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
officials
 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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Friday, April 27, 2012

More on the 1876 Photo Fraud.
Part of an Anthropology Gallery?

The caption reads "Ashkenazi
(German Jews)." Were they
really actors? (1876)
The original picture of "Polish Jews" (Courtesy
of the Palestine Exploration Fund)
The 19th century photographers in the Middle East loved to take portraits of the local population in their native surroundings and native costumes. 

Hundreds of photos in the Library of Congress collection show Jewish men and women (and here), Arab men and women,  the Maronite patriarch, Bedouins, Samaritans, Armenian monksDruse, etc. in their native and ritual clothing.

A group portrait of "real" Jews (1900)
 Many "candid" photographs of the ultra-Orthodox Jews show them attempting to hide their faces, in some cases because it was the Sabbath.  Perhaps that is why this 1876 photo by the Palestine Exploration Fund employed actors dresses as ultra-Orthodox Jews. [At least one looks authentic, no?]

We thank our reader "Yoni" for submitting the following comment, adding to his startling revelation that the photo of the "Ashkenazi Jews" was fake.


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 Warren's "Underground Jerusalem."


Armenian priests or are they actors?
Are they the same people in the
"Ashkenazi picture?" (Courtesy of
the Palestinian Exploration Fund

Twain stayed at the same
hotel in Jerusalem in 1867
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. Therefore, 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.

As Yoni pointed out, Mark Twain and his colleagues stayed at the same Mediterranean Hotel in the Old City of Jerusalem as the Palestine Exploration Fund's explorers. 

A question for Yoni: Were the actors' pictures taken in 1876, as per the Library of Congress caption, or in 1867 when Warren undertook his expedition to Jerusalem?  Both Twain and Warren may have been at the same Mediterranean Hotel at the same time.  Click here to see possible pictures of Twain's colleagues in Jerusalem.

An Yoni's response:  The Original photo was taken in 1867 by Sargent Howard Philips and the Library of Congress date mentioned is in reference to the publication of Warren's "Underground Jerusalem in 1876. as in the bibliography:

Illus. in: Underground Jerusalem: an account / Charles Warren. London : Richard Bentley and Son, publishers in Ordinary to her Majesty the Queen, 1876, oppos. p. 359.

It does seem that the photographer did not have people of faith to represent the diversity of Jewish, and Christian Orthodox in the city and therefore used actors /extras, and dressed them in the different costumes. I would not call this a "Fraud" but rather creative posing to tell the story.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The "Topless" Synagogue in Jerusalem,
Ancient Photo Shows an Unfinished Synagogue

The Temple Mount and mosques. And something else
(circa 1860 - 1890)
This vintage photograph from the Library of Congress collection focuses on the Dome of the Rock mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. 

The caption reads "General view of the Haram or [Mount] Moriah. El Aksa - Omar - Church of St. Anne."

But there's something else in the photo.

The photo doesn't bear the name of the photographer, nor is it certain when the photo was taken.  The Library of Congress dates the picture in a 30 year period "between 1860 and 1890."

Enlargement of the unfinished synagogue
 -- and another dome to the right
In the background of the picture, on the horizon to the right of the spire, is a large building.  It is the uncompleted Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue in the Old City's Jewish Quarter.  Construction of the synagogue began in 1857, but because of lack of funds, a domed roof could not be completed. 

Two domes -- The Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue (left) and
the Hurva Synagogue (1900)


In 1870, the Austrian emperor, Franz Josef, visited Jerusalem.  According to legend, upon seeing the synagogue, the emperor asked why it had no roof.  A host from the Jewish community responded, "My lord, the synagogue has taken off its hat in your honor."

Franz Josef contributed funds to help complete the roof, and the building was dedicated in 1872. 

But we can also ascertain that the photo was taken after 1864.  To the right of the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue, on the horizon and slightly obscured by a cloud, is the dome of the famous Hurva Synagogue, completed in 1864.  

The featured photo was taken, therefore, between 1864 and 1872.  We can also surmise that the photo of Jerusalem at the top of this blog was also taken in this time period for only the Hurva dome appears.

Destroyed Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue
in 1948 (Wikipedia)
Hurva in ruins, 1948.  Jordanian soldier
holding a Torah scroll. (Wikipedia)
Both synagogues were destroyed by the Jordanians during and after the 1948 war. 

