Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another Photographic Treasure Found in a Far-Flung Antique Collection -- From a Jewish "Kiwi" Soldier's Album

school house in Rishon LeZion with students and teachers. The picture was taken by Trooper Charles Thomas Broomfield of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles after the November 14, 1917 battle of Ayun Kara and the liberation of Rishon LeZion.  Rishon was founded on July 31, 1882 by Russian Jews who had purchased 835 acres from the Arab village of Ayun Kara.
Israel Daily Picture was founded two years ago after we discovered 22,000 newly digitalized antique pictures of the Holy Land in the Library of Congress.

In the course of publishing more than 300 photo essays we discovered additional pictures in far-flung archives such as the
Elderly Jews from Safed (1930, Dundee Collection)
medical archives in the Dundee Scotland Medical School, or from the "Cigar Box Collection." 

We also thank the New York Public Library, Harvard, Getty, and Eastman collections for allowing us to view their antique and digitalized archives. Families have also shared with us their grandparents' photos found in their attics.

One of the most unusual collections we came across recently are the photos taken by a New Zealand Jewish soldier, Charles Thomas Broomfield, of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles.  The photos were donated by his granddaughter Judy Cato to the NZMR Association. She provided the following biography:

Trooper Broomfield (1917) in colorized

Charles Thomas Broomfield was born in the Coromandel area [of New Zealand], second son in a family of seven. Charles was twenty years old when he signed up for service on 27th November 1916. At that time he was working as an engine driver in Whangarei. Charles was part of  the 26th Reinforcements, Mounted Rifles.

Charles embarked from New Zealand on 31st May 1917 aboard the Union Steamship Moeraki. He was one of 262 New Zealand service men headed for Suez, Egypt. The Regiments transhipped at Sydney onto the Port Lincoln.They arrived at the Port of Suez on the 6th August after a stopover in Colombo, India.

From Charles' records it is established that he joined the action in Egypt/Palestine about 28th September 1917 as part of the Mounted gunners section and was in action throughout the Middle East. He returned to New Zealand on the Kaikoura on 6th March 1919 after spending 1 year 324 days overseas. On return to New Zealand Charles lived with his parents in Whangarei .  He married in 1923 and worked and raised a family in the Whangarei area. Charles died in Whangarei in 1949.

The New Zealand Mounted Rifles provides this history of the battle of Ayun Kara and the special relationship that developed between Broomfield's unit and the Jewish community of Rishon LeZion and recorded in Broomfield's camera:

After the action at Ayun Kara on November 14th 1917 the NZMR passed through the settlement of Rishon LeZion the following morning. The people and the settlement was to have a strong influence on the New Zealanders. The Jewish village was the first taste of something closer to the environment of home.

The Synagogue of Rishon LeZion, presumably
with Broomfield standing at the left. Compare to
this picture of the synagogue from 1898

Another picture of the children of Rishon LeZion. The boy
in the foreground appears in the third of row of the
schoolhouse picture above

NZMR troopers and people of Rishon LeZion turn out for a
memorial service  on the first anniversary for the New Zealand 
soldiers who died at the nearby battle of Ayun Kara.  "A short
 time after this service, the men's bodies were re-interned at
 the Ramleh Cemetery. The memorial site of  Ayun Kara 
was forgotten and years later no one was sure of where 
the actual site had been, the memorial obelisk had 
disappeared. Destroyed  by whom and when, nobody knows."

Since crossing the arid Sinai Desert and its confrontation with a hostile Turkish enemy and, more often than not, a treacherous contact with Arab Bedu tribesmen - The Auckland Mounted Rifles agreed it was a joy to meet a people who had just been freed from Turkish tyranny. It was a land worked into agriculture and planted with fruit trees and vineyards. Not only were the men taken with the settlement conditions, the horses too were impressed and ate heartily of green feed, and enjoyed the soil firm under foot.

A few weeks later the Regiment remembered the village, the official history "Two Campaigns" reported: 
"On January 12, the brigade moved north to Rishon LeZion, the Jewish village near to Ayun Kara, and there tents were provided, and training and football again became the normal life."

