Friday, September 20, 2013

Celebrating Sukkot in Jerusalem 100 Years Ago
Re-posting a previous feature

Bukharan family in their sukka (circa 1900). Note the man on the right holding the citron and palm branch.
(Library of Congress collection)  Compare this sukka to one photographed in Samarkand 40 years earlier
As soon as the Yom Kippur fast day is over many Jews start preparations for the Sukkot (Tabernacles) holiday.  It usually involves building a sukka, a temporary structure -- sometimes just a hut -- with a thatched roof, in which Jews eat and often sleep during the seven day holiday.

Ashkenazi family (circa 1900) in the sukka
beneath the chandelier and picures
The photographers of the American Colony Photographic Department took photos of sukkot structures over a 40 year period, preserving pictures of Bukharan, Yemenite and Ashkenazi sukkot. 

Several photographs include the Jewish celebrants holding four species of plants traditionally held during prayers on the Sukkot holiday --  a citron fruit and willow, myrtle and palm branches.

Even though the sukka is a temporary structure, some families moved their furniture and finery into the sukka, as is evident in some of the pictures.

Portrait of the Bukhari family in the Sukka (1900)
Bukhari Jews, shown in pictures from around 1900, were part of an ancient community from what is today the Central Asian country Uzbekistan. They started moving to the Holy Land in the mid-1800s. 

A Yemenite Jew named Yehia
holding the 4 species in the sukka

Yehia, the Yemenite Jew pictured here, was almost certainly part of a large migration of Jews who arrived in Jerusalem in the 1880s, well before the famous "Magic Carpet" operation that brought tens of thousands to the new state of Israel during 1949 and 1950.

A more elaborate sukka in the Goldsmidt house (1934)
in Jerusalem.  Note the tapestry on the walls
with Arabic script

The Bassam family sukka in Rehavia, Jerusalem
neighborhood (1939)

Exterior of the Goldsmidt sukka in Jerusalem (1934)

A Sephardi Jew named Avram relaxing in
his Sukka with a friend (1939)

The picture of an elaborate dinner was taken in a very large Jerusalem sukka belonging to the Goldsmidt family. Tapestries and fabrics hang on the wall of the sukka.  Close examination shows that the fabric contains Arabic words, even some hung upside down.  Several experts were asked this week to comment on the Arabic.  One senior Israeli Arab affairs correspondent wrote, "It is apparently some quotes that I can read but do not amount to anything coherent, written in Kufi style of Arabic... [I] would not be surprised if these are Kuranic verses."

Presumably the Goldsmidts and their guests didn't know about the Arabic phrases either. 

A reader helped identify the Goldsmidts' building.   "The Goldsmidts were friends of ours who lived on Ben-Maimon Street [in Jerusalem]. They had a restaurant [and that explains the diners in the sukka].  Our wedding reception was there.  There's a plaque on 54 King George Street that says "Goldsmidt Building." 
We invite readers to unravel the mystery of the tapestries, translate the phrases,  and provide a contemporary picture of the Goldsmidts' building.
Click on the photos to enlarge.  Click on the captions to see the originals.

No comments:

Post a Comment