Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Oops! A Beautiful Picture of Jaffa Gate, But Something's Wrong

Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem (credit: George Eastman House)
The Library of Congress archives houses 22,000 pictures of Jerusalem and the Holy Land taken by the American Colony photographers between the 1890s and 1946. 

But, we recently discovered more of the American Colony photographs in the George Eastman House collection.  We were particularly impressed with a collection of "transparencies ... with applied color."  What we call today "slides" were shown with a lantern. The color was painted in.

Why might the picture look strange to viewers of this blog?  Because we recently published the picture in black-and-white in a feature on Jewish shopkeepers in the Old City, but that picture was not reversed as this color one is.
Jaffa Gate The Library of Congress dates this picture
 between 1898 and 1946. Based on the carriages outside the
gate, the photo was probably taken before the breaching
of the Jaffa Gate in 1898 and creation of a road.
 The American Colony's Elijah Meyers was a photographer
prior to the creation of the Colony's photographic
department  in 1898 and he may have taken this picture.
Look at the shop adjacent to the gate in
the accompanying enlargement. 
Enlargement: The shop is a millinery store selling hats. The men
 inside and outside are Jewish merchants or customers. The
signs show hat models and a store name in Hebrew.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Jerusalem Commemorates the Visit of the German Emperor 114 Years Ago
An Exhibit on the Visit Opens Tomorrow in the Tower of David Museum

The welcome arch constructed by Jerusalem's Jews in honor
of the German Emperor Wilhelm II
The Kaiser Arrives, and the Rabbis Turn Out.   How Jerusalem's Jews Greeted the German Emperor in 1898

The Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem opens an exhibit tomorrow on the German Emperor's visit to the Holy Land 114 years ago.  In honor of the exhibit, we reproduce here a posting from last year

The German Emperor's visit to Jerusalem on October 29, 1898 was a major historic event, reflecting the geopolitical competition between the German Empire, Russia, France and the British Empire.  Emperor Wilhelm II and his wife were received with open arms by the Ottomans collapsing under the weight of centuries of corruption and still reeling from the aftermath of the costly Crimean War of the 1850s.
Wilhelm II and Augusta Viktoria

Preparations were undertaken throughout Turkish-controlled Palestine: roads were paved, waterworks installed, electrical and telegraph lines laid, and sanitation measures -- seen today as basic -- were implemented.  The Turks even breached the Old City walls near Jaffa Gate to construct a road for the Emperor's carriages.

Interior of the arch. Note the curtains hanging.

The visit was photographed extensively by the American Colony photographers.  The popularity of the Emperor's pictures led to the establishment of the Colony's photographic enterprise and eventually the 22,000 pictures that were donated to the Library of Congress.

The Jews of Jerusalem were caught up in the excitement.  Some of the Jews with ties to Europe were actually under the Emperor's protection.  Others expected to benefit from the Emperor's largess.  And still others wanted the opportunity to recite a rarely said blessing upon seeing a king, according to David Yellin, a Jerusalem intellectual who described the visit in his diary.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi,
Yaakov Shaul Elissar

The Jewish community constructed a large and richly adorned welcome arch to receive the Emperor.  The arch was located on Jaffa Road (near today's Clal Building) and bore the Hebrew and German title, "Welcome in the name of the Lord."

Torah crowns and breastplate
on top of the arch
The Library of Congress collection offers viewers the ability to enlarge the photos, and once enlarged, the details under the arch are amazing.  The chief rabbis of the time are easily recognizable, the arch is decorated along the top by Torah crowns, and it is clear that the arch is lined by the curtains from Torah arks, parochot.

Click on a picture to enlarge it. 
Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem,
Shmuel Salant

Click on a caption to view the original picture.