Map of the Turkish and New Zealander positions. Click
on the map to enlarge
The NZMR history notes, "The date 14th November 1917 is the greatest day of action carried out by the Mounteds. The attack on the strongly fortified Turkish trenches near the town of Rishon LeZion in present day Israel is a story of guile, courage and great daring against a superior force."

Additional information on the battle of Ayun Kara can be found here

"The Action at Ayun Kara on the 14th November 1917 was carried out by the New Zealand Mounted Rifles on heavily entrenched Turkish defences. This successful rout of the enemy is remembered for its daring frontal rush by mounted troops and tactical movements in support by the brigades riflemen and machine gunners."

The following is a school essay describing the battle written by a boy from Rishon, Aviram Hochberg, in 1918.  He assumed the New Zealanders were "English" soldiers:

From Broomfield's album. Are these children of Rishon
LeZion on their way to the memorial service?

"A quarter of an hour passed and we shall see all the Turkish armies climbing the mountains above the village, fortifying themselves in their defence trenches. At the ninth hour exactly the first shots were heard from the side of the Turks. There were more after any minute that passed.

Suddenly the English started firing and their bullets crossed above our heads making a buzz and whistle that the death (angel) is a coming. At the first hour of the battle we were terrified and exited, but soon we were used to the shooting and we shall climb a high balcony from where we see the spectacle of war. Once in a few minutes we could hear the thunder of English guns and shortly afterwards seeing it exploding over the Turkish soldiers. All sounds of war turned into terrible furious anger of God, smoke, blood and clouds of smoke. After tough fighting we saw the Turks leave their first positions and retreat. Line after line they were running down the mountain's crest with shells exploding between their lines, many falling dead and the remaining running exhausted to find shelter at the Orange groves.

Rishon residents on the way to the memorial service? Another picture
from the Broomfield album.
Now on the position the Turks had retreated from, we already see the English stand shooting their machine guns bullets of death with no break on the escaping Turks. An hours passed, and another one, and all Turks left the ridge of mountains, running north. At the third hour after noon the first of the English got in the village. We all hurried in joy to meet our saviors to which we waited for three years. They soon left the village, heading further to push the enemy back. Shooting went non stop, until darkness fell. After the shooting [ceased] the country was covered with English (New Zealanders) and much were we happy. I went for a night sleep with my heart full with joy and hope for the future, but then I could not fall asleep for the cry and moan of the casualties could be heard even from distance, begging for help. 

The next morning some of our village we went the field of death to collect the wounded. What a terrible scene it was! The mountains that were always covered with green grass and beautiful flowers, where shepherds were herding their sheep, were now covered with the dead, wounded and blood here and there. Dead Horses, rifles lying on the ground and crater everywhere from the shells. Smell of gun powder and dynamite everywhere. The wounded were collected and we shall send them on the camels of the English to the hospital that was [opened] in Rishon." 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The American Colony and the Yemenite Jews

Israel Daily Picture -- Now Approaching 900,000 Visitors

Further to our previous posting on the special relationship between the American Colony and the new Yemenite Jewish community in Jerusalem at the end of the 19th Century, we present a group portrait illustrating the relationship.

A "Gadite" elder?
The photo, taken in 1904, appears to show one of the Colony's founders, Anne Spafford, sitting next to a "Gadite" elder.

The photo is part of an album in the Library of Congress collection that belonged to Anne's daughter, Grace.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How the American Colony Adopted Yemenite Jews in 1882
-- As Told by Bertha Spafford Vester, a Leader of the Colony

Why so many pictures of Yemenite Jews? (American
Colony Collection, circa 1910)
In previous features we discussed why the American Colony photographers dedicated so much film to the Yemenite Jews of Jerusalem.

Today we present the words of one of the key figures of the American Colony, Bertha Spafford Vester, daughter of the founders of the Colony, Anne and Horatio Spafford.  Bertha took over the management of the American Colony enterprises after her parents' death.  She described her life in her fascinating book, An American Family in the Holy City, 1881-1949

She provided one chapter to the Colony's special relationship with a group of "Gadites" who arrived in 1882.  It was believed they were descendants of the tribe of Gad.


