Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Special Gallery for Yom Ha'atzmaut,
Israel Celebrates 64 Years since Independence
(But Jews Have Always Lived in the Holy Land)

Jews of Jerusalem circa 1890
The State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, the fifth day of the Jewish month Iyar.  

But Eretz Yisrael has been the homeland for the Jewish people since the days of Abraham.  Even after the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE, Jews continued living in the land, as evidenced by the writing of the Jerusalem Talmud over the next 400 years.
A Yemenite Jew looking over his village of Silwan outside
of Jerusalem's Old City walls (1901)
Zionism, the modern Jewish nationalist movement is some 130 years old, but the longing for the Land of Israel is as ancient as the Jewish prayers to return to Zion, as old as the 13th century Spanish rabbi, Nachmanides, who moved to Jerusalem, as devout as the students of the Vilna Gaon who left Europe in the early 19th century, and as passionate as the Yemenite Jews who walked to the Holy Land in the 1880s. 

These "Zionists" comprised the "Old Yishuv," the pious Jews and their descendants who lived in the holy cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias.  Many lived in the ancient city of Jaffa along the coast, but they were expelled by the Turks in 1917. 
Ashkenazi Jews (1876)
An "Arab Jew from Yemen"
(1900). View another portrait

Orthodox boy in Jerusalem (1934)


Degania, the first kibbutz, on
the shore of the Sea of Galilee
 (circa 1920)

And the New Yishuv

In the late 19th century, Jewish nationalists began their aliya to the Land of Israel.  The Zionists established national governing institutions and built cities, farming communities, universities, ports and industries. 

The photographers of the American Colony focused on many of these enterprises.  Their collection is housed in the Library of Congress, the source of these vintage photos.

An early Jewish settlement
 (circa 1920)

Ein Gev pioneers, including Teddy
 Kollek  (2nd from the right), later
 mayor of Jerusalem (circa 1937)

New Tel Aviv street (circa 1920s)

The building of the new city of Tel Aviv, north of Jaffa, was the jewel on the Zionists' crown. 

Already in the 1880s Yemenite Jews started to move north from Jaffa to build homes. 

In 1909, a Zionist housing enterprise was launched in the sand dunes north of Jaffa with 66 families drawing lots to allocate property for new homes.  After the Turkish expulsion in 1917 and the defeat of the Turks by the British in 1917-1918 Jews moved back to the Tel Aviv area. 
Removing sand dunes at
Tel Aviv (circa 1920)

Jewish mason building
Tel Aviv (circa 1920)
 By 1925, 34,000 Jews were living in Tel Aviv. 

Twenty-three years later, in May 1948 and with Jerusalem under siege, Tel Aviv served as the capital of the newly proclaimed State of Israel.  The members of the "Old Yishuv" in Jerusalem's Old City were evacuated or taken prisoner by the Jordanian Legion.  The members of the "New Yishuv" served on the defense line of the new state, with the rural kibbutzim and moshavim bearing the brunt of Arab attacks.


  1. Nachmanides was a 13th century Spanish rabbi (not 12th century French).

  2. The picture named Ashkenazi Jews (1867) was taken in the Mediterranean Hotel courtyard located on Hagai St. in the Muslim quarter of the Old city.
    The keys holder is seen in back on the right hand side and show the place for 22 keys. The "Ashkenazi Jews" in the photo are actors dressed up as such and in another picture taken in the same location the are dressed as christian characters from Jerusalem.
    The Hotel is described in Charles Warren book "Underground Jerusalem" and housed the P.E.F expedition in 1867 as well as the famous writer Samuel Clements (Mark Twain) on his tour in 1867 well documented in the travel book "The Innocence Abroad".
    The Location of the hotel was found several years ago By Yoni Shapira and in Collaboration with archeologist Dr. Shimon Gibson and Dr. Rupert Chapman the story will be published by the P.E.F. later this year in a book called "Tourists, Travelers and Hotels in Nineteenth-Century Jerusalem"