Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In the Face of Assad's Rabid Rampage --
What Aleppo Looked Like 100 Years Ago

The Aleppo Citadel (circa 1870) by French photographer
 Félix Bonfils (1831-1885)
The city of Aleppo is one of the oldest in the Middle East.  Over the centuries it was captured and ruled by the Egyptians, Hittites, Chaldeans, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Umayyads, Abbasids, Mamluks and Ottomans.  

"Poor Jewish family in Aleppo" (circa 1912)
See also here

Full of ancient archaeological sites, including the famous Citadel, Aleppo was named a World Heritage Site 25 years.  The Citadel is one of the world's largest castles, with parts dating back 1,000 years.

A Jewish community existed in Aleppo for almost two millennia.  The "Great Synagogue" dated back to the fifth century and stored one of the most important Jewish Biblical texts, the Aleppo Codex. 

When the UN voted for the 1947 partition plan establishing a Jewish state, anti-Jewish pograms were launched against the Jewish community.  Some 6,000 Jews emigrated.

The city of Aleppo seen from the Citadel
(circa 1912)

A commercial center and home to two million inhabitants, Aleppo today is ablaze, suffering under the Syrian regime's savage attack.  According to the UN, 200,000 residents fled the city in recent days.

See a tribute to the people of Damascus here.

The Library of Congress archives contain dozens of antique photographs of Aleppo, many of them dated between "1898 and 1946," the years the American Colony photographers were active.  More likely, the pictures were taken during 1903 or 1912 expeditions to Syria by the American Colony photographers.

The photograph at the top of the page was taken approximately 140 years ago by the French photographer Félix Bonfils (1831- 1885).  Several of his pictures can also be found in the Library of Congress archives.

"One of the finest mosques
and the citadel in Aleppo"
(circa 1912) See also here

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Jews' Wailing Place -- Photographed 150 Years Ago

"The Jews' Wailing Place" (circa 1860)
A version of this article appears in the Jerusalem Post Magazine, July 27, 2012
This high-resolution photo of the Kotel was taken by Peter Bergheim (1813-1875), one of the first resident photographers in the Holy Land.  He set up a photography studio in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem; his family owned a bank inside the Jaffa Gate.

A converted Jew, Bergheim was well aware of the holy sites of Jerusalem.  Three of his pictures were reproduced by the British Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem by Charles Wilson, who, in 1864, was one of the first surveyors of Jerusalem -- above and below the surface of the ground.

To put the photograph in chronological perspective, the picture was taken when Abraham Lincoln was president of the United States, Queen Victoria was in the middle of her reign, and disciples of the Gaon of Vilna had finished building the "Hurva" synagogue in Jerusalem's Old City.

Besides the massive American Colony Photographers’ collection of more than 20,000 photos (taken between 1898 and 1946), the Library of Congress archives also contain ancient photos by 19th century photographers Bonfils, Bergheim, Frith, and Good. 

A similar perspective of the Kotel taken by the
American Colony photographers 80 years later
(circa 1940)
 Until now, the Library has not opened these photos to online viewers, citing copyright restrictions.  At the request of this writer, the Library has assured that within days several of these historic photos will go online with no restrictions and with truly unusual resolution.  They will, of course, also appear on these pages.
Photograph (1869) by French photographer Félix
Bonfils (1831-1885) who opened a studio in
Beirut in 1867. Might this be a self-portrait?
(Ken and Jenny Jacobson Oriental Collection,
Library, Getty Research Institute)

Click on photographs to enlarge.

Click on caption to view the original photograph in the Library of Congress archives.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tisha B'Av -- Mourning at the Western Wall 90 Years Ago

Jewish men sitting on the ground at the "Wailing Wall" (circa 1935)
A version of this article appears in the Jerusalem Post Magazine, July 27, 2012

The ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av -- Tisha B'Av -- is the day in the Hebrew calendar when great calamities befell the Jewish people, including the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem, the fall of the fortress Beitar in the Jewish rebellion against Rome in 136 CE, and the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492.  The day is commemorated with fasting, prayers and the reading of Lamentations.  In Jerusalem, thousands pray at the Kotel, the Western Wall.

