Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why the Photographer Loved Yemenite Jews 120 Years Ago

"Arab Jew from Yemen" (circa 1900)
Skim through the pages of Israel Daily Picture and you will see dozens of pictures of Yemenite Jews, some dating back more than 100 years.  The photographers of the American Colony clearly enjoyed taking their portraits.

We recently discovered why.
Yemenite family (circa 1914)

The American Colony was a group of utopian American Christians who moved to the Holy Land in 1881.  The leader of the group, Horatio Spafford, believed that "the return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem was a sign of the imminent second coming of Jesus," according to the Library of Congress curator of a recent exhibit.

The "Gadite" (Yemenite) prayer in Spafford's Bible, 130 years ago

Prayer of Jewish Rabbi offered every Sabbath in Gadite
synagogue, June 27?: He who blessed our fathers Abraham,
Isaac & Jacob, bless & guard & keep Horatio Spafford & his
household & all that are joined with him, because he has
shown us mercy to us & our children & little ones.
Therefore may the Lord make his days long...(?) and may the
Lord's mercy shelter them. In his and in our days may Judah
be helped (?) and Israel rest peacefully and may the
Redeemer come to Zion, Amen.
 "In May 1882," the Library of Congress exhibit reported, "the Spaffords met a group of impoverished Yemenite Jews recently arrived in Jerusalem. The Yemenites had come from their homes in southern Arabia because they believed that the time was right after thousands of years to return to the land that had been Israel. Impressed by their sincerity and claim to be descendants of Gad, a founder of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, the Spaffords housed and fed them until they could establish themselves in Jerusalem. In appreciation the Gadites bestowed a blessing on the Spaffords, which was recorded in [the family] Bible."
A Yemenite Jew standing above the
village of Silwan. The Yemenites lived
in caves there upon their arrival in 1882.
(circa 1901)

Yemenite Jew at Yemin Moshe project in Jerusalem (1899)

Yemenite Family (1911)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Shavuot, One of the Jewish Pilgrimage Festivals.
View Christian Pilgrimages 100 Years Ago

Russian pilgrims on the way to Jericho. See more pictures
of Russian pilgrims - Women's hostel in Jerusalem (1899)
Russian Pilgrims at the Jordan River and here, here
Also the foreigners, that join themselves to the Lord, to minister unto Him, and to love Him... I will bring them to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer... for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.  (Isaiah 56: 6-7)

During the times of the Jewish Temple, Jews made pilgrimages to Jerusalem three times a year -- on Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot. 

Christians' pilgrimage to the Holy Land is also a long tradition as evident in these photographs from the Library of Congress collection.
Russian pilgrims overlooking
the Kidron Valley. Note the
Jerusalem Old City walls on the
top right (circa 1900)

Abyssinian (Ethiopian) Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem

French pilgrims praying at the first Station of the Cross
located in Turkish barracks in Jerusalem (1913)

Egyptian Coptic Christians bathing in Jordan River (1900)

Click on pictures to enlarge
Click on captions to see the original photo

The Library of Congress collection includes pictures of
Muslim pilgrims in Palestine going to Mecca (1900)

Today's posting is dedicated to the memory of
Aydel Batya bat Moshe Yitzhak

"Jacobite pilgrims from Chaldea" (circa 1900)
Chaldea was an area in Babylon, now southern
Iraq.  The Jacobites are part of the Syriac
Orthodox Church and many spoke Aramaic.
Note the howling baby in the backpack

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Jerusalem Day, Celebrating the Reunification of Jerusalem 45 Years Ago
What happened during 19 years of Jordanian occupation?

Larsson's famous 1917 picture
 of the surrender of Jerusalem
to two British sergeants
Lewis Larsson was one of the founders of the American Colony's photographic department in Jerusalem in the early 20th century.  His historic photo of the surrender of Jerusalem to the British in 1917 is perhaps his most famous picture.

The American Colony closed some 30 years later. The photos were taken to California and eventually were donated to the Library of Congress. 
Imagine the surprise, therefore, when we discovered in the Library of Congress files color photos taken by Larsson in Jerusalem in the 1950s.

Larsson's photo of eastern Jerusalem during Jordan's occupation.
Taken from Mt. Olives. Note the Old City wall. (circa 1950)

Enlargement showing the Rothschild Building in black frame.
Almost all other buildings below it are rubble
The Old City of Jerusalem was captured by the Jordan Legion in 1948.  All Jewish inhabitants were expelled or taken as prisoners.  Great Jewish institutions in the Jewish Quarter, such as the Hurva Synagogue, the Porat Yosef Yeshiva, and the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue were destroyed.  For the 19 years of Jordanian occupation, Jews were forbidden from visiting the Western Wall.

Larsson's photo shows the Jewish Quarter in rubble except for the Rothschild Building from the Beit HaMachseh compound. 

