Sunday, April 29, 2012

Another Mystery Photo: The Caption Reads "Scene at the Village Well, between 1898 and 1946"
Let's Correct the Record

"Village elders at the well" were actually Jewish dignitaries
attending the British High Commissioner's first meeting
after two years of British military rule. (1920)
Can anyone identify the three?
With more than 22,000 American Colony photographs in the Library of Congress, the fact that most of them are catalogued, digitalized, captioned and dated is a major tribute to the curators.  The photos were taken between 1880 and 1946, but the American Colony photographers also collected older pictures, such as the one at the top of this page from the1860s.

But sometimes, the curators just don't know, as was the case with this picture.  In one copy of the photo the caption reads "Village Elders at the Well."
Samuel's arrival in Jaffa in June 1920

Well, we know exactly when and where the photograph was taken: July 7, 1920 in the garden of the Government House where the new British High Commissioner, Herbert Samuel, introduced himself and read a proclamation announcing the end of military rule in Palestine.  Earlier postings of Israel Daily Picture presented pictures of Samuel's landing in Jaffa two weeks earlier and the reception at Government House.

Other Jewish dignitaries at the High
Commissioner's proclamation: Eliezer Ben-
Yehuda stands behind (from left) Rabbi
Moshe Leib Bernstein,  Rabbi Yosef
Chaim Sonnenfeld, the chief rabbi of
Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox community,
 Rabbi Yerucham Diskin, and Rabbi
Baruch Reuven Jungreis
Samuel and the Sheikh of Be'er Sheva
in the doorway.  In the foreground we
can see the "elder" rabbi's turban
The July 7 reception brought together dignitaries from the Jewish, Moslem and Christian communities, and it is evident that the three "village elders" in the mystery photo were part of the audience.  The man on the right with the bowler hat is holding a copy of the proclamation distributed to the audience.  The "elder" on the left appears in the foreground of a picture of Samuel greeting the Sheikh of Be'er Sheva.

Samuel delivering his proclamation at
Government House

Samuel's reception with Jews, Arab and
Christian leaders mingling with British
 Samuel's proclamation laid out Great Britain's plan for local government for Arab and Jews as well as economic development for Palestine.  Samuel presented details of the plans in his first year report to his government in 1921, a report that provides important historical context to the Arab-Jewish conflict over the last 90 years.  Samuel reported:

It is obvious to every passing traveler, and well-known to every European resident, that the country was before the War, and is now, undeveloped and under-populated. The methods of agriculture are, for the most part, primitive; the area of land now cultivated could yield a far greater product. There are in addition large cultivable areas that are left untilled. The summits and slopes of the hills are admirably suited to the growth of trees, but there are no forests. Miles of sand dunes that could be redeemed, are untouched, a danger, by their encroachment, to the neighbouring tillage. The Jordan and the Yarmuk offer an abundance of water-power; but it is unused....
 [Prior to 1880, Jews] came to pray and to die in the Holy Land, and to be buried in its soil. After the persecutions in Russia forty years ago [1880], the movement of the Jews to Palestine assumed larger proportions. Jewish agricultural colonies were founded. They developed the culture of oranges and gave importance to the Jaffa orange trade. They cultivated the vine, and manufactured and exported wine. They drained swamps. They planted eucalyptus trees. They practised, with modern methods, all the processes of agriculture. There are at the present time 64 of these settlements, large and small, with a population of some 15,000. Every traveller in Palestine who visits them is impressed by the contrast between these pleasant villages, with the beautiful stretches of prosperous cultivation about them and the primitive conditions of life and work by which they are surrounded.]
Click on the photos to enlarge.

Click on the captions to see the originals.

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1 comment:

  1. The "village elder" on the left is Rabbi Benzion Uziel.