Thursday, May 30, 2013

Major Update/Correction Coming --
Mystery Picture of Jerusalem's Old Train Station Gets Nailed

Arrival ceremony at the train station. But when was the
picture taken?  Between "1898 and 1946."
Earlier this week we presented a feature on the "New Old Train Station in Jerusalem," and we published this photo of an arrival ceremony at the station.  

Several clues led us to conclude the soldiers were British Royal Fusiliers and that the picture was taken between 1920 and 1936.

Acting commissioner  Mark Aitchison Young

Young (Wikipedia)

Now, veteran Israeli tour guide Zvi Bessin has nailed the picture: It was taken on November 20, 1931, when acting British High Commissioner Sir Mark Aitchison Young received the new commissioner, Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope.  

The day was Friday, and the shadows suggest evening was approaching.  The clock which appears to show 9:30 may, in fact, not be working. By our reckoning, the soldiers were facing east, the dignitaries facing west.  The setting sun was shining on the dignitaries' faces. The lateness of the day and the approach of the Sabbath may explain why Jewish leadership was absent from the station ceremony.

Young served only 20 days until his successor arrived. Wauchope served as high commissioner until 1937.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Journal Article Abstract: The Zionist Message Hidden within Antique Pictures of the Holy Land
By Lenny Ben-David

Abstract reprinted from the Jewish Political Studies Review, May 1, 2013

A 110-year-old trove of pictures taken by the Christian photographers of the American Colony in Jerusalem provides dramatic proof of thriving Jewish communities in Palestine.

Hundreds of pictures show the ancient Jewish community of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Jewish pioneers and builders of new towns and settlements in the Galilee and along the Mediterranean coastline. The American Colony photographers recorded Jewish holy sites, holiday scenes and customs, and they had a special reason for focusing their lenses on Yemenite Jews.

The collection, housed in the U.S. Library of Congress, also contains photographs from the 1860s, the first years of photography. These photographs provide a window rarely opened by historians—for several unfortunate reasons—to view the life of the Jews in the Holy Land. The photographs’ display and online publication effectively counters the biased narrative claiming that the Jewish state violently emerged ex novo in the mid-twentieth century.

Read the full article and view the photographs here.

The New Old Train Station in Jerusalem

Welcoming party at the Jerusalem train station (Library of Congress, date given as 1898-1946)
A new cultural and entertainment center just opened in Jerusalem and it's called the "First Station."  With a farmers' market, restaurants, crafts stores and a children's play center, the First Station promises to be a busy hub for Jerusalem activity. 

Just like it was when it first opened in 1892, more than 120 years ago, when the first train from Jaffa pulled into Jerusalem's new train station.

Open seven days a week, the new attraction presents a different fair every day.  View the First Station's website here.

The Jerusalem train station has been a frequent feature of the Israel Daily Picture, with pictures of the arrival of the German emperor in 1898 and the transfer of a high-ranking British prisoner of war, Col. Coventry in 1916, captured in Sinai during World War I.  

British POW Col. Coventry driven from railroad station
by Turkish army (1916)
The German emperor arrives (1898)

Railroad station (circa 1910)

Another view of station (1900)

The mystery picture above of a dignitary's arrival is dated by the Library of Congress as between 1898 and 1946, the years the American Colony photographers were active in Palestine.  But numerous clues helps to pin down the dates.

Enlarged poster
Why is an antelope among the soldiers?
The railroad to Jerusalem was halted during World War I and not reopened until October 1920, so the arrival ceremony with a British honor guard could not have taken place before that date.

Posters on the station wall advertise the White Star Cruise Line that ceased operation in 1936 when it was taken over by the Cunard Line.  We can date the picture between 1920 and 1936.

There's also one more curious feature seen when the photo is enlarged. Among the rifles and bayonets on the right of the photo appear two animal horns sticking up.  The decorated horns belong to "Bobby," an antelope, the regimental mascot of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

According to the Fusiliers Association of Great Britain, "The mascot was looked after by two handlers chosen from the battalion, they would make sure that he was fed and watered and exercised. When on parade they kept him under control by means of two white ropes attached to his collar which was also white, and was emblazoned with a large silver badge. On his back he wore a coat of royal blue, embroidered with the regimental crest, and his horns were tipped with silver cones."

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Tailor Shop for Yemenite Jewish Embroidery
Another Gem from the "Cigarbox Collection"

Embroidering and sewing in a shop for Yemenite Jewish-style clothes
(circa 1922, Cigarbox Collection, Keren HaYesod)

Fifty thousand Yemenite Jews were secretly airlifted to the new state of Israel in 1949-1950 in order to escape anti-Jewish pogroms that were erupting across the Arab world.

The emergency campaign, called Operation Magic Carpet or Operation On Eagles' Wings, would be repeated decades later to rescue Ethiopian Jewry in the 1984 Operation Moses and the 1991 Operation Solomon when Israel flew thousands of Jews out of Ethiopia and Sudan then plagued by famine and civil war.