The Hurva was rebuilt and rededicated in 2010.

Discussions have been held recently about rebuilding the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue. 

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)

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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Turks Defeated the British in Gaza 95 Years ago, April 17, 1917.
Republishing an earlier posting

In the early 1900s, the British Empire relied on the Suez Canal to maintain communications and trade with India, Australia and New Zealand.  And that was precisely why Germany encouraged Turkey to challenge British rule over Egypt and British control of the Suez Canal.

Turks prepare to attack the Suez
Canal, 1915


In early 1915, the Turkish army in Palestine crossed the Sinai and attacked British troops along the Suez.

The British army beat back the attacks, took the war north into Sinai and pushed the Turkish army back to a defense line stretching from Gaza, located on the Mediterranean, to Be'er Sheva, some 40 miles inland.


Great Mosque of Gaza (circa 1880)





The Mosque after the fighting (1917)


In March and April 1917 the British army attempted to push through Gaza in battles that involved as many as 60,000 soldiers. British and French ships fired on Gaza from the Mediterranean. The British used poison gas and deployed newly developed British tanks.

And the British suffered a disastrous defeat. 

Ruins of Gaza, believed to be after the 1917 battles





British trenches in Gaza. After the
defeat, the British army switched to more
mobile tactics.






British tanks destroyed in the Gaza fighting


The British campaign for Jerusalem would be stalled for six months.  It would be led by a new commander, a large number of reinforcements, and a new strategy that took the war in a new direction, east toward Be'er Sheva.


British Prisoners of War,
captured in Gaza 1917



Click on pictures to enlarge.  Click on the captions to view the originals.







Footnote: History records Jews living in Gaza for thousands of years.  [View the mosaic depicting King David from a 6th century synagogue in Gaza.]


Mosaic of King David
(Israel Museum)

Ottoman tax records showed dozens of Jewish families in Gaza in the Middle Ages.  One of the most famous Gazan Jews was Rabbi Israel Ben Moses Najara (16th Century) who composed prayers and Sabbath zmirot (songs) popular to this day.  He was buried in Gaza.

Jewish families fled Gaza in the 1929 pogroms. Population records still showed Jews living in Gaza until 1945.

Kfar Darom, named for a community mentioned in the Talmud, was a Jewish kibbutz established in the Gaza Strip in 1930 that was abandoned in the 1948 war.  Kfar Darom was reestablished in 1970 but evacuated by Israel in the 2005 "disengagement."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Readers Send a Picture from Rabbi Kook's Meeting at the White House

The caption reads "Central Relief Committee at the White House"
"Yitz" and "Menachem" sent the following comment and photograph:

I actually have an original of photo of Rabbi Kook and his committee including my Great-Grandfather who served as a translator outside the White House after meeting the President. I had never seen this image until recently when I found it among his son's possessions when I cleaned out his apartment.

Thank you Yitz and Menachem.  I'm not sure I can identify Rabbi Kook in the photo under any of the top hats.  If you have more photos please send them!  Please let us know who in the picture is your great-grandfather.

Was your grandfather Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum who played an important role in the meeting, according to this account?

At the meeting, Rav Kook thanked the President for his government’s support of the Balfour Declaration, and told him that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land will benefit not only the Jews themselves, but all mankind throughout the world. He quoted the Talmudic sages as saying that no solemn peace can be expected unless the Jews return to the Holy Land, and therefore their return is a blessing for all the nations of the earth. Rav Kook also expressed the gratitude of Jews throughout the world towards the American government for aiding in relief work during the war. He said that America has always shown an example of liberty and freedom to all, as written on the Liberty Bell, and that he hoped that the country will continue to uphold these principles and render its assistance whenever possible.

The speech, written in Hebrew, was delivered in English by Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, executive secretary of the CRC. Rav Kook answered “Amen”, and explained that since he wasn’t fluent in English, he had Rabbi Teitelbaum read his message. By answering “Amen”, he indicated that he consented to every word that had been read. The President responded that the American government will be glad to assist Jews whenever possible. Before leaving Washington, Rabbis Kook and Teitelbaum held a meeting of local rabbis and community leaders to raise money for the Torah Fund.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The New York Times' Report on Rabbi Kook's 1924 Visit to the United States and Canada

Rabbi Kook, Chief Rabbi of Palestine
 (Central Zionist Archives,
Harvard Library)
Part 2

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief of Rabbi of Palestine, began his journey to America in March 1924.  Joined by two prominent rabbis from Lithuania, the delegation was met in New York with great respect and ceremony. 