"Devout Jewish women" at the Wall (circa
1900).  One of the two women on the left
is wearing a traditional Arab embroidered
dress. We suggest that the two women
in the black cloaks were companions
or care-givers to the Jewish women.
View another photo of devout women here

The American Colony photographers frequently focused their cameras on the worshipers at the "Wailing Place of the Jews."  The Colony founders who came to Jerusalem in 1881 were devout Christians who saw the return of the Jews to the Holy Land as a sign of messianic times.

Of the dozens of pictures at the Kotel there are several of elderly men and women sitting on the ground or on low stools, customs of mourning practiced on Tisha B'Av.

"A Jewish beggar reading at the Wailing Wall" (circa 1920).
Note others sitting on the ground. The day is almost
certainly Tisha B'Av and he is probably reading the
book of Lamentations.

Jews straining to see the Western Wall
(circa 1929)
"Jews' wailing place without mourners.
Deserted during 1929 riots."
See another view here
Other pictures presented here show the very narrow and confined area of the Kotel over the ages until Israel's army captured the Old City in 1967 and enlarged the Kotel plaza. 

The tragedies that occured to the Jewish nation are also evident in the pictures of the deserted plaza after Arab pogroms in 1929.  The area was deserted, of course, during the 19 years of Jordanian rule of the Old City when Jews were forbidden to pray at the site.

A story is told of Napoleon passing a synagogue and hearing congregants inside mourning.  To his question who they are mourning, he was told they were weeping over the destruction of the Jewish Temple 1,800 years earlier.  Napoleon responded, according to the legend, "If the Jews are still crying after so many hundreds of years, then I am certain the Temple will one day be rebuilt."  

Dedicated in memory of Chaim Menachem ben Levi

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Arab Weddings in Judea and in Samaria over 100 Years Ago.
(Not in the "West Bank")

"A [Arab] wedding procession in Judea. Palestine" (1903)
 Clarity of words and terminology is often the first casualty in political conflict.  That is certainly the case in the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Using the geographic terms "Judea and Samaria" today is often mistakenly attributed exclusively to Jewish residents of the "West Bank" or their advocates.

"A [Arab] wedding procession in Samaria" (1903)
 The Library of Congress' photo archives prove otherwise.

These 1903 pictures of an Arab "wedding procession in Judea, Palestine" and an Arab "wedding procession in Samaria" use the correct geographic names of the region -- well before the British Mandate, before the political division of the west and east banks of the Jordan River, and before the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Old Jewish Men in the Old City
An incredible photographic study from the 1930s

Jewish Quarter Street (1934-1939)
 Pre-Tisha B'Av feature
We found this picture to be an incredibly engaging portrait of an old Jewish man with his cane and tallit (prayer shawl) leaving prayers in the Old City of Jerusalem, most likely coming from the Western Wall.  The subject, light and lines make it a beautiful composition.

The picture was taken between 1934 and 1939, according to the Library of Congress caption. 

Jewish men in Hassidic Sabbath garb
in the Jewish Quarter

The same Yemenite Jew
with his tallit walking down
the stairs. Also here
Researching the picture in the Library of Congress online archives, we then discovered a series of pictures taken in the Jewish Quarter alleyways.  Some of the pictures are of the same man with the cane, a photographic study, apparently, of a Yemenite Jew.

The American Colony maintained a special relationship with Jerusalem's Yemenite community starting in 1882.