The Gadites entered our lives a few months after our arrival in Jerusalem, and until [the 1948] civil war divided Jerusalem into Arab and Jewish zones, with no intercourse between except bullets and bombs,  they continued to get help from the American Colony.

Yemenite school at Kfar Hashiloach. Yemenite village
 in Silwan (Central Zionist Archives, Harvard, circa 1910)

One afternoon in May 1882 several of the Group, including my parents, went for a walk, and were attracted by a strange-looking company of people camping in the fields. The weather was hot, and they had made shelters from the sun out of odds and ends of cloth, sacking, and bits of matting. Father made inquiries through the help of an interpreter and found that they were Yemenite Jews recently arrived from Arabia.

View of Kfar Shiloah in Jerusalem, outside of Jerusalem's
Old City. Note the caves, first homes for Gadite newcomers
 (Central Zionist Archives, Harvard, 1898)
They told Father about their immigration from Yemen and their arrival in Palestine. Suddenly, they said, without warning, a spirit seemed to fall on them and they began to speak about returning to the land of Israel. They were so convinced that this was the right and appointed time to return to Palestine that they sold their property and turned other convertible belongings into cash and started for the Promised Land. They said about five hundred had left Yena in Yemen. Most of them were uneducated in any way except the knowledge of their ancient Hebrew writings, and those, very likely, they recited by rote. As appears, they were simple folk, with little knowledge of the ways of the world outside of Yemen, and that is the same as saying "the days of Abraham."

When they landed in Hedida on the coast of the Red Sea, they were cautioned by Jews not to continue their trip to Jerusalem and that if they did so it would be at peril of their lives. Some of the party were discouraged and returned to Yena. Others were misdirected and were taken to India, The rest went to Aden, where they embarked on a steamer for Jaffa, and came to Jerusalem before the Feast of Passover.

"Arab (sic) Jew from Yemen" (circa 1900)
Library of Congress caption: "Photograph shows a
Yemenite Jewish man standing in front of Siloan village.
1901 (Source: L. Ben-David, Israel's History - A Picture
a Day website, Sept. 11, 2011)"
They told about the opposition and unfriendliness they had encountered from the Jerusalem Jews, who, they said, accused them of not being Jews but Arabs. One reason, they said, for their rejection by the Jerusalem Jews was because they feared that these poor immigrants would swell the number of recipients of halukkah, or prayer money. Early in the seventeenth century, as a result of earthquakes, famine, and persecution, the economic position of the Jews in Palestine became critical, and the Jews of Venice came to their aid. They established a fund "to support the inhabitants of the Holy Land." Later on the Jews of Poland, Bohemia, and Germany offered similar aid. This was the origin of the halukkah. The money was sent not so much for the purpose of charity as to enable Jewish scholars and students to study and interpret the Scriptures and Jewish holy books and to pray for the Jews in the Diaspora (Dispersion), at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, and in other holy cities of Palestine. The halukkah, as one could imagine, was soon abused. It only stopped, however, when World War I began in 1914 and no more money came to Palestine for that purpose.

In 1882, when the Yemenites arrived, those who had benefited from the generosity of others were unwilling to pass it on.

Father was interested in the Gadites at once. Their story about their unprovoked conviction that this was the time to return to Palestine coincided with what he felt sure was coming to pass the fulfillment of the prophecy of the return of the Jews to Palestine.

Also, Father was attracted by the classical purity of Semitic features of these Yemenite immigrants, so unlike the Jews he was accustomed to see in Jerusalem or in the United States. These people were distinctive: they had dark skin with dark hair and dark eyes. They wore side curls, according to the
Yemenite Jewish family circa 1900
Mosaic law: "Ye shalt not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard." Otherwise their dress was Arabic. They had poise, and their movements were graceful, like those of the Bedouins. They were slender and somewhat undersized. Many of the women were beautiful, and the men, even the young men, looked venerable with their long beards. They regarded as true the tradition that they belonged to the tribe of Gad. They believed that they had not gone into captivity in Babylon, and that they had not returned at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild the temple. For thousands of years they had remained in Yemen, hence their purity of race and feature.