Neither the Yemenites nor the Ethiopians were motivated by modern political Zionism as founded by Theodore Herzl.  They were fervent believers in the ancient Jewish messianic dream of returning to the Land  of Israel.  From Gondar in northern Ethiopia and the ancient mountain town of Sana'a in Yemen they were determined to reach Eretz Yisrael, sometimes traveling by foot.

"Arab Jew from Yemen" (original caption, Library
of Congress)

Yemenite Jew probably from Haban (Library of Congress)

Such a group of Yemenite Jews arrived in Jerusalem in 1882, and their story and photographs appear here and here.  Many were fed and sheltered by the members of the American Colony of Jerusalem.

Yemenite embroidery on talit (Esther Zeitz)
The picture above of the Yemenite embroidery and tailor shop from Otti Seidon's Cigarbox Collection  was taken well before the large airlift of Yemenite Jews.  These are the children of the olim.  Note the men, including the hookah smoker, working on the embroidery which is not unlike the silver and gold filigree Yemenite Jewish jewelers were famous for.

In the 1950s and 60s, cottage industries were set up for Yemenite embroiderers, and their wares were sold by Ruth Dayan's Maskit fashion house, WIZO's women's organization, and a legendary Jerusalem shopkeeper named Esther Zeitz who employed young blind women to embroider.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mystery Picture -- Where Was This Picture Taken?
A Satellite Photo Helped Find the Location

Is this Kibbutz Tel Yosef? Photo from the "Cigarbox Collection" of Dr.Othniel Seidon 

The composition of this photo is striking -- a new Jewish settlement at the foot of a mountain ridge and at the bottom of a gorge.  On the back someone wrote "Tel Yosef 1921," apparently the year, the only date found on a photo in the Seidon collection.  The kibbutz was named after Yosef Trumpeldor, a Jewish Zionist hero who died defending the Tel Hai settlement in 1920.

The photo is an enigma.  Tel Yosef is located in the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel, not located at the base of mountain.  Research into Tel Yosef's history uncovered that the kibbutz was located a few kilometers away in its first years, and was located where Kibbutz Ein Harod is located today.  But it too was not at the foot of a mountain.
Beit Alpha at the foot of the Gilboa Mountains. Note the
gorge (Google Earth)

Modern technology helped us locate the chalutzim's (pioneers) settlement 90 years ago. 

A Google Earth search of the Jezreel-Gilboa area quickly found a possible location of the mystery picture -- the Kibbutz of Beit Alpha. The settlement at the foot of the mountain and the gorge appear identical.

We checked Beit Alpha's history and photo archives and confirmed that the Cigar Collection photo was Beit Alpha and not Tel Yosef.  The picture below shows the same tents and buildings.

From Beit Alpha's archives. Note the same tents and cabins as the photo on top

Friday, May 17, 2013

Introducing the "Cigarbox Collection" --
Donated by Dr. Othniel Seiden of Denver --
An Heirloom from his Father, Dr. Rudolph Avraham Seiden

The pictures inside
The cigarbox
A version of this article appeared in The Jerusalem Post Magazine on May 17.

By Lenny Ben-David

The antique wood cigarbox was beautifully crafted, bound like a book and entitled "Gourmet's Delight" and "Grown in California." Opening the box in Efrat, Israel, I discovered it was filled with a stack of pictures from Palestine 90-100 years ago.  Almost simultaneously I received an email from a doctor in Denver which began, "I am delighted that the pictures have found a new home!"

Grave of Maimonides (Rambam) in Tiberias (circa 1920). A version of this picture also appears in the Harvard
Library archives attributed to the Central Zionist Archives

When I discovered 22,000 newly digitalized antique pictures of Eretz Yisrael in the Library of Congress archives two years ago, I immediately recognized the pictures' hasbara value. The photos showed Jewish life in the land 150 years ago, well before Herzl and the establishment of the State of Israel.  

Metal worker making collection boxes for the
Jewish National Fund (Seidon collection)
A modern day JNF box
But many of the pictures were not captioned nor were the dates or locations always correct.  I began a painstaking process of research and enlarging photos to identify places, people and the chronological sequences. My analyses became essays which now total more than 300 photo analyses in the Israel Daily Picture blogsite.  The site has attracted some 800,000 visitors, and the Library of Congress has used some of these analyses to correct its captions. 

Many of the photo essays appeared in The Jerusalem Post Magazine, and I’m in discussions with a publisher about a book.   

Math lesson in Machane Yehuda (the shuk area of
Jerusalem). The drill: if a worker earns 17.5 Eretz
Yisrael pounds a day, how much would he receive
for six days?

