Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Jews of Tiberias Revealed in 100-Year Old "Medical" Photos

"Poor Jewish women leaving the hospital after the feast which was given them"
Christmas, 1924. (Torrence Collection, "Unlocking the Medicine
Chest," University of Dundee)
In our virtual expedition into the medical archives of the Scottish University of Dundee we continue to explore pictures of life in Tiberias, the location of the Scots Mission Hospital established in the 1880s.

Amidst the pictures of medical cases photographed by Doctors David Watt Torrance and his son Herbert, the hospital's directors, are pictures of the Jews and Arabs of Tiberias. View an 1886 picture of patients here.

All the pictures presented are from the Torrance collection.

Orthodox Jews in Tiberias (1927)
David Torrance arrived in a very poor, economic backwater town in the 1880s.  Under Ottoman rule, Tiberias had little in the way of employment opportunities or basic hygienic infrastructure.

Tiberias was nonetheless a center of Jewish life over the centuries, particularly after the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans.  It emerged as one of Judaism's holy cities after Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed. Rabbis of the Talmud and Maimonides are buried in Tiberias. And over the last few centuries pious Jewish families and scholars made it their home.

Elderly Jewish couple from Safed (1930)

Click on pictures to enlarge.
Click on captions to view the original pictures.
Hats and Faces: "The Jew on left belongs to Ashkenazi group (from Germany,  Russia, Poland etc.) and speaks Yiddish; the other two are Sephardic Jews (Spanish and Portuguese) and speak Arabic and a Spanish patois [Ladino]." (circa 1940)

Orthodox couple from Tiberias with the Torrances (1925)
Original caption: "Orthodox Jew wearing phylacterus and
reading from scroll" (circa 1930). See also here

"Orthodox boy on the way to synagogue with talit"
(circa 1930)

From a Scot Mission Hospital fundraising
brochure (circa 1930)

Note from Israel Daily Picture's publisher:  Some Jewish readers may object to our publishing photos from the Scots Mission because of its proselytizing activity.  We do not get into religious issues.  We are thankful for the photographs of Palestine taken by Christian photographers, pictures that establish without any doubt many aspects of Jewish life in the Holy Land 150 years ago.  Indeed, we suspect that some of their pictures have not been given the attention warranted precisely because Jewish scholars may have chosen to avoid the works of these photographers or because Middle East scholars chose to overlook pictures of Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.


  1. Orthodox Jew wearing phylacterus and
    reading from scroll is fake as they dont wear the fur hats on days they wear phylacterus

  2. And the boxes are supposed to be on the Bicep not the elbow