Sunday, September 30, 2012

How a Family Celebrated Sukkot in Samarkand in 1870;
Is This the Same Family in Jerusalem in 1900?

Jews sitting in their Samarkand Sukka (circa 1870)
Israel Daily Picture usually focuses on the Library of Congress' American Colony collection of 22,000 photos.  But while exploring the Library's archives we came across an amazing collection of pictures of the Bukhari Jewish community of Samarkand in 1870.
Another view of the Sukka with the side walls closed (1870)

View more pictures  and a history of the Samarkand Jews here.

Members of the community began moving to Eretz Yisrael, the Holy Land, in the mid-1800.  They established a new neighborhood outside of Jerusalem's Old City walls. 

View pictures of the Bukhari Quarter here.
Bukharan family in their Jerusalem sukka (circa 1900). Note
the man on the right holding the citron and palm branch
The American Colony photographers recorded how various Jewish communities celebrated Sukkot in Jerusalem in the early 1900s with pictures of Yemenite, Ashkenazi and Bukhari sukkot booths. 

View the collection of Jerusalem celebrations of Sukkot here.

Is it possible that the family photographed in Samarkand in 1870 may be the same family photographed in Jerusalem in 1900?

Bukharan family in their Jerusalem Sukka

Click on a picture to enlarge. 
Click on the caption to view the original photo.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Yom Kippur 100 Years Ago -- Or More:
Photographic Treasures from the Library of Congress
from Jerusalem, New York and a French Battlefield

Jews at the Kotel on Yom Kippur (circa 1904) See analysis of
 the graffiti on the wall for dating this picture. The graffiti on
the Wall are memorial notices (not as one reader suggested
applied to the photo later).
Next week Jews around the world will commemorate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  For many Jews in the Land of Israel over the centuries the day meant praying at the Western Wall, the remnant of King Herod's retaining wall of the Temple complex destroyed in 70 AD.

We present here an update to last year's Yom Kippur posting.

Several readers commented on the intermingling of men and women in these historic pictures.
It was not by choice. 
The Turkish and British rulers of Jerusalem imposed restrictions on the Jewish worshippers,  prohibiting chairs, forbidding screens to divide the men and women, and even banning the blowing of the shofar at the end of the Yom Kippur service.

View this video, Echoes of a Shofar, to see the story of young men who defied British authorities between 1930 and 1947 and blew the shofar at the Kotel.

Another view of the Western Wall on Yom Kippur. Note the
various groups of worshippers: The Ashkenazic Hassidim wearing
the fur shtreimel hats in the foreground, the Sephardic Jews
wearing  the fezzes in the center, and the women in the back
wearing white shawls. (circa 1904)
For the 19 years that Jordan administered the Old City, 1948-1967, no Jews were permitted to pray at the Kotel.  
The Library of Congress collection contains many pictures of Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall over the last 150 years.

After the 1967 war, the Western Wall plaza was enlarged and large areas of King Herod's wall have been exposed.  Archaeologists have also uncovered major subterranean tunnels -- hundreds of meters long -- that are now open to visitors to Jerusalem.
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Click on the photos to enlarge.
Click on the captions to see the originals.
Photos of Yom Kippur in New York 105 Years Ago
The Library of Congress Archives also contain historic photos of Jewish celebration of the High Holidays in New York.  Some of them were posted here before Rosh Hashanna.  Here are two more: 
Original caption: Men and boys standing in
front of synagogue on Yom Kippur (Bain
News Service, circa 1907)

Worshippers in front of synagogue (Bain
News Service, 1907)