Other pictures in the American Colony collection show Hassidic Jews (of European origins) walking on the steps of the Jewish Quarter in the 1930s.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Digression: With Sympathy for the People of Syria,
We Present Antique Pictures of the Shelling of Damascus in 1925

Destruction in Damascus, 1925
After World War I and the defeat of the Ottomans, the Kingdom of Syria was placed under a French mandate in 1920.
French troops and their machine guns
in Damascus 

An ambulance cart moves across a
public square covered with barbed wire

The mandate was divided into six fiefdoms -- the Jebel Druze, Greater Lebanon, the Sanjak of Alexandretta (Iskenderun today), an Alawite State, the State of Damascus and the State of Aleppo.  Eventually, Lebanon was granted its independence in 1943 and Alexandretta was ceded to Turkey in 1939. 

 In the early summer of 1925, a Druze leader named Sheikh Sultan al-Atrash led a full scale revolt against the French across Syria.  The French brought in reinforcements and heavy weapons and by October 1925 were shelling the city of Damascus.  The American Colony photographers took pictures of the aftermath.
"Al-Atrash and his warriors" in Transjordan (circa 1926)

Al-Atrash was defeated and fled with his rebels south to Transjordan.  The photographers followed him and took portraits of him and his fighters.

Statue of al-Atrash in Druze town of
Masedeh on the Golan Heights

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Click on captions to view the original pictures.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

July 24 -- Anniversary of the Laying of the "Foundation Stone" for the Hebrew University in 1918

Laying the foundation stone for Hebrew University, July 24, 1918
The dream of establishing a university in Jerusalem had been expressed already in the 1880s. 

Finally, just seven months after World War I and the defeat of the Turkish-German army in Jerusalem, the foundation stone for Hebrew University was laid on Mt. Scopus on July 24, 1918.

Chaim Weizmann, the man who became Israel's first president 30 years later, was in attendence.  So was Gen. Edmund Allenby, the commander of the British forces who captured Palestine.

More pictures and details can be found in an earlier posting, "Great Moments in Hebrew University's History."

British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel
(left) and Winston Churchill planting a tree
at Hebrew University site (1921)

Lord Balfour inaugurating Hebrew University (1925)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Antique Pictures of the Western Wall to Be Released Online.
How Antique? Think Abe Lincoln's Days

"The Wailing place of the Jews"
Review of the Library of Congress' photo archives revealed pictures of Jerusalem dating back to the 1860s, but they have not been digitalized like the approximate 20,000 pictures taken by the American Colony photographers years later.

With the help of the dedicated Library of Congress archivists, Israel Daily Picture will post these pictures in the next few weeks.  The pictures will be available online with incredible resolution and free of copyright restrictions.  

Meanwhile, in the days leading up to Tisha B'Av, the day Jews around the world mourn the destruction of their Temples, we present a section of one of those rare pictures from the 1860s --almost 150 years ago.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Great and Electrifying Pinchas Ruttenberg. Who?

Pinchas Ruttenberg 1879 - 1942
In the pantheon of Zionist and Israeli historical heroes several names stand out -- Herzl, Ben-Gurion, Weizmann, Ben-Yehuda, Jabotinsky.

Missing from that list is Pinchas Ruttenberg.  Pinchas Who?

Ruttenberg.  The Russian revolutionary who ran with the likes of Lenin and Trotsky, a prisoner of the Bolsheviks who immigrated to Palestine in 1919, co-founder of the Haganah defense forces, and and founder of the Palestine Electric Corporation in 1923 who established electric plants across Palestine.  And a man relatively unknown. 
Ruttenberg's Naharayim hydroelectric plant at the
confluence of the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers (circa 1932).

In the early 1920s Ruttenberg joined with Zev Jabotinsky to form the "Haganah" Jewish self-defense militia to protect Jews in Palestine. When Jabotinsky was arrested in 1920 for defending Jews in Jeusalem, Ruttenberg took command.  In the 1921 Arab riots Ruttenberg commanded the militia in Tel Aviv. 

In 1923 Ruttenberg founded the Palestine Electric Corporation, securing financial support for his electrification plans from the wealthy Rothschild family and political support from British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill.