See previous posting on Rabbi Kook's meeting with President Coolidge in the White House.

The New York Times'
coverage
Rabbi Kook's boat was met in the New York Harbor by hundreds of Jewish leaders. The rabbis were escorted to a meeting with New York's Mayor John F. Hylan by a "squadron" of police motorcycles and a 50-car procession. 

The Mayor welcomed "the distinguished Jews from the old world.... We are privileged," he continued, "to greet teachers and spiritual leaders whose intellectual achievements are in themselves worthy of special recognition."
The Canadian Jewish Chronicle reported on May 2, 1924 on the rabbis' pending visit to Montreal:

"Rabbi Kook and his companions have undertaken the long and fatiguing journey to the United States and Canada to deliver in person a message to their co-religionists [that] unless the Jewish schools and seminaries in Eastern Europe and Palestine continue to receive ... the support of the American Jews, hundreds of ...educational institutions will have to be closed in 1,300 Jewish communities in the war-stricken lands of Europe.  A half a million children... will grow up without religious and secular education..."

British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel and Rabbi Kook
visiting a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem (1925). In the
white suit is the mysterious Mendel Kremer, the subject of a
future posting.  (Central Zionist Archives, Harvard)
"Rabbi Kook of Palestine... is a man of rare mental attainments.  He is a renowned theologian, poet, philosopher and humanitarian.  At the age of 18 he had already several books on ethical and philosophical topis to his credit for which he received a doctorate degree from the Berne University.  From his youth Rabbi Kook was enamored with the Holy Land.  At the outbreak of the world war Rabbi Kook happened to be in Switzerland.  Owing to his pro-ally sentiments, the Germans refused him permission to return to Palestine... When General Allenby liberated Palestine, Rabbi Kook returned to Palestine and was immediately elected Chief Rabbi of the Holy Land and officially installed in this high office by the High Commission, Sir Herbert Samuel..."

H/T Challah Hu Akbar

Newly found pictures show Deir Yassin's commanding position on the road to Jerusalem

Republishing one of our first postings, on the anniversary of the battle of Deir Yassin

View from the trenches looking west toward
the Kastel stronghold and Tel Aviv beyond, 1917. The
caption on a similar photo reads "Kastel and Jaffa Road
 from Deir Yesin Redoubt."
The Arab village of Deir Yassin is the subject of one of the biggest controversies of Israel's 1948-49 War of Independence.  The village, situated on the road immediately outside of Jerusalem, was part of the Arab vise putting Jerusalem under siege.




American Colony collection caption (1931): "Deir Yasin  Turkish war trenches. West of Jerusalem,
commanding the Jaffa road." See jagged defense lines on the mountain tops

Israel's detractors portray the village as a pastoral, innocent victim of Jewish atrocities and ethnic cleansing in April 1948. Jewish fighters (Israel had not yet been founded) claim that Arab combatants were in the village.  New research and Arab interviews confirm today that the civilian casualties of Deir Yassin were far fewer than claimed by Arab spokesmen.

Another view of the trenches of Deir Yassin. 
Labeled "1917?" but probably also taken in 1931
The aerial pictures from the Library of Congress collection were taken in 1931, and possibly earlier, and show the village's strategic location.  They show Deir Yassin  commanding the road between Jerusalem and Jaffa - Tel Aviv as well as the Turkish-built trenches and fortified defense lines.


Click the pictures to enlarge, click on the caption to see the originals. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, One of the Most Influential Rabbis of the 20th Century. Did He Visit the White House 88 Years Ago?

The caption reads "Rabbi Dr. Abraham I. Kook, 4/15/24"
Where was this picture taken?
Part One

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) was a renowned Talmud scholar, Kabbalist and philosopher.  He is considered today as the spiritual father of religious Zionism, breaking away from his ultra-Orthodox colleagues who were opposed to the largely secular Zionist movement.

Born in what is today Latvia, Rabbi Kook moved to Palestine in 1904 to take the post of the Chief Rabbi of Jaffa.  He appears in many of the historic pictures taken by the American Colony photographers, usually as a bystander, without being identified.  One photograph, from the Library of Congress' larger collection, identifies the rabbi, but the surroundings do not appear to be in the Land of Israel and actually look incredibly like a street scene in the United States.

