Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Purim Potpurri from Tiberias, Scotland, America...

What holiday is it? Original caption from the Torrance
collection:  "Rabbi Aboulafia blowing a shofar," but the
scroll the rabbi is holding is most certainly the Megillat
Esther read on Purim. The shofar is traditionally blown
on Rosh Hashanna. The Aboulafia family has been
associated with Tiberias for centuries.
The mirthful festival of Purim will be celebrated in the Jewish world on Sunday. Residents of Jerusalem celebrate "Shushan Purim" on Monday.

We present pictures we found in the Scottish Dundee University Medical Archives, including the mysterious picture of "Rabbi Aboulafia" blowing a shofar and holding what appears to be a Megillat Esther read on Purim.

What an unusual sight! Snow in Tiberias. (Torrence collection)

The Jews of Palestine used to celebrate heartily at the Purim Adloyada ["until they don't know"] festival and parade held in Tel Aviv in the 1920s and 30's. 

Some commentators make a crude comparison to Marde Gras partying, but the merriment is based on an ancient rabbinic tradition of Jews imbibing on Purim to the point where they do not know the difference between sobriety and drunkenness, between Mordechai and Haman -- but without losing their wits.
The American Colony's "Book Club"
(1898). Certainly not Purim-related,
but great costumes!

The Purim tale did not take place in Eretz Yisrael, but in Persia.  A villain named Haman arose and tried to destroy the Jewish people.  Through guile and disguise, Mordechai and Esther were able to thwart Haman's genocidal plans and save the Jewish people.  To this day there is a custom to dress up in disguises.

See last year's post -- Purim in the Holy Land: Tales of Disguise, Mirth and the Constant Threat of Haman

Click on pictures to enlarge. Click on captions to see original photos.

View Yaakov Gross' film of the Tel Aviv celebrations in the 1930s here: 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Flood that Almost Destroyed Tiberias,
A Scottish Medical Museum Gives Up Its Photo Secrets

A main street in Tiberius. The worst flood struck in 1934. This photo is dated
1938. (All pictures are from the University of Dundee's Unlocking the Medicine
Chest, Torrance collection)
The Galilee town of Tiberius has suffered hard times over its two millennia -- invading armies, plagues, and earthquakes.  Yet, it almost always remained a Jewish center for religious study where the Mishnah and the Jerusalem Talmud were compiled.

But in recent history, probably nothing has devastated Tiberius as much as flash floods, particularly a freak storm and flood that struck the town in May 1934, ostensibly after the Holy Land's rainy season.

Vehicles stuck in Tiberias flood (1938)
Five thousand residents were made homeless by the two days of flooding which led to mud and rock slides that cascaded down on the city, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency report at the time.  More than 30 people died.

Clean-up from 1926 flood
Also view the newsreel film of the flood below, from the Spielberg Archives at the Hebrew University. It was the first Hebrew language news film.

Click on pictures to enlarge and on captions to view the original photo.

The doctors of the Scots Mission Hospital documented the damage of several of the floods, and their photographs can be found in the University of Dundee medical archives.

Original caption: "Such a mess!"

The aftermath of a flood

Boy rescued from the mud at the Scots Mission Hospital

Not so lucky. Body of child pulled from
the mud. (Torrence collection, but the
photo was taken by G. Eric Matson of
the American Colony Photographic

"The Tiberias Catastrophe" (Spielberg Jewish Film Archives)

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.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Welcome to Tiberias, Home of David W. Torrance,
19th Century Doctor, Missionary, Photographer

Arab and Jewish patients waiting outside of the dispensary of the hospital (1886)
Torrence Collection, "Unlocking the Medicine Chest," University of Dundee
Open the digital files of the Scots Missionary Hospital of Tiberias in the University of Dundee medical archives. Skim past the gruesome clinical pictures of patients with anthrax, typhoid, amputations, and deformities.  And find the photographic treasures left behind by the father-son team, David Watt Torrance and Herbert Watt Torrance who ran the hospital along the shores of the Sea of Galilee from 1884 until 1959. 

See more on the Torrances here.