Constuction workers building the
power plant (1927). View workers'
dining hall here
Power plant's Sluice gate from
the Yarmuk River
Ruttenberg's pilot project, launched in 1927, was a power plant at Naharayim at the confluence of the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers. The land was located on the Transjordan side of the rivers, and the construction was carried out with the approval and assistance of Emir Abdullah.  Security cooperation between the Arab Legion and Ruttenberg's security force (to protect both the plants and the power lines) was vital in protecting the building project during the 1929 Arab riots in Palestine. The Hashemite ruler attended the inauguration of the power plant.  On the eve of the 1948 war, Abdullah met with the Jewish Agency's Golda Meir at Naharayim to explore avoiding hostilities, but to no avail.

Emir Abdullah starting up the turbines as Ruttenberg
watches (1932).  Also see Abdullah here
Ruttenberg's company would go on to build power plants in Haifa and Tel Aviv, and the Palestine Electric Company would eventually become the Israel Electric Company.

During the 1948 war Ruttenberg's security forces were integrated into the Haganah.  But the Naharayim power plant, located just across the frontier in Transjordan, was overrun by the Jordanian Legion and ceased operation.  The power company lost almost one-quarter of its output until the Tel Aviv and Haifa plants came on-line.

After the signing of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty in 1994, the grounds of the Naharayim facility were converted to the "Peace Island" park, a symbol of coexistence between the two countries.

King Hussein and Prime Minister
Netanyahu visiting a grieving family
In 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli school girls visiting the Naharayim Peace Island, killing seven. 

Many Israelis will never forget the image of King Hussein of Jordan, Emir Abdullah's grandson, visiting the girls' grieving families in Beit Shemesh to express his condolences.

Click on a picture to enlarge.  Click on a caption to view the original picture in the Library of Congress collection.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Another Mystery Photograph, This Time from Jaffa

The Library of Congress caption reads "Jaffa" and that the
picture was taken between "1898-1946"
The American Colony photographers were based in Jerusalem, but they roamed throughout Palestine between the 1890s and 1946.  Their pictures record the history of the land from Metulla to Be'er Sheva, Tel Aviv-Jaffa to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

These Christian photographers captured on glass plates and film the Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael decades prior to the establishment of the State of Israel.

This picture provides an example.  Labelled simply "Jaffa," the photo is dated between "1898 and 1946," the years the American Colony Photo Department was active in the Holy Land.

But there's much more in the photo beyond the two obviously Orthodox Jewish men walking in Jaffa.  We can even narrow down the date of the picture.

The picture could not have been taken during World War I when the Turkish rulers expelled the Jews of Jaffa and hundreds died.

The rail line into the Jaffa Port (Cairo Postcard Trust)
The two men are walking along railroad tracks which appear incongruously to be laid through a Jaffa alleyway.   Actually when the Jaffa-Jerusalem railroad was inaugurated in the 1892 there was a spur that continued from the Jaffa train station down to the Jaffa dock (see adjacent postcard).

But the men are not walking on the rails laid during the Turkish rule.  Those rails were "standard gauge," at least one meter apart, and indeed in the old postcard people are shown walking two abreast.  The rails around Jaffa were ripped out by the Turks during World War I for use elsewhere in the Palestine war effort.  One can surmise that they left the wooden railroad ties.

In the photo above, only one of the Orthodox Jews can walk between the rails.  The line was 60 centimeters wide, a fact that dates the picture to post-December 1917, when, with the port beyond the range of Turkish artillery, the British built a narrow-gauge track along Raziel Street, probably using the wide Turkish ties, to move supplies from the port.  The narrow gauge tracks operated until 1928.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Sabbath Walk to the Western Wall --
An Ancient Custom Interrupted for 19 Years

Jews at Western Wall (circa 1917). Note presence of women,
Ashkenazi Jews with the fur hats, and Sephardi Jews with the fez.
From the earliest days of photography, the Western Wall has been a favorite subject for photographers.  The Wall or Kotel was always a magnet for Jews who came to pray at the remnant of the Temple retaining wall.  On the other side of that Wall once stood the Holy of Holies.

