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)"

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What Is Your Favorite Photo Essay?
Here Are Ours

With more than 300 photo essays published, and in preparation for a book, we would like to know which are your favorite photos and essays.  

Write your favorites in the comment section below

Here are some of our favorites over the last two years:
Rabbi Kook

* Rabbi Kook, Chief Rabbi of Palestine, meets President Coolidge in the White House in 1924.

The Emperor arrives
* The Jews of Jerusalem welcome the German Emperor in 1898.

Expulsion 1929
* The expulsion of the Jews of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1929, 1936, and 1948.

First pictures of the Kotel
* The first pictures of the Western Wall in the 1850s.

German General
* The German general who saved the Jews of Palestine from massacre in 1917.

Surrender of Jerusalem
* The surrender of Jerusalem to British sergeants in World War I.

Enter your favorite photo essay in the comment section below

Why are these children marching?

* The mysterious picture of Jewish children marching - where, why, and when?

Rachel's Tomb
* First photographs of Rachel's Tomb, Tomb of the Patriarchs and Tomb of Joseph.

From Jew to Christian preacher

* The first Jewish photographer in Jerusalem. Why did he and his photographs disappear?

Contents of the Cigarbox

* The "Cigarbox collection" of photos returns to the Land of Israel.

Australian light cavalry

* The Australians capture Be'er Sheva in 1917.

Old Yemenite Jew

* The arrival of Yemenite Jews in the 1800s-- "The Gadites"

Under Al Aqsa mosque
* The secret photos taken under the Temple Mt in Jerusalem.

Jaffa Gate

* The gates of Jerusalem's Old City.

Hebron synagogue

* Photos after the 1929 massacre in Hebron.

Doctor and elderly Jews
* The Christian doctor in Tiberias who treated and photographed Jewish patients.

Yemin Moshe
* The first Jewish communities outside of Jerusalem, and the new Jewish settlements in the Galilee.

Jerusalem child

* The little children of the Land of Israel.

"Ruth" 100 years ago
* The Book of Ruth Re-enacted.

Enter your favorite photo essay in the comment section below

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Friday, June 14, 2013

A Note from the Owner of the "Cigarbox Collection"

The "Cigarbox Collection"
We will continue to scan and publish more photographs from the incredible collection we call the "Cigarbox Collection. " The pictures were taken and collected by the Austrian chemist Dr. Rudolph Avraham Seiden some 90 years ago.

His son, Dr. Othniel Seiden, sent us the collection for study and publication.

This week we received a letter from Dr. Othniel Seidon: 

I'm delighted beyond words with what you have done with my father's "Cigar Box Photos."  The quality of reproduction and the research you have put into them is far beyond my expectations.  Thank you for giving them such a wonderful home so they won't just be lost.  -- Othniel Seiden.

Dr. Seiden, we thank you, and we're honored to give tribute to you and your father who was a "Blue & White" pioneer, helping Jews reach the Land of Israel.

This Boy Was No Millionaire -- A Correction

Math lesson in Machane Yehuda (Cigarbox
Last month we unveiled the "Cigarbox Collection" of Dr. Othniel Seidon.  We introduced the picture of the barefoot Orthodox boy from the Machane Yehuda neighborhood in Jerusalem. 

Our original caption read: "The drill -- if a worker earns 17.5 Eretz Yisrael pounds a day, how much would he earn for six days?"

In a letter to the editor of the Jerusalem Post Magazine where this feature also appeared, David Amini pointed out that the "math lesson is actually talking about grushim (see the gimmel) instead of lirot.  If the worker had earned 105 lirot a week in those days, he would retire after a year.  He is really earning only 105 grushim a week, which is the equivalent of 1.05 pounds.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Mystery Picture: Was This a Factory in Lodz Poland?
No, It Was in Tel Aviv, Palestine in the 1920s

A Lodz factory? That's what the caption on the back suggested (Cigarbox Collection, Keren Hayesod, circa 1925)

The article below reflects corrections suggested by "Anonymous" in the comments below.

Some of the pictures in the "Cigarbox Collection" have captions written on the back. They're written in pencil in German, and some are badly faded.  But it's possible to read "factory, Lodz" on the back on the picture above.

The collection contains one picture from Lebanon and another from Damascus, but why would there be a photo from Poland in the middle of the the pictures from the Land of Israel?

Laying the cornerstone for the expansion of Lodzia, 1929.
(Eliasaf Robinson Tel Aviv Collection, Stanford University)
Research revealed that the factory was in Palestine, and the workers were Jewish refugees from Lodz. The textile factory was named "Lodzia" and was first located in Tel Aviv, then Holon.  The picture above was taken in the "Red House," so named because of the red brick used in its construction.

The Red House before its renovation, 2010
(Judy Weiss, Tchochkes)

The factory in Holon was the subject for a series of photographs taken in 1939 by the American Colony Photographic Department archived in the U.S. Library of Congress.