The Library of Congress archives' largest collection came from the American Colony Photographic Department in Jerusalem. Other pictures on the site were taken by some of the first pioneers of photography in the 1850s and 1860s.  I have also published essays based on the photos (only after securing permission) from the archives of Harvard, the New York Public Library, and a Scottish medical school archives that contained antique pictures of the Jews of Tiberias amidst anatomical photographs of limbs, operations, and disease. 

The Cigarbox Collection 

Arab village of Kalkilya. The small structure (right) is
apparently a well with a woman standing with a
jug on her head
Dr. Othniel Seiden of Denver is a fan of  the Israel Daily Picture and offered his exceptional collection. A friend from Efrat was going to Denver and served as courier.  I was very grateful, but asked one more favor from Dr. Seiden -- that he tell the story behind the collection.  His recollection follows: 

My father, Dr. Rudolph Avraham Seiden, was born in 1900 and was first involved in Palestine through a Zionist organization in Vienna called Die Blau Weiss or the "Blue White."  As a teen, sometime around 1919, he started smuggling Jews out of Eastern Europe into Palestine through Blau Weiss.  At that time, a whole family could travel to Palestine on a family visa.  The organization established a front travel agency and hired a Greek ship in order to put together strangers as families and
Matzah factory in Haifa. Sign on the wall on the right reads
"No spitting, No smoking."  Sign on the left reads "For the
mitzvah of matzah" so that workers devote themselves to
the making of matzah
arranged tours to Palestine for these "large family groups."  When the tourists got to Palestine they "disappeared," and their return tickets were sold to people wanting to go to Europe from Palestine. 

My father's intent was to move our family to Palestine, and in the mid-1920s he went there to check things out.  He was the first chemist to take minerals out of the Dead Sea, and it was his intent to set up a factory to do that.  Unfortunately he contracted malaria and had to go back to Vienna.  

Workshop for making wagon wheels in the Mikve Yisrael agricultural school
He still longed to move us all to Palestine, and in the late 1920s my mother's family, the Abileahs, moved there. In the meantime, he worked in Vienna and held the first patent on tempered glass.
When Hitler came to power and the Austrian Nazi Party gained status, my father suddenly couldn't publish anymore and saw the writing on the wall.  In 1934, when we were planning our move, my mother's family said that life in Palestine was very difficult, and if we had a chance to go to the U.S. we should do it.  In 1935 we moved to the U.S.  Many of the Abileahs are still in Israel. [Othniel's uncle Beni Abileah was a well-known Israeli diplomat.] 

The children of Nahalal (circa 1925)

In 1980,  I started an organization called "Doctors To The World" which took medical personnel to various areas in the world to do volunteer work in needy areas.  We sent dentists into villages in Israel to serve mostly Israeli Arabs and anyone else needing help.  That was when I took out Israeli citizenship so I could get
a medical license in Israel.

Bedouin Arab family near Lake Hula and their reed huts
My father took only some of the photos.  Many were either post cards or some other stock photos.  Those that had an imprint on the back [some are stamped "Keren Hayesod Photo] I assume is that of the developing and processing individual. 

When I asked for formal permission to publish the photos, Dr. Seiden responded:  I give you full permission to use the photos I sent you in any way you feel fit, for educational purposes, or to lend and permit to be used by other media and organizations that will use them for educational or historical purposes.   

Thank you Dr. Seiden.  Yes, I should name it the “Seiden Collection,” but I will always consider them the “Cigarbox Pictures.”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Shavuot Holiday, Celebrating the Giving of the Torah

Torah scrolls in the ark of the Istanbouli Synagogue in the Old City
of Jerusalem (circa 1930), "one of the oldest synagogues
in Jerusalem."  The synagogues in the Old City were all
destroyed after the Jewish Quarter was captured in 1948.
(Library of Congress)
Jews around the world commemorate the holiday of Shavuot this week, the day on which tradition says the Torah was given to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai.

The Torah -- also known as the Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses -- has been the foundation of the Jewish faith for 3,000 years, the basis for the monotheistic Christian and Islamic religions, and an inspiration for spiritual, moral and ethical values.

A Yemenite Jewish scribe and his
father, Shlomo Washadi (c 1935)

Samaritan high priest with
his sons and Pentateuch
scroll (c 1911)
The Torah scrolls are handwritten with quills by God-fearing scribes on the parchment made of the skins of kosher animals. One skipped or illegible letter of the 304,805 letters of the Torah makes the scroll invalid for reading in the synagogue service.  A Torah damaged beyond repair is buried.

Doctors Herbert and David Torrance of the Scottish Mission hospital in Tiberias and the photographers of the American Colony
Photographic Department took several portraits of Jews and their Torah scrolls.  They were also clearly fascinated by the scrolls and practice of the Samaritans, an ancient offshoot of Judaism who are not considered Jewish today.