Evidence suggests that the picture was taken in Washington DC before or after Rabbi Kook met with President Calvin Coolidge in the White House. 

Coolidge and Johnson, April 15, 1924
It's a historic fact that Coolidge was in Washington on April 15, 1924, the same day Rabbi Kook's photo was taken.  Coolidge threw out the first ball at a Washington Senators baseball game where Walter Johnson shutout the Athletics. Coolidge also spoke at the dedication of the "Arizona Stone" in the Washington Monument.
The picture of the rabbi appears in a larger set of unaccredited pictures taken that week of well-known Washington politicians including Coolidge, the White House press corps, Senate leaders William Borah and Burton Wheeler, the Federal Oil Reserve Board, and more.

But why did Coolidge meet Rabbi Kook, and what was the rabbi doing in Washington?

Rabbi M. M. Epstein,
apparently on a ship
According to an article by Joshua Hoffman in Orot in 1991, Rabbi Kook, then Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi in Palestine, headed a delegation of rabbis to the United States in March 1924 to raise funds for yeshivot in Europe and Eretz Yisrael. He was joined by Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Epstein (pictured left), the head of the Slabodka yeshiva in Lithuania, and Rabbi Avraham Dov Baer Kahana Shapiro, the Rabbi of Kovno and president of the Rabbinical Association of Lithuania. The three rabbis were brought to America by the Central Committee for the Relief of Jews Suffering through the War, better known as the Central Relief Committee (CRC). 

According to Hoffman, "The rabbis had originally planned to stay in America for about three months. However, because their fund-raising efforts were not as successful as had been hoped, they remained for eight months. In the end, they raised a little over $300,000, far short of the one million dollar goal which the CRC had set."

Hoffman described the April 15 conversation between the president and the rabbi:  "Rav Kook thanked the President for his government's support of the Balfour Declaration, and told him that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land will benefit not only the Jews themselves, but all mankind throughout the world.... The President responded that the American government will be glad to assist Jews whenever possible."

Rabbi Kook leaving a meeting with Winston
Churchill and Emir Abdullah (1921)
Part Two:  Rabbi Kook with Winston Churchill, the High Commissioner, Lord Balfour, and a Jewish Spy

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Click on the captions to see the originals.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1 -- The Anniversary of Hebrew University's Opening in 1925.
Republishing an Earlier Posting

Laying the Hebrew University foundation stone, 1918
The establishment of the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus was clearly a momentous event in the minds of Zionist leaders who had dreamt of such a Jewish university since the 1880s.  It was also important to the American Colony Photo Department whose collection is housed today at the Library of Congress. Their photographers shot pictures of many of the university's events.

 [Many of the photographs and negatives of the American Colony collection were deteriorating when the Library digitalized them, and the images were preserved.  Some of the photographs presented here show the deterioration and decay.] 

The first photograph commemorates the laying of the foundation stone of the Hebrew University on July 24, 1918, just eight months after British forces captured Jerusalem in a major and bloody campaign.
Churchill and rabbis
On March 28, 1921, Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill visited Jerusalem and planted a tree at the Mt Scopus location of the future university.  Standing behind him are the Sephardi Chief Rabbi Jacob Meir and the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook.  Click here to see a previous posting on Churchill's visit to Jerusalem.   


Balfour addressing the crowd with
 the Judean Desert behind him
 On April 1, 1925 a ceremony was held on Mt. Scopus to announce the official opening of the university. Lord Balfour and Chaim Weizmann, a Zionist leader who would later become Israel's first president, were among the leaders to speak at the gathering.  Lord Balfour, who, serving as British Foreign Secretary, drafted the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917.  The document declared, "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

In the picture (right) Balfour is speaking, Weizmann is behind him on the right and the chief rabbis are behind him on the left.. Another historic picture of the event can be found here.  The speaker is British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel.

University Opening, from left to right: Lord Balfour
 at the podium, next to him British High Commissioner
Herbert Samuel, University Chancellor Judah Magnes,
and Chaim Weizman
Foreign delegates to the university
opening, including Balfour and Samuel












Preparing the Hebew University
amphitheater for the opening, 1925