The enlargements show that one curtain came from the Istanbuli synagogue in the Old City, another was donated by the Bukhari community, and a third belonged to Avraham Shlomo Zalman Hatzoref, a student of the Gaon of Vilna and a builder of Jerusalem who arrived in Eretz Yisrael exactly 200 years ago.  We can deduce that the third parochet came from the Hurva synagogue which Hatzoref helped to fund (actually arranged for the cancellation of the Ashkenazi community's large debt to local Arabs).  For his efforts he was killed by the Arabs in 1851.  Hatzoref is recognized by the State of Israel as the first victim of modern Arab terrorism.

Curtain from the
Istanbuli synagogue

Curtain from the Bukhari community

The curtain lists several names besides Hatzoref.  Their names are followed by the Hebrew initials Z'L -- of blessed memory.  The fact that Hatzoref's name is not followed by Z'L suggests that the curtain was made prior to his death in 1851.

According to the New York Times account of the visit, two Torah scrolls were also on display in the Jewish arch, but they are not visible in the photographs. 

Photo montage of Herzl
and the Emperor at
Mikveh Yisrael school
Hatzoref's parochet, suggesting it came
from the Hurva Synagogue
Two individuals who should have been under the arch were not there.  The first was Theodore Herzl who came to Palestine in order to meet with the Emperor and encourage him to express his support for a Jewish homeland to his Turkish allies.  Yellin reported that Herzl was not invited by the local Jewish leadership, some of whom were opposed to the Zionist movement on religious grounds.  Others were fearful that Herzl's message would anger the Turkish government.  Herzl met the Emperor later at his compound on November 2 and at the Mikveh Yisrael agricultural school.

Also absent was the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, Rabbi Chaim Yosef Zonnenfeld.  According to some accounts, Zonnenfeld believed that the German nation was the embodiment of Israel's Biblical arch-enemy Amalek, and he ruled that no blessing should be recited upon seeing an Amalekite king.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews in their Sabbath finery, standing along the
Emperor's parade route
 Another astonishing element of the picture is the finery worn by the Orthodox Jews lining the streets, including silk caftans and fur shtreimels.  Did they dress up for the German Emperor? 

Actually no, this is how they dressed on Shabbat. 

Yes, the German Emperor arrived on Saturday, and the Jewish community turned out for him and displayed their synagogue treasures in his honor.

View other postings and pictures related to the German Emperor's visit to Palestine in 1898.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Here's the Proof --
The American Colony Photographers Focused on Agricultural Prohibitions Found in the Bible

Original caption: "Threshing, Floor (illeg.)"
(Credit: George Eastman House, circa 1900)
Editor's note, Oct 30: upon reviewing the files in the Eastman collection, we would like to raise the possibility that the word "illeg." on the file could also be a shorthand for "illegible."

Earlier this year we posted this feature on agriculture in the Holy Land 100 years ago. We wondered why the photographs seemed to focus on Arab agriculture in Palestine, and we presented a theory that they were documenting Biblical prohibitions and violations.

We recently found this American Colony picture (top right) in the George Eastman House collection. Its caption notes the "illeg." nature of muzzling animals during threshing.  The theory is no longer theoretical.

The American Colony photographers were religious Christians and probably knew the Bible from beginning to end. 

"Thou shall not plow with an ox and an ass together."
לא תַחֲרֹשׁ בְּשׁוֹר וּבַחֲמֹר יַחְדָּו
Deuteronomy 20 (photocrome, circa 1890)

Some of their pictures reflected religious themes, such as women working in the field in the tradition of Ruth, or young shepherds near Bethlehem. 

Plowing with a cow and a camel (circa 1900)
 They also focused on one area of Biblical prohibitions -- the care of farm animals.  Many pictures portray mismatched animals pulling a plow, and one picture shows a muzzled cow threshing wheat.

"Thou shall not muzzle an ox in its threshing"
לֹא תַחְסֹם שׁוֹר בְּדִישׁוֹ
Deuteronomy 25 (circa 1900)


Plowing with a cow and and an ass
 (circa 1900) See also here

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Click on the captions to see the originals.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rachel's Tomb --
We Present a Special Album of Pictures to Commemorate the Death of the Matriarch Rachel about 3,600 Years Ago

Expanded version of a November 2011 posting. Updated with newly found pictures.

