Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Another Mystery Picture from the Library of Congress Collection.
Miscaptioned Photo Begs the Questions -- Who, What, Where, When?

Captioned "Turkish procession," dated between 1898 and 1918. Click on the
picture or the link to enlarge the picture
 The Library of Congress caption says this is a picture of a "Turkish procession," taken sometime between 1898 and 1918.

But that's not the case. This is a procession of Jews of Eretz Yisrael. We'd like your help figuring out where it was taken, why people were marching, and when.
Enigmatic picture of children marching

We were challenged with a similar "procession" of adults and children several months ago with this picture (right).  The caption readGroup of children and adults in procession in street, some holding a banner with a Star of David.”

In our photo essay then we suggested that the children were returning from the ancient grave of Simon the Tzaddik in Jerusalem, walking south on Nablus Road toward the Old City.  It was early afternoon, and the day was Lag B'Omer, April 30, 1918, suggested by the presence of British army tents on the horizon. [We actually visited and photographed the site where the children marched.]

Turning to the new picture, why do we reject the caption of a "Turkish procession?"  Because of the many identifiable Jews throughout the crowd.

Enlargement of Sephardi man,
apprently wearing a prayer shawl,
and bearded Jews in the background.
More Jewish men with beards and hats
What else do we know from the picture?

There is a sign post in the middle of the picture, but it cannot be read even after enlargement.  Behind the sign post, on the other side of the road, is another sign.  Two men are apparently writing on it and have drawn the attention of marchers around them.

Signpost and men writing
on a sign
British soldier
The day is neither Sabbath nor a Jewish holiday when observant Jews are forbidden to ride on the horses or in carriages which appear in the photo.  Not is it likely to be Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days of Sukkot or Passover) since Chassidic Jews would be wearing their shtreimels (round fur hats). 

Not only is the picture not of a "Turkish procession," it is likely that the picture is taken after the Turkish defeat in Palestine in1917-1918.  In the middle of the picture appears to be a British soldier in uniform and flat-top army hat.

Can it be that this is another picture of Jews marching on Lag B'Omer, the same day in 1918 as the children's "enigmatic" picture above, a Spring day between Passover and Shavuot when Jews traditionally take hikes into the countryside and visit the graves of sages?  Is it this semi-holiday when traditional Jews can ride and walk beyond the city limits?  But where are the marchers going to or coming back from?  Their shadows suggest that they're not walking at the same time of day and direction as the children's procession.

Readers are encouraged to add their opinions and attempt to decipher the words on the signpost.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Gates of Jerusalem -- The New Gate
Part 7 of a Series on the Gates of Jerusalem's Old City

The New Gate (circa 1900), still unpaved
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 gates serve as points of entry into the Old City, but the New Gate is just that -- relatively new.   Unlike the other ancient gates, the New Gate was opened in 1889 by the Ottomans, giving direct access to the Christian Quarter of the Old City.

Benefiting the most were the Christian residents of the nearby Russian Compound and the French Notre Dame hospice across the street.  The New Gate is located between the Jaffa Gate and the Damascus Gate.
"Arab demonstration at the New Gate. Police
cordon stopping the procession, Oct. 13, 1933"
View the Jaffa Gate clash here
In 1933 Arab riots broke out in Jerusalem and clashes with British police erupted at the New Gate and the Jaffa Gate of the Old City.

The riot at Jaffa Gate.  "Demonstrators
 facing police baton charge"


What triggered the 1933 riots? 

According to the British Mandate Annual Report for 1933,
Arab discontent on account of Jewish immigration and the sale of lands to Jews, which has been a permanent feature of political opinion in Palestine for the past ten years, began to show signs of renewed activity from the beginning of 1933, developing in intensity until it reached a climax in the riots of October and November. [Editor's note: 15 years before Israel's creation.] ... This [immigration] increase found its origin mainly in the favourable economic conditions of the country, due to a large extent to influx of Jewish capital and to consequent creation of new openings for employment.