During Arab riots in the 1920s and during the Arab revolt (1936- 1939) Jews were often attacked in the Old City. 
Orthodox Jews on the way to
the Western Wall (1934-39) and here

That's why this set of the American Colony's photographs of the Old City is so unusual.  It shows Jews walking to the Western Wall between 1934 and 1939 "on their usual Sabbath* walk to the Wailing Wall," according to the caption.

The subjects hide their faces because of their desire to avoid being photographed on the Sabbath.
Little girl at "Jews wailing place" (1934-39)

Possibly because of the dangers there are few women or non-Orthodox worshipers in this set of pictures.  Yet, one little blond girl appears in two of the pictures.
Little Jewish girl walking in the Old City
(in circle)

Click on picture to enlarge. 
Click on caption to see original.

To maintain order in the Old City, the British police established gun positions and built walls to separate Arabs from the Jews.  In 1929 and again in 1939 the British evacuated Jews from the Old City.
"Sand bags used by police in Jewish
Street" in the Old City

Sealed passageway in the Old City and here

But the American Colony photographers still found pious Jews who continued to flock to the Western Wall, and their pictures are presented here.
Jews in the Old City, walking back from prayers at the
Western Wall (1934-1939) and here

Sabbath walk in the Old City and here

The Western Wall deserted during visit
of British General, 1936 "Palestine

In 1948, the Jordanian Legion captured the Old City of Jerusalem, 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.

*(Actually, the pictures were probably taken on a Jewish festival. Many of the worshippers are carrying prayer books and bags which some wouldn't normally do on the Sabbath.)

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Iraq Exports Products through Israel's Haifa Port Today.
Just Like It Did 75 Years Ago

Haifa port today
 Iraq and Israel do not have diplomatic relations, and indeed, some 20 years ago Saddam Hussein was firing Scud missiles at Tel Aviv and Haifa during the Gulf War from the H2 base in western Iraq. 
Laying the Iraq-Haifa pipeline in the Jezreel Valley (1933)

Today, however, The Times of Israel reports, Iraq is importing and exporting products through Haifa's port via Jordan.  According to the report, "trade expert Matanis Shahadeh told Al-Jazeera that from Iraq’s point of view, the Iraq-Haifa route is much more direct and cost-efficient than the alternative maritime route through the Persian Gulf."

Iraq Petroleum Co. tractors with Mt. Tabor in the background

Today's Iraq-Haifa connection is history repeating itself. 

In the 1930s two Iraq Petroleum Co. (IPC) pipelines were built from Kirkuk in Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea.  At French insistence, one was built through Syria and Lebanon ending in Tripoli. 

Great Britain insisted on a pipeline through Palestine ending in Haifa.  One of the pumping stations for the Haifa pipeline was designated Haifa 2 or "H2" -- the same infamous location used as a Scud missile base.
Iraq Petroleum Company oil tanks at Haifa (1937)
The "IPC terminus" in Haifa Bay (1935)

IPC inaugural ceremony (1935)

The Turkish Naval Base at the Dead Sea during World War I
Part 2 to a Previous Posting on Weapons Found at the Dead Sea

Unloading grain at the Dead Sea (1917)
Last week we posted a feature on the origins of a cache of antique German weapons found recently at the Dead Sea. The posting showed pictures of a World War I Turkish naval base and abandoned Turkish defense lines at the Dead Sea.
Turkish delegation received at Dead
Sea dock (1916)

The Turks' "Dead Sea Flotilla" (1917)

Towing barges of wheat (1917)

Shipping grain from the south end of
the Dead Sea to the north. No roads
connected the north and south parts
of the Dead Sea shores

As evidenced in these American Colony-Library of Congress album pictures, the Dead Sea was a major supply route for the Turkish army between eastern and western Palestine, particularly after Britain and its allies blockaded Mediterranean ports.

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