At least 100,000 Jews -- mostly women -- are expected to visit Rachel's Tomb later this week. The burial site, located between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, has been venerated by Jews for centuries. 

"And Rachel died, and was buried on the way to Efrat, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day."  Genesis 35:19-20 

"30 men ('3 minyans') from a Jerusalem old age home praying for
the well-being of friends and donors and other brethren from the
House of Israel in the Diaspora next to the gravestone of Mother
Rachel of blessed memory." (Stephanie Comfort -- Jewish
Postcard Collection)
Saturday, the 11th of Cheshvan in the Hebrew calendar, is traditionally observed as Rachel's yahrzeit -- anniversary of her death some 3,600 years ago.  Rachel's husband Jacob buried her on the side of the road, and according to the prophet Jeremiah, Rachel later wept as "her children" were exiled from the land of Israel.  Rachel is considered a special figure for prayers and entreaties.

In 1622 the Ottoman governor of Jerusalem permitted Jews to build walls and a dome over the grave.  [For historical background on Rachel's grave see Nadav Shragai.]
Rachel's Tomb (circa 1890-1900) (Credit: Library of Congress,
Detroit Publishing Co. photochrom color)

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

All photos are from the American Colony collection in the Library of Congress unless otherwise credited.
Visitors to Rachel's Tomb (circa 1910). Note the carriages in
the background and  Jewish pilgrims under the tree (see
enlargement below). (Oregon State University collection)

For several hundred years a local Bedouin tribe, the Ta'amra, and local Arabs demanded protection money from Jews going to Rachel's grave.  In the 18th and 19th century the Arabs built a cemetery around three sides of the shrine in the belief that the proximity of the deceased to the grave of a holy person -- even a Jew -- would bestow blessings on the deceased in the world to come.  Muslims even prepared bodies for burial at Rachel's grave.

In the 1830s, Jews received a firman [decree] from Ottoman authorities recognizing the Jewish character of the site and ordering a stop to the abuse of Jews there.  In 1841, Sir Moses Montefiore secured permission from the Ottoman authority to build an anteroom for Jewish worshippers.  During the 1929 Muslim attacks on the Jews of Palestine, the Muslim religious council, the Waqf, demanded the site.
Jewish pilgrim
in picture above

For 19 years of Jordanian rule on the West Bank (1948-1967), Rachel's Tomb was off limits to Jews.  After the 1967 war, Israel reclaimed control of the site.  In 1996 and during the Palestinian intifada in 2000-2001 Rachel's Tomb was the target of numerous attacks.  The Israeli army built walls to protect worshippers and their access to the site.
Rachel's Tomb 1895

Rachel's Tomb 1898

Rachel's tomb (circa late 19th century) by Adrien Bonfils,
son of pioneer photographer Félix Bonfils (Credit:
 George Eastman House collection)  See also here
Rachel's Tomb (1891) (credit: New
Boston Fine and Rare Books)

Students from Etz Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem praying inside
Rachel's Tomb (Circa early 20th Century)
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Rachel's Tomb (1908) (Credit: Omaha
 Public Library)

Students from the Gymnasia visiting Rachel's Tomb. Presumably, the school is
the Gymnasia HaIvrit Herzliya, the first Hebrew high school in Palestine, founded
in 1905. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons, circa early 20th Century)

Aerial photograph of Rachel's Tomb (1931)

 British (Scot) soldiers stopping Arab in
weapons search, Rachel's Tomb 1936 

In October 2010, UNESCO declared that the holy site was also the Bilal bin Rabah mosque and objected to Israeli "unilateral actions" at the shrine.  Bilal bin Rabah was Mohammed's Ethiopian slave and muzzein who died and was buried in Damascus.  The claim that the site was a mosque was first made in 1996.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Picture of al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem also Shows Grandeur of the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue -- Destroyed in 1948

Al-Aqsa colonnade and a structure on
the right
The Library of Congress archives lists this picture as "al-Aqsa," taken by the American Colony photographers sometime between 1898 and 1946. 