The thirty-second chapter of Numbers tells how the children of Gad and the children of Reuben asked Moses to allow them to remain on the east side of Jordan, which country had "found favor in their sight."  It goes on to tell how Moses rebuked them, saying, "Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?" Then Moses promised them that if they would go armed and help subdue the country, then "this land shall be your possession before the Lord."

In the thirteenth chapter of Joshua, "when Joshua was stricken in years," he gives instructions that the Gadites and the Reubenites and half the tribe of Menasseh should receive their inheritance "beyond the Jordan eastward even as Moses the servant of the Lord gave them."

In the Apology of al Kindy, written at the court of al Mamun, A.D. 830, the author speaks of Medina as being a poor town, mostly inhabitated by Jews. He also speaks of other tribes of Jews, one of which was deported to Syria. Would it be too remote to conjecture that the remnants of these tribes should have wandered to and remained in Yemen? I know there are other theories about how Jews got there, and about their origin, but Father believed that "Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad," and the Group did everything in their power to help these immigrants. We called them Gadites from that time.
Yemenite Jews circa 1900.  Why are they near mailbox belonging to the German postal service? (Library of Congress)

Yemenite rabbis, "some of the first immigrants"
(Central Zionist Archives, Harvard)

They were in dreadful need when we found them.

Some of them had died of exposure and starvation during their long and uncomfortable trip; now malaria, typhoid, and dysentery were doing their work. They had to be helped, and quickly. No time
was lost in getting relief started. The Group rented rooms, and the Gadites were installed in cooler and more sanitary quarters. Medical help was immediately brought. Mr. Steinharf's sister, an Orthodox Jewish woman, was engaged to purchase kosher meat, which, with vegetables and rice or cracked burghal (wheat) she made into a nutritious soup. Bread and soup were distributed once a day to all, with the addition of milk for the children and invalids. One of the American Colony members was always present at distribution time, to see that it was done equitably and well.

Translation of the Gadite prayer kept in the Spafford Bible:
Prayer of Jewish Rabbi offered every Sabbath in Gadite synagogue,
June 27?: He who blessed our fathers Abraham, Isaac & Jacob,
bless & guard & keep Horatio Spafford & his household & all that
are joined with him, because he has shown us mercy to us & our
children & little ones. Therefore may the Lord make his days long...(?)
and may the Lord's mercy shelter them. In his and in our days may
Judah be helped (?) and Israel rest peacefully and may the
Redeemer come to Zion, Amen.

The Gadites had a scribe among them who was a cripple. He could not use his arms and wrote the most beautiful Hebrew, holding a reed pen between his toes. He wrote a prayer for Father and his associates, which was brought one day and presented to Father as a thanksgiving offering. They said that they repeated the prayer daily. I have it in my possession; it is written on a piece of parchment. The translation was made by Mr. Steinhart.

This amicable state of affairs continued for some time. Then the elders, who were the heads of the families, came as a delegation to Father. They filed upstairs to the large upper living room, looking solemn and sad, and smelling strongly of garlic. They told Father that certain Orthodox Jews, the very ones who had turned blind eyes and deaf ears to their entreaties for help when they arrived in such a pitiable state, were now persecuting them under the claim that they were violating the law by eating Christian food. Some of the older men and women had stopped eating, and in consequence were weak and ill. They made Father understand how vital this accusation, even if false, was to them, and they begged him to divide the money spent among them, instead of giving them the food.

Yemenite Rabbi Shlomo (1935)
Everyone knows how much more economical it is to make a large quantity of soup in one cauldron than in many individual pots; how ever, their request was granted. A bit more money was added to the original sum, and every Friday morning the heads of the Gadite families would appear at the American Colony and be given coins in proportion to the number of individuals to be fed.

