Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Was the Ancient Picture of "Ashkenazi Jews" a 136 Year Old Fraud?

Were these "Ashkenazi Jews" really actors?
 We want to thank a reader named "Yoni" who commented on our special Gallery of the Old Yishuv.  The following is his amazing revelation:

The picture named "Ashkenazi Jews" (1876) 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 they 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 "Innocents 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."

Thank you, Yoni.  Indeed, some of the photograph's subjects don't quite look "kosher." 

We present below two photographs from the Library of Congress collection with references to the Mediterranean Hotel, taken in the same time period as the "Ashkenazi Jews."  

We hope they help you in your research. 
Interior of Jaffa Gate from near Hotel Mediterranean
(Felix Bonfils, photographer, between 1870 and 1880)
Note the narrow Jaffa Gate some 20 years before the Turks
reconstructed the entrance 

"Pool of Hezekiah, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and Hospice
of the Knights of St. John, from the Mediterranean Hotel"
(P. Bergheim, photographer, between 1860 and 1880)


  1. It begs the question as to the real story of the motley crew posing in the picture. Presumably they were hired for some purpose by someone.

  2. The Photo "Ashkeanzi Jews" was taken by Sergeant Henry Phillips, R.E, the photographer of the Palestine Exploration Fund’s expedition led by explorer Lieutenant Charles Warren R.E..
    There are other versions of this picture with the "actors" dressed differently and in different locations, such as the photo published in Warrens "Underground Jerusalem.
    As for the hotels; The Mediterranean hotel had three different locations (see Gibson and Chapman 1995). Between 1849-1866 it was located at the south eastern side of the Hezekiah pool, Between 1866-1870 it moved to El-Wad street (currently known as Sharon House Or Beit Witenberg) and in 1870- 1885 it moved towards the Jaffa Gate and occupied the same building as the Petra hotel today.
    Therefor the Ashkenazi Jews Photo was taken in the second location in 1867, when The Warren expedition was based there.
    The full story will be available with the publication of the Book.

  3. I beg to differ with the assumption these are not Jews. I was startled when I first saw the photo. Three of the men are dead ringers for my father, cousin and myself. And I am sure of my Polish Ashkenazi background.