As a reference point, note the truck entering the Dung Gate. 
Jewish funeral at Rothschild Building

Hurva synagogue in ruins, 1948.  Jordanian soldier
holding a Torah scroll. (Wikipedia)

The IDF entering the Old City
through the Lions Gate, 1967
In June 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Jordanian army opened artillery and small-arms fire on the Jewish side of Jerusalem.  The Israeli army, engaged in a widescale war with Egypt on the Sinai front, rushed troops to Jerusalem.  Led by paratroopers, the Israeli soldiers captured the Old City and reunited Jerusalem. 

Within days, some of those paratroopers found themselves fighting against the Syrians on the Golan Heights.

Special film feature

We share with you a film made one month after the 1967 war by the late Dr. Martin Richter of Basel, Switzerland.  The film, showing scenes of Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem and other locations, was edited by his son, Alexander Avidan and recently posted on YouTube.

The Book of Ruth Comes Alive
in Antique Photos Taken 100 Years Ago

"Ruth the Moabitess"
The Jewish holiday of Shavuot-Pentecost will be celebrated next week.  The holiday has several traditional names: Shavuot, the festival of weeks, marking seven weeks after Passover; Chag HaKatzir, the festival of reaping grains; and Chag HaBikkurim, the festival of first fruits.  Shavuot, according to Jewish tradition, is the day the Children of Israel accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai.  It is also believed to be the day of King David's birth and death.
Ruth said, "Do not entreat me to
leave you, to return from following
you, for wherever you go, I will go...
Your people shall be my people, your
God my God"

The reading of the Book of Ruth is one of the traditions of the holiday.  Ruth, a Moabite and widow of a Jewish man (and a princess according to commentators), gave up her life in Moab to join her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, in the Land of Israel.  She insisted on adopting Naomi's God, Torah and religion.

And Naomi and Ruth both went on
until they arrived at Bethlehem
A central element of the story of Ruth is her going to the fields where barley and wheat were being harvested so that she could collect charitable handouts.  She gleans in the fields of Boaz, a judge and a relative of Ruth's dead husband (as such he has a levirate obligation to marry the widow).  The union results in a child, Obed, the grandfather of King David. 
Ruth came to a field that belonged
to Boaz who was of the family of
Naomi's deceased husband

Boaz said to his servant, who stood
over the reapers, "To whom does
this maiden belong?"
The members of the American Colony were religious Christians who established their community in the Holy Land.  They were steeped in the Bible and photographed countryside scenes that referred to biblical incidents and prohibitions.
Boaz said to Ruth, "Do not go to
glean in another you shall
stay with my maidens"
Boaz said to her at mealtime, "Come
here and partake of the bread..." He
ordered his servants "Pretend to 
forget some of the bundles for her." 
We present a few of the dozens of photographs found in the Library of Congress' American Colony collection.

Ruth carried it to the city and Naomi
saw what she had gleaned
Ruth came to the threshing floor and
Boaz said, "Ready the shawl you are
wearing and hold it," and she held
it, and he measured out six measures
of barley....
A major effort was made by the photographers to re-enact the story of Ruth.  "Ruth," we believe, was a young member of the American Colony community; the remaining "cast" were villagers from the Bethlehem area who were actually harvesting, threshing and winnowing their crops.  We have matched the pictures with corresponding verses from the Book of Ruth.

See more of the pictures here.

Unfortunately, we don't know when the "Ruth and Boaz series" was created, but we estimate approximately 100 years ago.

Click on the pictures to enlarge, click on the caption to view the original. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Another Mystery Picture: Who, What, Where and When?

The "family" in this undated stereographic photo. (Two of the
men appear to be blind. Four of the men are smoking or
holding cigarettes.)
The Library of Congress' vast collection of the American Colony's photographs includes these stereographic pictures. 

The caption reads "Family," and the date of the photo is sometime between "1898 and 1946."  That certainly doesn't provide much information.
PEF picture, apparently with
some of the same people

A similar picture published by the Palestine Exploration Fund identifies the group as Yemenite Jews -- taken by the American Colony photographers, but apparently not included in the Library of Congress collection.  According to the PEF, the picture appeared in a 1911 catalogue.

The two pictures produced by the stereo photo actually provide some additional answers.

19th century stereo camera

Anyone who has used a "View-Master" toy will recognize the 3D illusion created by the stereo camera. Already in the 19th century photographers were taking stereo pictures which were viewed on a special device. In effect, the two camera lenses captured the view and the slight angle differences of the right eye and the left eye.

The left picture shows an object on the wall behind the "family" -- after enlarging the picture it's clearly a German postal box.
The German mailbox
100 years ago

But why would the Yemenite Jews be standing near a German post office?

In fact, several European countries maintained post offices in Palestine under the "capitulations" agreements between the Ottoman Empire and European countries.  Formulated to guarantee the welfare of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land, the capitulations, some dating back to the 16th century, established privileges for European subjects in Palestine.
More modern German mailbox 

Many members of Palestine's Jewish community were granted protection by European leaders such as Austrian Emperor Franz Josef or German Kaiser Wilhelm II.

