a 51-second film from a train leaving Jerusalem  station.   

Click on the picture  to see the film or view an annotated version of the film which answers the question, "Who were the residents of Jerusalem when the film was made?" 

[Do not adjust the sound on your computer; this is a silent movie.]

Note in the background the windmill in the Jewish neighborhood of Yemin Moshe built by Moses Montefiore in 1860.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The 1936 Arab Revolt and the Jews of Jerusalem - Part IV

 "An old Jew peeping out to see what is happening during
the Arab strike" May 14th, 1936
The British Government's annual reports on Mandatory Palestine make for fascinating -- and often grim -- reading. 

The annual reports detail social and political developments in Palestine, but large segments are also dedicated to detailing the violence between Arabs and Jews.  One can also perceive in the reports the increasing pressure to shut the immigration doors to Jews fleeing the monstrous threats in Germany and Poland.

We are fortunate that the thousands of photographs taken by the American Colony photographers during this period provide a visual window into the events of Palestine.

The eyes that have seen it all before

The 1936-1939 British reports are particularly important for understanding the scope and threat of the Arab Revolt and the attacks perpetrated against the Jewish Yishuv.  The warfare of the 1930s was a harbinger of the Arab attacks during Israel's War of Independence.

Jerusalem during this whole period was usually at the epicenter of the violent tremors.  We present several pictures of Jewish residents of the Old City.

Excerpts from the 1936 report:



The autumn of 1935 had been marked by considerable political disquiet and by demonstrations of Arab discontent over Jewish immigration and the sales of Arab lands to Jewish buyers....  
Jews fleeing the Old City, 1936
Evacuation of Jews, 1936
 The year 1936 in Palestine was dominated by the disturbances which lasted throughout the country from the 19th April to the 12th October.

In Jerusalem a few assaults were made by Arabs on isolated Jews, while a large number of Jewish shops in the Old City were closed and Jewish residents in the Old City or in Arab quarters began to move.

In Hebron the Jewish community was concentrated in the local Jewish hospital and later transferred to Jerusalem....

Jews fleeing the Old City
through the Jaffa Gate 1936
During May and June a perceptibly increasing amount of lawlessness and disorder developed throughout the Jerusalem, Northern and Southern Districts in the form of attacks on public and private Jewish property, sabotage on railways, telegraph and telephone communications. 

During the second fortnight of May three Jews were murdered and two others wounded in a crowd leaving a Jerusalem cinema on the night of the 16th May. Two more Jews were also murdered in the Old City, and one was shot at. As a result there followed a further exodus of Jewish householders to safer quarters in the suburbs, while curfew orders were successively imposed, first on the Old City, then on the mixed quarters, and finally over the whole of the Jerusalem Municipal Area....

View previous postings on the Arab Revolt:

Part 1 The Start of the Revolt;
Part 2 The Convoys; 
Part 3 The Railroads

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Start of Aviation in Eretz Yisrael
Military Aircraft Became Part of the Palestine Campaign (a re-posting)

Bonnier lands in Jerusalem, 1913. The
man on the far right appears to be the
mayor of Jerusalem, Salim Hussein
el-Husseini.  Note the unidentified
 Jewish man on the left.
Turkish plane in Jerusalem, 1914
Just 10 years after the first Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk, the first aircraft landed in Jerusalem on December 31, 1913, flown by a Frenchman, Marc Bonnier.  The flight was part of a seven-week tour of the Mediterranean that began and ended in France. 

On May 1, 1914, Turkish aviators Salim Bey and Kemal Bey landed their aircraft in Jerusalem.  And after that flight, it appears that military aircraft began to fill the skies over Palestine.
Aerial photo of Jerusalem taken by German pilot in 1917.
Click here for another view. By the end of 1917, Jerusalem was
in British hands.
German reconnaissance flight over
Ramla, 1915

The early aircrafts' biggest military advantage was its ability to provide reconnaissance data of enemy troops' deployment.  In that regard, the plane's advantage was slightly more than the observation balloons used by armies two centuries earlier.  But quickly machine guns and bombs were added to the planes, and air combat and ground support changed the nature of modern warfare.
Turkey utilized aircraft to provide intelligence during its 1916 attack on the Suez Canal and to observe British troops' two attempts to capture Gaza in early 1917.  By the fall of 1917, German and Turkish aircraft had to be stopped from reporting back on British commanders' plan to unleash a flank attack against Be'er Sheva.  The challenge was met by British and Australian planes, and the Turks were caught unprepared.
German and Turkish officers at the
funeral of a German pilot in Nazareth

Turkish anti-aircraft guns, 1917

Memorial plaque in Jenin for
fallen German pilots

German planes near Gaza

German plane captured by Australian
soldiers, 1917. Pilot is behind
the plane's left wing.

