Friday, June 28, 2013

A Photo Diary from Palestine, 1936,
by a Tour Guide, Writer, Diplomat ... and Spy

John Whiting prior to 1917
John David Whiting, born in 1888 in Jerusalem, grew up within the American Colony community the Old City. The Library of Congress records that he was a "tour guide, businessman, writer and photographer."  He served as American Vice-Consul of Jerusalem from 1908-1910 and from 1915-1917. 

Letter from Lawrence
to Whiting. Click
to enlarge

Fluent in Arabic, he was also a British intelligence agent. 

At the request of the Turkish leadership, Whiting photographed the terrible locust plague that struck Palestine in 1915, a task that allowed him to travel throughout the country on the eve of World War I.  A letter from British officer T. H. Lawrence  to "My dear Whiting" after the British capture of Jerusalem thanks Whiting for his activity in support of the
From Whiting's photo diary: "Orthodox Jews returning from
Western Wall first day of Passover, March 26, 1937."
The picture was taken inside the Jaffa Gate. One man
covered his eyes to avoid being photographed.
British, including providing hospital care for soldiers: "Thank you for all you and yours did for me, when I blew in with my Battalion that first evening looking for places to guard etc!!"

Around the same time Whiting was filming locusts in Palestine, an acclaimed Jewish agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn was traveling around the countryside doing his agricultural research.  Aaronsohn was the founder of the pro-British NILI spy network working against the Turks.  Historians have not found a link - yet - between the two men.

"Auto with brooms to sweep away tacks thrown by strikers."
In 1936 and 1937, Whiting traveled throughout the Middle East in Palestine, Transjordan, Lebanon and Syria. An album with 242 photos is in the Library of Congress archives, and several pictures from his "Diary" are reproduced here. 

Whiting's trip coincided with the "Arab Revolt," and some of the pictures reflect the conflict.

Searches "immediately after bomb throwing at
Spinney's market. Searching all passing through
Jaffa Gate breach" (1936). Also here

Packing a stone from Solomon's Quarries for shipment
to the United States (1937)

Aftermath of flood in Syria, 1937.  Mouaddamiyeh.
Covered corpse, and searching for more.

Jewish residents "Playing ball, Tel Aviv sands," March 1937

"Tel Aviv. December 1936. Modern grocery shop (Feast
of Lights decorations)"

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