And a Picture of Jews in the Prussian Army Worshipping on Yom Kippur 140 Years Ago
We were a little surprised to find this picture of a lithograph in the Library of Congress archives.  The caption reads, "Service on the Day of Atonement by the Israelite soldiers of the Army before Metz 1870."  No other information is provided.
Kestenbaum & Company, an auctioneer in Judaica, describes the lithograph in their catalogue:
This lithograph depicts the Kol Nidre service performed on Yom Kippur 1870 for Jewish soldiers in the Prussian army stationed near Metz (Alsace region) during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.
   The Germans had occupied Metz by August of 1870, however were unable to capture the town's formidable fortress, where the remaining French troops had sought refuge. During the siege, Yom Kippur was marked while hostilities still continued, as depicted in the lithograph.
Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, a scholar and Reform Jewish leader who passed away at age 99 earlier this year, provided more facts about the picture.  In fact, he called it a "fraud." 
In Eight Decades: The Selected Writings of W. Gunther Plaut. In a chapter entitled "The Yom Kippur that Never Was, A Pious Pictoral Fraud" he wrote: 
 Of all the things in my grandfather's house, I remember most vividly a large print.  It was entitled "Service on the Day of Atonement by the Israelite soldiers before Metz 1870."  Later I was to learn that this print hung in many Jewish homes.... It was reproduced on postcards, on cloth, and on silk scarves. The basic theme was the same: in an open field before Metz, hundreds of Jewish soldiers were shown at prayer.
 Rabbi Plaut cites a participant in the service who reported:
 A considerable difficulty arose in relation to the place for the services. Open air services were deemed impossible for Tuesday night because of the darkness and were ruled out for Wednesday because of the obvious reasons [it was a battlefield].... My immediate neighbour was willing to grant me the use of his room so that the service took place in our two adjoining rooms.

Another participant in the unusual Yom Kippur service reported, according to Plaut:
Of the 71 Jewish soldiers in the Corps some 60 had appeared. Amongst them were several physicians, a few members of the military government, all of them joyously moved to celebrate Yom Kippur.  The place of prayer consisted of two small rooms.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beneath the Old City of Jerusalem Lies a Huge Cave.
Does It Date Back To King Solomon or King Zedekiah?

 Five men in "Solomon's Quarry," circa 1910. Another picture
of the group can be found here
Beneath the Old City of Jerusalem, not far from the Damascus Gate, is the entrance to an enormous cavern, one of the largest man-made caves in Israel.  The American Colony photographers visited the cavern 100 years ago.

From the cave's entrance to the end is 300 meters; its width is 100 meters, and its height in some parts is 15 meters tall.  The total size is estimated to be five acres.
Solomon's Quarry tourists (circa 1910)
And the cavern, which was used to quarry limestone blocks, dates back 3,000 years.

According to legend, King Solomon may have taken blocks from the cave to build the First Temple (circa 950 BCE).  While archaeologists are sceptical, there is little doubt that King Herod (circa 50 BCE) quarried stone for building his massive expansion of the Second Temple, including what we call today the Western Wall. 

"Hanging pillar" in Solomon's
Quarry (circa 1910)

Another legend claims that King Zedekiah of Judah (circa 586 BCE) fled from the Babylonian conquerors through the cave. Talmudic literature dating back to the 2nd - 3rd century CE refers to Zedekiah's Cave.

The quarry was used throughout the Middle Ages, but it was sealed in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent to prevent enemy infiltration under the Old City.

Open & Shut, Open & Shut...

The cave remained sealed and undiscovered until 1854 when, according to another legend, missionary Dr. J. T. Barclay was walking his dog outside of Damascus Gate.  The dog ran down a hole that had been opened after heavy rains.  Barclay followed him in and discovered the massive cavern.

Entrance to Solomon's Quarry
(circa 1900)
In the 1880s a German cult took over the cave until they were removed by Turkish authorities.  In 1893 the Turks sealed the entrance once again.

To secure stones for a clock tower the Turks were building at Jaffa Gate they reopened the quarry in 1907.  Presumably, the American Colony photos are from that period because the cave was sealed again in 1914 during World War I. 
Ad: "Entrance to Zedekiah's Cave
From now residents of Jerusalem will
pay 3 grush per person. Groups of 10
pay 25 ..."

An advertisement announcing tours and admission rates to the Cave appeared in a Hebrew paper Hatzvi during this period, in April 1909.

The Quarry as a bomb shelter (1940s)
During the British Mandate Zedekiah's Cave was reopened and actually converted to a bomb shelter during World War II.  The cavern was closed again in 1948 by the Jordanian authorities because of its location along the Jordan-Israel armistice line. 
In 1967, after the reunification of Jerusalem, Israel reopened the cavern.

Read this excellent description of the cave written by Thomas Friedman when he was serving as The New York Times' Jerusalem bureau chief in 1985.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Blowing the Shofar on the New Year 80 Years Ago --
Republishing a posting from last year

Yemenite Jew blowing the shofar (circa 1935)
"Blow the Shofar at the New Moon...Because It Is a Decree for Israel, a Judgment Day for the God of Jacob"  - Psalms 81

Jews around the world prepare for Rosh Hashanna next week, the festive New Year holiday when the shofar -- ram's horn -- is blown in synagogues. 