Australian aircraft in Palestine, 1918


The Library of Congress and the Australian War Memorial provide many photographs of the combat aircraft, the men who flew them, and the graves of those who fell.

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

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

The People of Damascus Revolt -- in 1895.
Pardon the Diversion, But People Are Dying Again in Syria

Revolt in prison, Damascus, circa 1895.  Crowd of people
outside of prison.
In light of events taking place in Syria today, we depart from our normal presentation and publish an 1895 photo of a prison revolt in Damascus, Syria found in a  Library of Congress collection we usually don't cite: the George Grantheim Bain collection.  

We encourage experts on Syrian history to provide details on the events portrayed here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs Will Be Packed This Weekend.
Photographs from the Cave 100 Years Ago

Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron (circa 1900)
In synagogues around the world this Sabbath, congregations will read the Torah portion describing Sarah's death and burial.  Abraham purchased the Mearat HaMachpela [literally the "double cave" -- so named either because it had two chambers or it would eventually contain pairs of husbands and their wives].

Genesis 23:  And these were the days of Sarah, 127 years. Sarah died in Kiryat-Arba which is Hebron....Abraham spoke to the Sons of Heth: grant me legal possession of land for a burial site... for its price in full ... 400 shekels of silver.... Thus it was established, the field and the cave that was in it, for Abraham as legally possessed for a burial site from the Sons of Heth."

"Inner entrance to
Machpelah showing mammoth
 stones in Herodian wall"
In Israel, thousands of Jews will converge on Hebron and pray in the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs during the Sabbath.

The massive building surrounding the gravesite was built by King Herod two thousand years ago.  The actual graves are located in subterranean caverns beneath.  Their locations are marked above ground by cenotaphs -- empty tombs that serve as monuments.

Cenotaph above the Tomb of Sarah
 (circa 1900)
In the 11th and 12th century Jewish travelers documented visiting the caves.  One of them, Binyamin of Tudela, described "two empty caves, and in the third ... six tombs, on which the names of the three Patriarchs and their wives are inscribed in Hebrew characters. The cave is filled with barrels containing bones of people, which are taken there as to a sacred place."  
Tomb of Abraham

The great Jewish scholar Maimonides visited the tombs in 1116 and declared it a personal holy day.   

From the 14th century, however, Jews were not permitted to pray at the shrine.  The Mamluks (an Islamic army of slave soldiers) forbade Jews from visiting the site other than standing on stairs outside.  The practice continued until 1948 when all Jews were banned from the Jordanian-occupied West Bank. 
"Cenotaph of Isaac
showing  distinctive
features of
Crusader Church"

Hebron today, where school boys recently celebrated
completion of the book of Genesis
When Israel captured the area in 1967 Jews were allowed to visit the Cave of the Patriarchs, but Israel allowed the Islamic Waqf authorities to maintain control of large portions of the site. 

Many Jewish families in Israel celebrate weddings, bar mitzvas and circumcisions at the shrine.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Metulla, Israel's Northern-most Town.
Was It Originally French or British?

Northern-most town
It's easy to be confused by the American Colony collection's pictures of Metulla, Israel's northern-most town.  One caption calls it a British post; another labels it a French post.  Nor are the listed dates of the pictures much help; they were taken sometime between 1920 and 1933.

Actually, both versions may be correct.

Metulla was established as a Jewish settlement in 1896 on land purchased by Baron de Rothschild.  But despite the Turkish control of the area and then the French sovereignty, the lawlessness of the region forced the residents of Metulla to occasionally flee their homes. 

"Metulla. British frontier post."  Note the British
flag on the building.
After World War I, the British and French divided the spoils of the Middle East in 1920, with Britain given the mandate over Palestine and Mesopotamia and France given the mandate for Syria and Lebanon. They drafted a "Convention on certain points connected with the mandates for Syria and the Lebanon, Palestine and Mesopotamia, signed at Paris, December 23, 1920." 

They even wrote "the frontier will be drawn westwards as far as Metullah, which will remain in [British controlled] Palestinian territory."

But the exact boundaries were still not defined and agreed upon until 1923. The residents of Metulla actually voted in French-led elections in Lebanon in the interim.  They looked to the French to protect them from marauding Bedouins and Druse.  Only in the next year were new boundaries finally demarcated, placing the border between British and French controlled regions some 30 meters north of Metulla. Britain established a military outpost in the town.

It is very possible that the American Colony photographers were filming the changing soveignty over Metulla.
"Hasbany Valley and Hermon looking
 down from French Metulla post"

Click on the photos to enlarge.
Click on the captions to see the originals.
Metulla today. Lebanon is beyond the town. (Wikipedia,
public domain)

Today, Metulla is a popular vacation town for Israelis and home to 2,000 residents. The town's Canada Centre is a massive winter sport facility, complete with an olympic-size skating rink where Israel's skating champions practice.