Jewish rabbi or Samaritan priest with scroll 
The Dundee Medical School archives in Scotland contains many anatomical pictures taken by the Torrances, but also fascinating pictures of the Galilee Jewish community.  We published one photo captioned "Rabbi and Torah scroll."  After we identified the picture as a Samaritan, the archives corrected their caption to "a Samaritan leader with his sect’s scroll."
A desecrated synagogue in Hebron
with Torahs strewn on the floor (1929)

The Library of Congress archives also include pictures of the Hebron Jewish community after they were decimated in a pogrom by Arab attackers.  Among the photos are pictures of a destroyed synagogue and its Torah scrolls.

Enlargement of the scrolls on the floor

In Honor of the Jewish Holiday Shavuot, We Re-post --
The Book of Ruth Comes Alive
in Antique Photos Taken 100 Years Ago

"Ruth the Moabitess"
The Jewish holiday of Shavuot-Pentecost will be celebrated this week.  The holiday has several traditional names: Shavuot, the festival of weeks, marking seven weeks after Passover; Chag HaKatzir, the festival of reaping grains; and Chag HaBikkurim, the festival of first fruits.  Shavuot, according to Jewish tradition, is the day the Children of Israel accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai.  It is also believed to be the day of King David's birth and death.
Ruth said, "Do not entreat me to
leave you, to return from following
you, for wherever you go, I will go...
Your people shall be my people, your
God my God"

The reading of the Book of Ruth is one of the traditions of the holiday.  Ruth, a Moabite and widow of a Jewish man (and a princess according to commentators), gave up her life in Moab to join her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, in the Land of Israel.  She insisted on adopting Naomi's God, Torah and religion.

And Naomi and Ruth both went on
until they arrived at Bethlehem
A central element of the story of Ruth is her going to the fields where barley and wheat were being harvested so that she could collect charitable handouts.  She gleans in the fields of Boaz, a judge and a relative of Ruth's dead husband (as such he has a levirate obligation to marry the widow).  The union results in a child, Obed, the grandfather of King David. 

Ruth came to a field that belonged
to Boaz who was of the family of
Naomi's deceased husband

Boaz said to his servant, who stood
over the reapers, "To whom does
this maiden belong?"
The members of the American Colony were religious Christians who established their community in the Holy Land.  They were steeped in the Bible and photographed countryside scenes that referred to biblical incidents and prohibitions.

Boaz said to Ruth, "Do not go to
glean in another you shall
stay with my maidens"

Boaz said to her at mealtime, "Come
here and partake of the bread..." He
ordered his servants "Pretend to 
forget some of the bundles for her." 
We present a few of the dozens of "Ruth" photographs found in the Library of Congress' American Colony collection.

Ruth carried it to the city and Naomi
saw what she had gleaned
Ruth came to the threshing floor and
Boaz said, "Ready the shawl you are
wearing and hold it," and she held
it, and he measured out six measures
of barley....
A major effort was made by the photographers to re-enact the story of Ruth.  "Ruth," we believe, was a young member of the American Colony community; the remaining "cast" were villagers from the Bethlehem area who were actually harvesting, threshing and winnowing their crops.  We have matched the pictures with corresponding verses from the Book of Ruth.

See more of the pictures here.

Unfortunately, we don't know when the "Ruth and Boaz series" was photographed, but we estimate approximately 100 years ago.

Click on the pictures to enlarge, click on the caption to view the original. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"The Zionist Message Hidden within Antique Pictures of the Holy Land" -- Published by Jewish Political Studies Review

Jerusalem's Old City
The journal article by Lenny Ben-David, the publisher of Israel Daily Picture, is based on the pictures of the Library of Congress archives and the American Colony photographers.

The Jewish Political Studies Review article discusses the importance of historical photographs for the study of Jewish life in the Holy Land in the 19th and 20th centuries.  The following is the introduction to the article:

Harvesting at Jewish settlement

A 110-year-old trove of pictures taken by the Christian photographers of the American Colony in Jerusalem provides dramatic proof of thriving Jewish communities in Palestine. Hundreds of pictures show the ancient Jewish community of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Jewish pioneers and builders of new towns and settlements in the Galilee and along the Mediterranean coastline. The American Colony photographers recorded Jewish holy sites, holiday scenes and customs, and they had a special reason for focusing their lenses on Yemenite Jews.  
Yemenite Jew

Students in Mikve Yisrael
agricultural school
The collection, housed in the U.S. Library of  Congress, also contains photographs from the 1860s, the first years of photography. 

These photographs provide a window rarely opened by historians—for several unfortunate reasons—to view the life of the Jews in the Holy Land. The photographs’ display and online publication effectively counter the biased narrative claiming that the Jewish state violently emerged
ex novo in the mid-twentieth century. 

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Opening the cigarbox

From the "Cigarbox Collection"

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Cigarbox Collection" and reveal details on the donor.

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