The American Colony photographers recorded a dozen pictures of Jewish elders blowing the shofar in Jerusalem some 80 years ago.  The horn was also blown in Jerusalem to announce the commencement of the Sabbath.  During the month prior to Rosh Hashana, the shofar was blown at daily morning prayers to encourage piety before the High Holidays.   
Ashkenazi Jew blowing the shofar to announce the Sabbath

Yemenite Rabbi Avram, donning tfillin for his
daily prayers, blowing the shofar

View the American Colony Photographers' collection of shofars in Jerusalem here.

Click on the pictures to enlarge.
Click on captions to view the original picture.
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Friday, September 7, 2012

EArtHqUAkE! in the Holy Land in 1927.
New pictures presented

The earthquake of July 11, 1927. Partial collapse of mosque
and minaret on Mt. of Olives
85 years ago a powerful earthquake struck Eretz Yisrael.  With its epicenter located in the northern Dead Sea area, the towns of Jericho, Jerusalem, Nablus (Shechem) and Tiberias were badly hit.  An estimated 500 people were killed in those locations.

Damage in the Augusta Victoria Hospital/
Church on Mt. of  Olives. Stones from
the tower smashed through the roof below

Collapsed banks of the Jordan River, with trees in midstream

Today, scientists believe the magnitude of the quake was 6.25.
Nablus (Shechem) "in a ruined state."
At the time there were several Jewish
households in the predominantly
Muslim town

We published here last year several pictures taken after the earthquake.  View the pictures here.
"House in Nablus reduced to a shell"
Subsequently, we uncovered more photos in the Library of Congress archives, and we present them here.

In Israel today, scientists warn of another major quake, and civil defense information is posted in many public buildings and online.

Click on pictures to enlarge.
Click on captions to view the original picture.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Special Rosh Hashanna feature:
Treasures from the Library of Congress Archives --
Rosh Hashanna in New York 100 Years Ago

Tashlich prayer on the Brooklyn Bridge, 1919.
The Near Year prayer is traditionally said at a body
of water where the worshipper "casts" his/her sins
While this website focuses on historic pictures from the Land of Israel, we have also come across the Library of Congress Archives' photos of Jewish life in the United States.

In honor of the Jewish New Year, we offer a series of pictures of Rosh Hashanna 100 years ago in New York.

Tashlich (1909) and here

Click on pictures to enlarge.
Click on captions to see originals. 
Lining up for shoe shines on the eve of Rosh Hashanna
(circa 1910)

Rosh Hashanna prayers (circa 1905)
and here 

In front of a synagogue on Rosh Hashanna (circa 1910)

Boy in prayer shawl (1911)

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

Three Orthodox Jews walking past the "4th Station of the
Cross" on al Wad Street in the Muslim Quarter. The men
almost certainly entered the Old City from the
Damascus Gate (circa 1900)
Several months ago we presented pictures of Jews walking through the Old City of Jerusalem 70-80 years ago in order to pray at the Western Wall on the Sabbath. 

Under Muslim-Turkish rule of Jerusalem, Jewish access to the Western Wall was often curtailed.
After Britain's capture of Jerusalem in 1917, Arab terrorists led by Haj Amin el Husseini frequently attacked Jews in the Old City. And in the period of the Jordanian occupation of the Old City (1948-1967) it was outright impossible to visit the retaining wall of the Second Temple.

After Israel's reunification of the city in 1967 and the rebuilding of the Jewish Quarter, Jews were able to take their traditional Sabbath walk to the Wall safely.
Orthodox men walking in the Old City shuk (circa 1935).
Note the bell tower of the Russian Orthodox Church of
Ascension on Mt. of Olives on the horizon under the arch

We present here additional historic pictures of Orthodox Jews walking in the Old City of Jerusalem, probably going to or returning from prayers at the Western Wall. 

In these pictures, the men are wearing fur hats - shtreimels - traditionally worn on the Sabbath or on a Jewish holiday.  In one picture a man hides his face because he doesn't want to be photographed on the Sabbath. 