They explained to Father that they were trying to learn the trades of the new country and hoped very soon not to need assistance. They had been goldsmiths and silversmiths of a crude sort in Yemen, but Jerusalem at that time had no appreciation or demand for that sort of handicraft. One by one the elders came to tell us they had found work, to thank, us for what we had done, and to say they needed no further help. Father was impressed with the unspoiled integrity of these people.

The Colony continued giving help to the original group of Gadites in decreasing amounts until only a few old people and
Yemenite Rabbi Avram (circa 1935)
widows remained. But these came regularly once a week. Their number was swelled by newcomers and we still shared what we could with them: portions of dry rice, lentils, tea, coffee, and sugar, or other dry articles. After the British occupation of Palestine and the advent of the Zionist organization, with its resources and vast machinery to meet pressing necessities, after forty years our list of dependent Gadites was taken over by them. Even then, individuals continued to come to the doors of the American Colony to ask our help.

One night in June 1948 the American Colony had been under fire all night between the Jews west of us and the Arab legionaries east of us. In the morning a Yemenite Jew lay dead in the road be fore our gates. I recognized Hyam, a Yemenite from the "box colony" near the American Colony. He was one of those who had been receiving help from us for years.

For all this relief work the American Colony was using the money of its members.

The chapter continues with the story of a con-man, Mr. Moses, who stole an ancient scroll from the Yemenites while they were still in Yemen.  The Yemenite community in Jerusalem discovered him in Jerusalem and requested that the American Colony help secure the scroll for them.

Friday, August 2, 2013

New Pictures Added to Yesterday's Shiloh Feature,
Snapped 135 Years Apart

Ruins of ancient Shiloh (circa 1870, Palestine Exploration Fund, taken by British Sgt. Henry Phillips)
Shiloh today (picture by David Rabkin, 2006)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Before There Was Jerusalem, There Was Shiloh
-- The Site of the Tabernacle When the Israelites Arrived in the Holy Land

Interior of old Temple at Shiloh (1908, Library of Congress). The
building is now closed.
And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled themselves together at Shiloh, and set up the Tabernacle there, and the land was subdued before them.  (Joshua 18:1)

When Joshua brought the children of Israel across the Jordan River he was really leading a new nation, born in Egypt and Sinai but forged for 40 years in the furnace of the desert. 

Their journey had started hundreds of years earlier when Jacob's sons, grazing their flocks near Shechem (Nablus), sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt.  Their descendants returned to the same area in Samaria bearing Joseph's body for burial in Shechem. They chose the nearby village of Shiloh as the resting place for the Tabernacle which housed altars, the menorah, the ark of the Covenant and more.

Ruins of Shiloh (circa 1910, Library of Congress)
There the Tabernacle would remain for almost 400 years, the place for pilgrimages and sacrifices.  In Shiloh, Joshua drew lots to divide up the land among the Israelite tribes. Eli the High Priest officiated. 

A woman named Hannah came to Shiloh to pray for a son and promised he would serve the Lord if he was born.  Samuel was born to Hannah. He served in the Tabernacle and was the prophet who anointed Saul and then David as kings.  David shifted his capital first to Hebron and then to Jerusalem.

Archaeologists today have little doubt that the area known as Sailun was the location of biblical Shiloh. Evidence

Tourists/pilgrims at Shiloh (1891, with permission of the New Boston Fine and Rare Books)
of early synagogues, churches and mosques can be found there.

In the Talmudic period and the Middle Ages Shiloh was a destination for pilgrims.

We recently discovered online an antique book, "A Month in Palestine and Syria, April 1891," posted by the New Boston Fine and Rare Books.  The book includes a travelogue and several dozen photographs of tourists and pilgrims. They also visited Shiloh.

Unfortunately, the antique book shop does not know the name of the photographer or author.  We would welcome suggestions from our readers.

Today, religious pilgrims are usually found in the south, in a place called Jerusalem.

Group from the American Colony visiting the
 "sacred circle" in Shiloh (1937, Library of Congress)
Ancient Shiloh today (photo courtesy of Yisrael Medad)

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Click on caption to view the original picture.