To be more exact it is the "Colonnade of Omar" located between the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of Rock, and it was probably taken in the early 1930s when the American Colony photographers focused their lenses on the rebuilding of the al-Aqsa after its partial destruction in the 1927 earthquake.

But we noticed something else in the picture, the prominent building on the hill to the right of the colonnade.

The building is the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue, also known as the Nissan Beck Synagogue, named for its founder.  A Hassidic synagogue in the Old City, it was located near the equally prominent Hurva Synagogue founded by students of the Vilna Gaon who differed with the Hassidic movement on many issues.
Enlargement of the Tiferet Yisrael synagogue
(circa 1930)
Two domes -- The Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue (left) and
the Hurva Synagogue (1900)
The same picture colorized. (George Eastman collection)

"View of the Old City from the Temple Mount
with the Jewish Quarter in distance." Note the
two synagogue domes (circa 1900)

The synagogues' size, architectural prominence and commanding view were not popular among Muslims in the Old City; even the color of domes was reportedly a target of complaints.

British (Scot) soldier guarding the Jewish Quarter
and the Tiferet Yisrael synagogue in 1948,
prior to the end of the British Mandate.
(Source: Life Magazine archives)
With the outbreak of the 1948 war, the synagogues were used as refuge for the Jewish residents of the Old City as well as military positions for the Jewish defenders.  When the Jewish Quarter surrendered to the Jordanian Legion the two synagogues were blown up.  The Jewish Quarter and its religious institutions were razed.

The destroyed Tiferet Yisrael synagogue and a Jordanian
soldier. (Source: Wikipedia, 1948)

After the Israel Defense Forces captured the Old City in 1967, the Jewish Quarter and the Hurva synagogue were rebuilt.  The Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue has yet to be rebuilt.

For more information on the Old City synagogues, click here and here for earlier photo essays.

Click on pictures to enlarge.  Click on the link below the picture to view the original.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

A Cave under the Temple Mount's Foundation Stone?
More Mysteries Documented in Ancient Pictures

Descent under the "great rock" on Mt. Moriah  (under the Dome of the Rock).
Woodcut in explorer Col Charles Wilson's book, Picturesque Palestine, Sinai
and Egypt. (1881, New York Public Library)
For centuries, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been the focus of worshippers, scholars and explorers.

But few archaeologists have explored history's secrets hidden in the caves, tunnels and cisterns beneath the Hiram el-Sharif -- controlled by the Muslim Waqf.
Interior of Mosque of Omar (Dome of the Rock) and the
Foundation Stone. (circa 1870, Bonfils, Library of Congress)
See also photo from American Colony Collection (circa 1900).
According to Jewish tradition the stone was the site for Abraham's
"binding of Isaac" and the location of the Temples' Holy of Holies.
Muslims believe it was from where Muhammad ascended to heaven.
The Israel Daily Picture site provided last week photos from the Library of Congress archives taken after a 1927 earthquake destroyed parts of the el-Aqsa mosque. 

We were very curious when we discovered additional photos in the American Colony and Felix Bonfils collections showing the entrance to a cave beneath the "foundation stone" (even hashtiya in Jewish tradition) on which the Jewish Temples and the Mosque of Omar* were built.