Original caption: "General view of the shore of Lake Galilee,
showing people washing clothes and cooking utensils and
drawing water at the same spot." (circa 1910)

The Torrance photos show the primitive conditions in Tiberias which was confined by Ottoman rulers to remain a small walled city until the early 20th century. The town was pillaged and destroyed by marauding armies over the centuries.  Earthquakes, plagues, and floods devastated the town. 

On the back of the picture of washing at the Sea of Galilee shore appears this notation: "No wonder there were outbreaks of cholera, enteric fever and such diseases! Father [Dr David Torrance] took the 'boilers' from the hospital wash-house into the town so that people could obtain boiled water."

"The old walls and castle of Tiberias" (1890)

Aerial photo of Tiberias, 1938,
showing expansion of the town

Future features:  The great Tiberias flood, and the Jews of Tiberias.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Click on captions to view the original photos.
Enter your email in the right sidebar box to receive Israel Daily Picture by email. It's free!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Funny, He Didn't Look Jewish
-- Readers Identify the "Rabbi" as a Samaritan Priest

The caption reads "Jew with a Torah."  Actually, the man is a
Samaritan priest and the scroll is the Samaritan bible. (Torrance
collection, Medical Archives, University of Dundee)
Several Israel Daily Picture readers responded immediately and identified the man in the picture.

Yoni wrote: "The 'Jew' with a Torah Scroll is in fact a Samaritan Cohen from Mt. Gerizim, above Shchem (Nablus). They have the 5 books of Moses (Torah) in similar casings as do Sephardi Jews, and therefore the confusion." 

[A similar response came from reader BLS.]

We present this picture to introduce a large collection of photographs from the Scottish University of Dundee's medical archives and database, entitled "Unlocking the Medicine Chest."  Amidst the historical medical records from many Scottish hospitals, clinics, infirmaries and universities is an entry Herbert Watt Torrance, Medical Missionary (1892-1977)

Dr. Herbert Torrance succeeded his father Dr. David Watt Torrance, a Scottish doctor and missionary, who established the Scots Missionary Hospital in Tiberias in the 1880s.  The two doctors were dedicated to treating the poor of the Galilee -- Christians, Muslim and Jews.  They also documented and photographed the diseases and injuries they encountered such as leprosy, anthrax, typhoid, and deformities, to name a few.

The collection also includes dozens of 100-year-old pictures of the elderly and poor Jews of Tiberias, early photographs of the town, and damage to Tiberias from natural calamities.  Watch for these pictures at in the next weeks.

Back to the Samaritans

Samaritan priest (American
In case anyone has doubts about the true identity of the Torrance's "Jew," view the pictures of Samaritan priests we have posted here in the past.  Note the turbans.
Samaritan priest (American Colony
Also note the scrolls' covering and handles. The scroll and chair in the Torrance picture actually provide the best proofs. Compare the shape, the arms, the metal tacks on the upholstery and compare it to the chair in this picture from a Samaritan synagogue.  They may be the same chair. 
Samaritan synagogue in Shchem
(Library of
Congress collection)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Future Feature:
Unlikely Library Archive Contains Rare Pictures from the Galilee

In the near future we hope to publish newly found antique photos and details of a collection of pictures we found in a European archive.  The pictures show another aspect of Jewish life in the Holy Land over 100 years ago.

Meanwhile, here's a tasty morsel from the collection, a picture taken almost 120 years ago.

The caption reads "Sea of Galilee [Scots] Mission Hospital. A peek at a corner of the Male Ward 1894." 

The picture shows care being given to Jewish and Arab patients. The orderly (?) on the right appears to be a religious Jew.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

In Tiberias, Who Is a Jew and Who Is Not?

The original caption in the American Colony collection read,
"A little Jewish boy patient in the Scots Mission Hospital, Tiberias."
BBC used the photo in a review of a hotel located in the former
 hospital building with the caption, "The hospital treated patients from
as far away as Damascus." No mention was made of the boy's faith.
According to the British Broadcasting Corp., this little boy is one of many patients who came to the Scottish Mission Hospital in Tiberias from "as far away as Damascus." 

Readers of Israel Daily Picture, however, may recognize the picture of a "little Jewish boy patient" from an earlier posting detailing with the massacre of 19 Jews in Tiberias on October 2, 1938 during the "Arab Revolt."  We postulated that the boy was a survivor of the massacre. Most of the victims were women and children.