Situated on the Lebanese border and close to the Syrian border, Metulla over the years has been a target for the rockets and artillery bombardments from Hizbullah and Fatah. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Israel Daily Picture Publishes its 100th Photo Essay

Israel Daily Picture (IDP) is publishing its 100th photo essay this week. After discovering the American Colony photo collection in the Library of Congress five months ago, we wondered if there are enough photographs and topics to sustain this blog.

The answer is clear: YES!  There are hundreds of pictures left to be analyzed and puzzles left to be solved. Hundreds of pictures showing Jewish life in the Holy Land 100 years ago need to be publicized.

The Israel Daily Picture has now been reprinted in many newspapers, blogs and social media sites.

At this stage, the IDP is initiating a short-term development project so that we can continue publication, research, translation, and even publication of a book. We seek: 
  • Organizational Sponsors
  • Publications interested in syndicating the IDP
  • Patrons
  • Subscribers (who voluntarily pay, the subscription is still free)
  • Individuals interested in dedicating a daily picture

 Interested parties contact  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What Brought Together These Rabbis and the Founder of Modern Hebrew, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda

Guests at the High Commissioner's reception (1920)
The date: July 7, 1920
The place: The Government House, Jerusalem
The Occasion: The High Commissioner's Reception

Those are the details we know from the photograph's caption.  But what brought together these ultra-Orthodox rabbis, British officers, Arab dignitaries and Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the founder of modern Hebrew, who appears to be standing behind the rabbis? [Both the men -- the one in the light suit and his partner with the hat -- look like the man on the stamp.] And what are all the men holding?

Samuel's arrival by rowboat, Jaffa
Port, June 30, 1920
On June 30, just a week earlier, the first British High Commissioner, Herbert Samuel, arrived in Palestine.  The British army captured all of Palestine in 1917-1918 and imposed military rule. Samuel invited the leaders of Jerusalem's society to hear and receive a proclamation marking the new civilian rule over Palestine.

Samuel read the proclamation and presented a copy to all of his guests.

Samuel reading his
proclamation again two
days later.
 As for the identity of the rabbis, the man on the left has been identified as Rabbi Moshe Leib Bernstein, a wealthy Jerusalem businessman; second from the left is the venerated Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox community; next, Rabbi Yerucham Diskin, the son of a revered rabbi who set up the Diskin Orphanage in 1881 (which still helps needy children); and Rabbi Baruch Reuven Jungreis of the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate. 

Rabbi Sonnenfeld joined other rabbis a year later to meet with Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill at Samuel's Government House.  See the posting and video here describing the meeting.  Also attending the meeting with Churchill was Emir Abdullah who would become King Abdullah of Jordan.  Sonnenfeld, Bernstein and Jungreis met with Abdullah in Jordan in 1924.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Photo Added to "Where Is Tell Pioth?"

A version of this posting first appeared on October 4
Tell Pioth on the Plain of Rephaim is actually
 Talpiot in southern Jerusalem

This pastoral picture from the Library of Congress collection bears the date 1925 and the caption, "Jewish colony of Tell Pioth on the Plain of Rephaim." 

Where's Tell Pioth?

It may take a few seconds for anyone who knows Jerusalem to realize that the picture is of the Talpiot neighborhood  in southern Jerusalem.  The "Plain of Rephaim" is the continuation of "Emek Refaim" Road in Jerusalem's German Colony.
Postcard showing the new Jerusalem suburb "Talpioth"
(with permission of the Jewish Postcard Collection)
Israel Daily Picture discovered another picture of Talpiot dating back to the same period as the Library of Congress picture in Stephanie Comfort's amazing Jewish Postcard Collection.

The land for Talpiot was purchased in 1911 from German Templers of the German Colony of Jerusalem.  Standing on the land and looking northeast toward Jerusalem's Old City and the Tower of David, the Jewish founders saw themselves as guardians of the Holy City, specifically the "talpiyot (turrets)" as expressed in the Bible's Song of Songs, 4:4 "Thy neck is like the tower of David, built with turrets."

Army parade ground. Is this the land
that would become Talpiot?
The Turkish army's parade ground was located on the "Rephaim Plain," according to the Library of Congress photo captions.  With the Old City turrets and the Church of the Dormition in the background of this picture of the Turkish and German commanders reviewing their troops, it appears that this is the area where Talpiot was built.

By 1924 the first 40 homes were built, but the community suffered from deadly Arab attacks in 1929 and again in 1936.

Among the early settlers in Talpiot was the writer S.Y. Agnon who wrote about the neighborhood in his book, The Fire and the Trees.  "I stood among the small trees that surround gardens... and on the path that I love the small houses and the refreshing gardens..." 

Trees, gardens and small houses such as those in the first picture.