The British report also provided the casualty count as a result of the terrorists:

[T]he collision of Arab demonstrators with the Police resulted in five constables and eleven civilians being slightly injured. The total casualties in the subsequent rioting in Jaffa, Jerusalem, Haifa and Nablus were one constable and twenty-four civilians killed or died of wounds, twenty-eight constables and two hundred and four civilians wounded.
Iron gates restricted passage
through the New Gate in 1937

In 1938 the British sealed the
New Gate
During the Arab Revolt (1936-1939) British authorities were quick to close the New Gate to prevent free movement of rioters and marauding gangs.

In 1948, Jewish fighters failed to break through the gates of the Old City to relieve the fighters in the Jewish Quarter and to conquer the Old City.

The Israeli Defense Forces captured the Old City in June 1967 and opened the New Gate for traffic and pedestrians.


The New Gate today. (photo
by Daniel Baranek, published
with permission)
See previous photo essays on the Zion Gate, Damascus Gate, Golden Gate, Dung Gate, Jaffa Gate and Lions Gate.

 The next gate: Herod's Gate.

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

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Tribute to the Besieged Syrians in Homs and Hama
Reprinted from an earlier posting

Ancient noria (water wheel) in Hama on the
Orontes River
The American Colony photographers were based in Jerusalem for the 60 years of their photographic enterprise.  But they traveled throughout the Middle East, and their photographs of Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria are also located in the Library of Congress today.
Hama, note the camel
caravan at the bottom of
the picture
Homs, circa 1900
We present today several photographs taken 100 years ago in Homs, Syria's third largest city, and in Hama, Syria's fourth largest.


Homs, Khalid ibn Al-Walid Mosque

Hama was the site of the infamous Hama massacre in 1982 where an estimated 34,000 Syrians were killed by forces commanded by President Hafez Assad and his brother Rifaat -- the brother and uncle of today's leader of Syria, Bashar Assad.

Today, the cities of Homs and Hama are bearing the brunt of the vicious repression taking place in Syria.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Mount of Olives' 3,000 Year Old Cemetery,
Desecrated between 1948 and 1967, Is Still in Danger


Funeral procession to Mt of Olives (circa 1900).  See another
view of the procession here
An estimated 150,000 Jews have been buried on the Mount of Olives over the last 3,000 years, opposite the Golden Gate of the city and the Temple Mount. 

The ancient cemetery was favored by the devout as their burial site because of its proximity to the holy site in anticipation of the eschatological resurrection of the dead.

Mt of Olives funeral with view of the Old City wall  (circa 1900)

The American Colony collection contains many pictures of the Kidron Valley between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives, particularly around the picturesque shrine called "Absalom's Pillar."  And the photographers captured pictures of mourners from various vantage points. 

Note the large number of intact ancient tombs.
"Jewish tombs on the Kidron slopes"
note the tip of Absalom's tomb in the
center (circa 1900) and this picture
from the 1940s










"Valleys of Jehoshaphat and Hinnom. Jewish
cemetery on slopes of Mt of Olives" (circa
1900) and another view



Until 1917, Palestine was ruled by the Ottoman Turks; from 1917 until 1948 it was under British control.  The Turks often discriminated against the Jews (one governor ordered the burial of dogs in a Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem-- "with the other dogs") and expelled thousands of Jews from Jaffa.  The "Tyrant" Hassan Bek used Jewish gravestones to build a mosque between Jaffa and the new Tel Aviv, shown in photos from 1917.

When Jordanian troops captured eastern Jerusalem in 1948, they followed Hassan Bek's example and used the Jewish gravestones for their construction needs.
Desecration of the Jewish cemetery on Mt of Olives photographed
in 1967 (Israel National Photo Collection, Ilan Bruner)

Staircase in Jordanian army
camp in east Jerusalem built
from gravestones (Israel
National Photos, Moshe
Milner, 1967)

After the recapture of eastern Jerusalem in 1967, Jews were shocked at the widespread descration of the ancient cemetery. Some 38,000 stones and graves were smashed. 

Since then great efforts were made to restore the graves and tombstones. 

Graves on the Mt of Olives recently vandalized
Today, Jews are once again burying their dead in the Mount of Olives cemetery, but they are shocked to find gravestones being vandalized and destroyed once again by Arabs who live nearby.  Visitors to the cemetery have also found themselves under a hail of stones. 