Arab patient? The headscarf is of a style
typically worn by religious Jewish women
Especially after the BBC's deceptive caption, we have been reviewing other pictures from the Scots Mission Hospital. The hospital, part of the Scottish missionary efforts in Palestine, served Muslims, Christians and Jews. 

Looking and comparing headscarves, we believe that some of the pictures may be of Jewish women patients, especially these pictures captioned in the Library of Congress collection as "Arab patient with ailing daughter."  Other possible Jewish patients can be viewed here and here.

View below pictures of Muslim women patients in their traditional head garb.
Arab patient and her headscarf

Coming Attraction: Why Is this "Jew with a Torah" Scroll Not Jewish?

Future feature: In researching the Scots Hospital in Tiberias,
we discovered an archive of Galilee pictures in a most unusual
library. The caption reads "Jew with Torah," but our research
shows that he was not Jewish. Who was he?

Arab girl patients and their scarves

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Click on captions to view the original pictures.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Italian Hospital in Jerusalem
-- More than 90 Years Ago and Now

Italian hospital in Jerusalem (circa 1919). Note the horse-drawn
buggy on the left and the Hebrew sign on the shop on the far
right. It appears to read חלב לבן "White milk." Suggestions are
welcome. One reader suggested a more likely reading:
"Tea, milk, leben."
As the Ottoman Empire disintegrated in the late 19th century, many of the world powers pushed to strengthen their claims to parts of Palestine. 

Ottoman "capitulation" agreements had been signed with France already in 1500, conceding control over French citizens and religious institutions within the Ottoman Empire.

Hebrew on
the shop sign

International competition for regional hegemony was often the engine pushing missionary activity in Palestine.  It motivated Russia to establish the "Russian compound" for thousands of Russian Orthodox pilgrims, served as an impetus for the visit of the German emperor in 1898, and emerged as one of Great Britain's motives for its Sinai and Palestine campaigns against the Turks and Germans in World War I. 

USS North Carolina provided essential
aid to the Jews of Palestine in 1914
Even the United States was involved, bringing cash and assistance to the suffering Jewish community of Palestine.  In a classic example of "gunboat diplomacy," the USS North Carolina delivered $50,000 on October 6, 1914.  Such aid ceased when the United States entered World War I.

 Italy was determined not to be left out of the picture.  The cornerstone for the Italian hospital and church was laid in 1910, but work was interrupted by the 1912 war between Italy and the Ottomans and later by World War I.  After Britain captured Jerusalem in winter 1917 the Italians were able to continue their work on the Gothic, Middle Age-style structure.  It opened its doors in 1919 -- presumably when the American Colony photographers took this picture.
The Italian hospital, today the Israeli Ministry of Education and
Culture (credit: Google Maps/Street View)

With the outbreak of World War II, Italy and Britain were at war, and the hospital was taken over by the British Royal Air Force.  The building was badly damaged in the 1948 war for Israel's independence when it was shelled by Jordanian troops.

In 1963, the hospital was sold to Israel and was transformed into the Ministry of Education and Culture.  It is located on the corner of HaNiviim Street and Shivtei Yisrael Street between the Meah Shearim and Musrara neighborhoods.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

On "Superbowl Sunday" We Present "Football" from the Holy Land

Game at the YMCA in Jerusalem between the Greek airforce
and the "Y's" team (April 1942).  King George of Greece
attended the game and presented a cup to the winner. See here
American-style football with helmets and pads has only recently caught on in Israel.  But "football" in Israel after 1948 and in British Mandate Palestine prior to 1948 is "soccer."

Football match between the French and
British armies playing at the YMCA
before a "tensely interested" crowd.
 (March 1940)

In the 1930s soccer caught on in the Jewish community of Palestine with organized teams and soccer fields.  
The bleachers at the Jerusalem soccer
field.  See also here (circa 1935)

"Crowd of Orthodox Jews who arrived on the scene to force the
discontinuing of the Maccabee football game." (circa 1935)

In Jerusalem, however, the field was located near the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Meah Shearim, and games on the Sabbath led to disturbances, as documented by the American Colony Photographers' pictures and posted in an earlier feature.

During World War II the various military forces based in region -- British, French, Greek -- played on the Jerusalem YMCA field, also preserved in the pictures from the Library of Congress' collection.