|Jewish men sitting on the ground at the "Wailing Wall" (circa|
1935). From the Library of Congress collection.
A version of this article appeared 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.
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)|
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.
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."