The entrance to the factory (Library of
Congress, 1939)

Finishing socks and stockings (Library of Congress)

Stocking "cotton" room (Library of Congress)
Ironing stockings (Library of Congress)

The factory floor served as a poster gallery during renovations. Compare the picture to the opening picture
above and note the pillars, arches and windows.  (Judy Weiss, Tchochkes)
Lodzia texiles merged with the Gibor Sabrina firm and still produces undergarments which it sells through a chain of stores.  Most manufacturing, however, is done in a subsidiary in Romania or by subcontractors in China, India, Jordan and Turkey. Annual sales surpass $60 million.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Jewelry-Making in the Holy Land: A Wise Profession for a Peripatetic People

Assembling rings (circa 1925, Cigarbox collection)
Jewels were always the currency of travelers.  Gemstones were more reliable than currency and lighter than gold bullion. Even today, some investors are smitten with a "refugee mentality," financial experts recently told The Wall Street Journal. "If the world gets a computer virus," one explained, "and suddenly you need to move $10 million in 48 hours, gold will set off metal detectors and too much cash gets cumbersome, but you slip on a $5 million ring and a $5 million necklace and you've got no problems."

Tragically, that scenario repeated itself  throughout Jewish history.  According to some accounts, prior to the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 a rumor spread that many Jews swallowed diamonds and gold in order to take their wealth with them. Thieves killed many and sliced open their stomachs in their search for treasure.  The Holocaust is fraught with tales of Jews attempting to use gems to buy their escape. 

Diamond polishing (1930, Library
 of Congress)
Diamond cutting on lathes (1939, Library of Congress)

Inspecting diamonds (1939,
Library of Congress)

Since the 15th century, diamond cutting was a traditional Jewish craft, Wikipedia reports. That's when a Jewish diamond cutter in Belgium invented the scaif, an essential tool for polishing.  The first diamond polishing plant was opened in a Jewish town in Eretz Yisrael by Dutch refugee experts. By 1944 the industry employed 3,300 workers in 33 factories in Palestine.

Today, Israel is one of the world centers for preparation and sale of diamonds.

Today's posting is dedicated to Stella and Jordan -- Happy Anniversary and many, many more 

and to Keren B, the jewelry maker and designer

Thursday, June 6, 2013

In Memory of Robert F. Kennedy on the 45th Anniversary of his Assassination

Robert F. Kennedy 

Nov. 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968

We leave our regular historical features to pay tribute to Robert Kennedy who was murdered on this day in 1968.  

Several special features about Kennedy make this posting very appropriate for this site today:

1. Kennedy visited the Holy Land prior to Israel's establishment as a young newspaper correspondent and described Israel's armed struggle and economic development.

2. Several historic photographs of Kennedy's 1948 visit to Palestine were provided by the Kennedy family.
Kennedy "firing a slingshot" outside of the King David Hotel in
Jerusalem, March 1948 (from the Kennedy family)

3. Kennedy, as a young college graduate, wrote several feature articles for The Boston Post on his visit.  The newspaper went out of business in 1956 and for many years the articles were virtually lost.  

Several years ago, The Israel Daily Picture's
Kennedy on King David Street, north of the hotel. Note the
armored British vehicle and British checkpoint behind him
publisher, Lenny Ben-David, found the articles, published them, and posted them on the "Robert Kennedy and Israel" website.   

Read the full-length articles by RFK here

4. Kennedy's family points out that he was murdered by a
Bobby Kennedy deplaning from a RAF plane at Lod airport
Palestinian Arab terrorist, Sirhan Sirhan, who was angry about Kennedy's strong support for Israel.  The assassination took place on the first anniversary of Israel's victory in the Six Day War, and the timing was no accident, the family insists.

5. Kennedy visited the Middle East in March 1948 and departed Palestine before Israel's declaration of independence on May 14 and Ben-Gurion’s announcement of the name of the new country. RFK, therefore, does not refer to “Israel” or to “Israelis” in his articles.

Read several excerpts of Robert Kennedy's articles: 

The Jews point with pride to the fact that over 500,000 Arabs in the 12 years between 1932 and 1944, came into Palestine to take advantage of living conditions existing in no other Arab state. This is the only country in the Near and Middle East where an Arab middle class is in existence.

It is an unfortunate fact that because there are such well founded arguments on either side each grows more and more bitter toward the other. Confidence in their right increases in proportion to the hatred and mistrust for the other side for not acknowledging it.

The Jewish people in Palestine who believe in and have been working toward this national state have become an immensely proud and determined people. It is already a truly great modern example of the birth of a nation with the primary ingredients of dignity and self-respect.

Read the full-length articles by RFK here

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Isn't It Nice that Somethings Never Change in Jerusalem

A drug store in Jerusalem in the 1930s (Library of Congress)

The American Colony photographers took this picture about 80 years ago. The caption in the Library of Congress archives reads "A street corner in the Rehavia Quarter, Jerusalem."

Identifying the store and the street today is easy for veteran Jerusalemites.  The pharmacy is still there; they haven't even changed the Hebrew and English "Pharmacy" signs over the windows. New stories were added to the building but it's not hard to locate the store on the corner of Keren Kayemet and Ibn Ezra Streets.

The same drug store today (Google Streetview)

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