Here is a video clip of the desecration actually taking place.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Preview: The Sabbath Walk in Jerusalem's Old City --
80 Years Ago

"Orthodox Jews on their usual walk to the Wailing Wall"
(circa 1935) 



Here are two photographs of the forthcoming feature on worshippers on their way to the Western Wall on a Sabbath 80 years ago.





Orthodox Jews on the way to the Western Wall who object
to their photos being taken on the Sabbath (circa 1935)

In 1948, the Jordanian Legion captured the Old City, imprisoned or expelled all of the Jews, and destroyed the Jewish Quarter.  Jews were not permitted to visit the Western Wall until 1967 when the Israel Defense Forces reunited the city.




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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jerusalemites Prepare for Snow and Some Dream of Warm Tel Aviv Beaches.
View Those Beaches 80 Years Ago

Leveling the dunes of Tel Aviv (circa 1920)
Jews moved north from Jaffa 100 years ago, leveled the sand dunes, and established the city of Tel Aviv. 

Few suspected that they were also laying the foundation for a Jewish version of the Riviera, but within two decades, the beaches were a very popular destination, as the American Colony photographers recorded.
Aerial view of Tel Aviv casino and beach (1932)
Tel Aviv beach (circa 1935)







Close-up of Tel Aviv bathers (circa 1935)



Tel Aviv beach (1935)












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

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chaim Nachman Bialik, Israel's National Poet
His Funeral Photographed by the American Colony Photographers

Tens of thousands attended Bialik's funeral in Tel Aviv,
outside of the synagogue, July 16, 1934
 The poems of Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873-1934) are still memorized in Israel.  His poem In the City of Slaughter about the 1903 Kishinev pogrom was as much an indictment of Jewish passivity as it was a condemnation of the perpetrators of the massacre.  The poem stirred Jewish and Zionist activists to establish self-defense groups such as the Haganah. 

Bialik's funeral. Note the synagogue
where the procession began
in the far distance

Streets and schools are named for Bialik throughout Israel.  His reputation as one of the great modern Hebrew writers and scholars is unchallenged and earned him the title of "Israel's national poet."  He was truly a wordsmith, taking ancient Hebrew words and devising new constructs to produce new Hebrew words for modern objects such as jetplane, import, export, camera, etc.  

 Eliezer Ben-Yehuda is called the "father of modern Hebrew."  Bialik was at least its uncle, a man who lovingly played with the language and produced poems, books, word games and even children's rhymes.


But today many are surprised to learn that most of Bialik's life was spent in Europe.  He was born in the Ukraine, attended the famous Volozhin yeshiva in Lithuania, and worked and taught in Warsaw, Berlin and Odessa before moving to Israel in 1924.  Bialik's Hebrew scholarship and writing were already appreciated throughout Jewish Palestine, and in 1927 he was chosen as the head of the Hebrew Writers Union.

Bialik died in Austria in 1934 during a medical procedure.  His funeral took place in Tel Aviv, and among the masses of mourners were the Christian photographers of the American Colony.

Friday, February 3, 2012

These Kibbutzim of the Jezreel Valley Were Dedicated 90 Years Ago

The children of Geva (circa 1930)
Kibbutz Geva and Kibbutz Ein Harod were established in the early 1920s in the Gilboa region of the Jezreel Valley on land purchased by the Jewish National Fund.
Ein Harod's communal dining room









Ein Harod cattle



Ein Harod housing
Geva coops

Plowing in the Jezreel Valley
Founded by Polish and Russian Jews from the Second and Third Aliya movements in the early 20th century, the kibbutzim are thriving communities today.  (Ein Harod split into two separate kibbutzim in 1952.)

Ein Harod children (circa 1930)
During the Arab Revolt (1936-1939), Ein Harod served as the base for the British officer Orde Wingate and his commando forces, the "Special Night Squads."

Israel's president Shimon Peres was a resident of Geva for several years as a young man.

Geva's singing troupe, the Gevatron, was founded in 1948 and remains one of Israel's favorite folk music groups.