The Temple Institute in Jerusalem provided details on the cave:

Beneath the rock is a hewn cave [some claim the cave is natural] seven-by-seven meters wide. In the cave's ceiling is a hole approximately half-a-meter in diameter, a sort of chimney going up.
Entrance to the staircase to the cave beneath the Foundation
Stone (Bonfils, circa 1870). See also American Colony photo

"Solomon's Prayer Place" can be
seen in the above woodcut to
the left of the staircase
A feature in National Geographic suggested that the beneath the cave may be another chamber hiding the Ark of the Covenant: "Knocking on the floor of the cave under the Muslim Dome of the Rock shrine elicits a resounding hollow echo, [but] no one has ever seen this alleged chamber....Famed 19th-century British explorers Charles Wilson and Sir Charles Warren could neither prove nor disprove the existence of a hollow chamber below the cave. They believed the sound reportedly heard by visitors was simply an echo in a small fissure beneath the floor."
The cave under the Foundation Stone today (with permission
of Ron Peled, All About Jerusalem)

The American Colony photos include a picture taken in the cave captioned "Solomon's prayer place under rock of Mosque of Omar [i.e., Dome of the Rock]."  The prayer niche is more likely an ancient Muslim Mihrab pointing to Mecca.

*According to National Geographic, "the dome, called Qubbat as-Sakhrah in Arabic, is not a mosque. Rather, it is a shrine built over the rock."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What Is Behind the Mysterious Sealed Gates of Jerusalem's Old City?

"Hulda Gates" on the southern side of Jerusalem's Old City. The picture
shows the sealed "Triple Gate" (circa 1900)
This summer the Yisrael HaYom newspaper reported on archaeological artifacts found by a British scholar after part of the el-Aqsa mosque collapsed in the 1927 earthquake that struck Palestine.  Reporter Nadav Shragai revealed that items from the period of the Second Jewish Temple were found but that their publication was suppressed.

"Robert Hamilton, the director of the antiquities department during the Mandatory period in pre-state Israel, reach[ed] an agreement with the [Islamic] waqf that would allow archaeological investigation on the Temple Mount, for the first time ever, in the area where the mosque had collapsed."

Remnant of the sealed "Double Gate" of
"Hulda Gates." Above the gate's lintel are
stones from Hadrian's temple to Jupiter,
destroyed by Constantine in 400 CE and
re-used by the Arabs to build al-Aqsa.
One stone is an inscription stone honoring
Hadrian who crushed the Bar-Kochba
revolt in 135 CE and plowed over the
Temple Mount
"In the book that Hamilton later published, he makes no mention of any findings that the Muslims would have found inconvenient. It was no coincidence that these findings came from two historical periods that preceded the Muslim period in Jerusalem: the Second Temple era and the Byzantine era."

"Beneath the floor of Al-Aqsa mosque, which had collapsed in the earthquake, Hamilton discovered the remains of a Jewish mikveh [ritual pool used for purification] that dated back to the Second Temple era.  Apparently, Jews immersed in this mikveh before entering the Temple grounds."

Now we can understand other pictures in the Library of Congress collection

The collection includes two inexplicable pictures dated between 1920 and 1933 entitled "Ancient entrance to Temple beneath el-Aksa."  The pictures were taken on the other side of the Hulda Gates, one of the major entrances to the Temple by pilgrims coming from the vast Shiloah (Silwan) pool.  According to the Mishna, the gates were used for entering and exiting the Temple complex.

Clearly, the American Colony photographers entered the sacred area, like Hamilton, after the earthquake destroyed parts of the mosque in 1927 to take these rare photos.  Otherwise, the area would have been off-limits.

Original caption: "The Temple area. The Double Gate.
Ancient entrance to Temple beneath el Aqsa." Note the
staircase that apparently led to the surface and the
Temple plaza.

Original caption: "The Temple area. The Double Gate.
 Ancient entrance showing details of carving."

The Hulda Gates date back to King Herod's Second Temple period, perhaps even to Hasmonean times.  According to some commentaries, "Hulda" was a prophetess during the First Temple who apparently prophesized around the area where the gates were built (See Kings II, 22:14).

The Library of Congess collection also includes several pictures showing the extent of the damage to the al-Aqsa mosque in the earthquake.

Al Aqsa Mosque, partly under repair after the earthquake

Al Aqsa Mosque without roof, "open to wind
and weather" (circa 1934)