Orthodox men walking in the Old City (circa 1935)
The stores are open which means they were walking through the Arab shuk. And the tower on the hill on the horizon is the 64-meter high bell tower adjacent to the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension on the Mt. of Olives.  With the Mt. of Olives behind them, the men are walking toward the east and the Jaffa Gate.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Who Is Colonel Coventry?
Mystery Pictures of British Soldiers in Jerusalem

"Col. Coventry driving into Jerusalem from railroad station" 1916
Here is a series of pictures of a Colonel Coventry entering Jerusalem in 1916.  "Coventry" would suggest an Englishman, but the year places his arrival in the middle of World War I, and Jerusalem was under Turkish control.

The soldiers greeting him at the railroad station wore the kabalak helmets and kaffiyehs of the Turkish army.
"Col. Coventry and officers approaching the Jaffa Gate."

The next picture shows Coventry and his officers in carriages heading up from the Hinnom Valley towards the Jaffa Gate.

A third and fourth picture show men marching toward the Old City.  They appear to be wearing British uniforms.

Troops marching toward Jaffa Gate at the same spot where the
officers were riding in carriages.  They appear to be British.
Research shows that the men were prisoners of  war, captured by the Turks in an early battle in the Sinai close to the Suez Canal.

The following is a report from the British General Headquarters, Egyptian Expeditionary Force, 1st June, 1916:

British POWs and Turkish soldiers marching toward the Old
City.  The building on the left of the picture is the St. John's
Eye Hospital, today the Mt. Zion Hotel
"On the 22nd April the Royal Flying Corps reported that new bodies of enemy troops were at Bir el Bayud [approaching the Suez Canal] Upon receipt of this information, General Wiggin obtained leave to attack the enemy at Mageibra that night. General Wiggin, with Lieut.-Colonel Coventry,  accompanied the raid to Mageibra. In the meantime the post at Oghratina was attacked at 5.30a.m. The Officer Commanding at Oghratina reported that he was again heavily attacked on all sides. This attack carried the post, all the garrison of which were either killed, wounded, or captured. Qatia itself was attacked about 9.30 a.m. Lieutenant-Colonel Coventry was detached with one squadron from General Wiggin's Force to operate towards Qatia. Unfortunately, this squadron became involved in the unsuccessful resistance of the Qatia garrison, and, with the exception of some 60 men and one officer who were able to disengage themselves, fell with it into the hands of the enemy."

The British soldiers, led by Lt. Col. Coventry, were taken by rail by the Turks to Jerusalem.  Their fate afterwards is not known.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Update -- Today, It's Called "Forex."
Then It Was Called "Money Changing"

Woman customer at money-changer
In January we presented a feature on Jewish money-changers in Jerusalem 75-80 years ago.  The signs behind them showed that they provided full financial services including property sales and rentals, mortgages and stocks. 

Recently, we came across this picture, different from the previous ones for several reasons. First, it shows a woman customer.  Second, a sign on the door advertises that the shop guarantees Egyptian bonds.
Jewish money changer (1930s)

Previous posting: For millennia the commerce of the world has had to deal with different currencies. The Bible refers to various coins, often a name referring to a specific weight. Every country, province, king or governor minted a local coin.  Travelers had to exchange one currency for another to do business.

Advertisment for rentals;
sales of homes, orchards,
and lots; mortgages, and
Jewish pilgrims to the Temples in Jerusalem had to convert their coins to local currency to pay for their sacrifices or lodgings.  Agricultural tithes were converted to coins which were brought to Jerusalem. The Talmud refers to a money changer as  a shulchani (literally a "person at the table").

According to the New Testament, the money changers were driven from the Temple by Jesus.  The allegedly unsavory character of money changers continued into the Middle Ages as seen by Shakespeare's depiction of Shylock.

Over the centuries, the Forex (foreign exchange) professionals also served as bankers and loan officers.
Jewish money changer (1930s)

When Jews were dispersed throughout Europe and Asia, the profession was an easily portable trade.  Jewish ties between communities facilitated letters of credit. The Rothschild banking dynasty, for instance, begun in the 16th century, had family branches in Austria, Germany, France, Italy and England.

As recorded by the American Colony photographers, Jewish money changers set up their shulchan on the street.

Click on the pictures to enlarge.  Click on the captions to view the original picture.