European man in
white suit
The right photo of the stereo picture shows a European inside the door next to the Yemenite Jews. 

The American Colony collection includes photographs of the Russian, Italian, Austrian, French, and German post offices in Jerusalem.
German post office in Jerusalem

 Today's posting is dedicated in memory
of Dov Arye ben Chaim Menachem
who loved solving puzzles.

The capitulations ended in 1914 with the
outbreak of World War I. "Removing
French post box at the time of
abrogation of foreign capitulations."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You Are Invited to the Wedding of Barukh and Khanna!
In Samarkand 140 Years Ago

The wedding of Barukh and Khanna, circa 1870. The bride and
groom are beneath a tallit serving as the chuppa (canopy).
Channa is the tiny figure under a "burqua," according to the
original caption. The man in the center is extending a cup of wine
as part of the ceremony -- sheva brachot, according to the
caption. The two mothers, wearing turbans, are on the sides
of the bride and groom.
Earlier this month we uncovered pictures in the Library of Congress files showing Bukhari Jewish life in Samarkand some 140 years ago.  We posted pictures showing Jewish children in school, family life, a sukka, and more.

Today, we present photos from another group of pictures, the wedding of Barukh and Khanna in 1870.

The groom Barukh and the bride Khanna, two
separate portraits (c 1870)

Signing the ketuba, the marriage contract. The bride (peaking
out from under her burqua) and the groom are already under the
 tallit, with their mothers on either side

Parts of the earlier narrative are reproduced here, as well as the newly found pictures. 

Click on the pictures to enlarge, click on the caption to view the original. 

A party for the women and girls on the
eve of the wedding. Click here to see
Barukh sitting with the men
Enlargement of the Ketuba
Bukhari Jews, from what is today the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan, may be one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world.  According to some researchers, the community may date back to the days of  the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian exile.  Over the centuries, the community suffered from forced conversion to Islam and from Genghis Khan's pillage and destruction of the region. 
Earlier, the groom meeting with
Khanna and her parents 
Around the time these pictures were taken the Bukhari Jews began to move to Israel.  They established an early settlement in the Bukharan quarter of Jerusalem.  Click here for a history of the Bukhari Jews.

Original caption: "A group of people escorting the bride and
groom (far left) to a house"

The Bukhari Jewish families discuss the
dowry prior to a wedding (circa 1870).
The caption identifies the two bundles
behind them as the dowry

Bonus pictures

Three more pictures, seemingly unrelated to Barukh and Khanna's wedding but dealing with the Jewish community, were found in the Library of Congress file.

Fed Ex office in Samarkand?  The arrival of Jews from Bukhara to
the city of Kazalinsk (Qazaly). Man standing with loaded camels
in front of building (including two men riding in camel's seats)

Nationalities in the Turkestan krai. Jewish
women (sic). Banu ai. (circa 1870)

Original caption reads: "Prayer lessons at school." It is clear that
the teacher and students are Jewish. Note that almost all students
had prayerbooks, a fact that should not be taken for granted.
 (circa 1870)

View pictures and essays on other Jewish communities:

* Kifl, Iraq (Ezekiel's Tomb)

If you wish to dedicate a Daily Picture page, such as this one, in honor or memory, click here

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ancient Pictures of the Western Wall, Including One with "Color Makeup"

The Kotel in the 1860s.  Note how narrow and confined
the alleyway was.  (Palestine Exploration Fund)
This photograph from the Palestine Exploration Fund is one of the oldest known photographs of the Western Wall, or the "Kotel." 

It was taken by Frank Mason Good in the 1860s, around the same time he photographed the panorama view of Jerusalem in the title picture above.

Note the small and narrow confines of the Jewish prayer area.  In the course of hundreds of years, efforts to purchase the surrounding areas were denied.  Attempts to place benches or screens led to anti-Jewish riots, and the blowing of the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur was prohibited.  Between 1949 and 1967 Jews were not permitted to pray at the site.

Only after the 1967 War Jews returned to the Old City of Jerusalem and the area enlarged.
The 110-year-old Kotel photo, hand colored
and re-photographed in color, probably
 in the 1950s

The Kotel circa 1900
We present here other photographs from the Library of Congress collection dating back over 100 years. 

Most of the pictures were taken by the American Colony Photo Department and its successor company run by Eric and Edith Matson.  They returned to the United States in the 1940s with their 22,000 photos and negatives.  They apparently republished hand-colored versions of several of the American Colony's classic photographs, such as this picture of women and a Yemenite man at the Western Wall (left and right).

"Jews wailing place" (circa 1860s)
"Devout Jewish women at the
Wailing Wall" (circa 1900)
View additional features on the Western Wall here, here and here.