Sunday, June 29, 2014

Announcing a new feature:
WW100 -- World War I and the Jews of Palestine,
Commemorating the Centenary since the Outbreak of the War to End all Wars

We will present over the next year special features commemorating the centenary of World War I, showing the major battles that shook Palestine, the Jewish population of the Holy Land, and the Jewish soldiers who fought -- on both sides.  Below are sample pictures:

Turks prepare to attack the Suez Canal

Austrian Jewish soldiers at the Kotel

Jewish students and teachers after the capture of Rishon LeZion by New Zealand soldiers

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

From the 4 Corners of the World:
Picture Collection from New Zealand, Part II

Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee (circa 1890, colored slide, Presbyterian
Research Centre, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand)
The Presbyterian Church Archives Research Centre holds a fascinating collection of 144 glass Lantern slides of various scenes from the Holy Land. The majority appear to have been taken in the latter years of the 19th century.

See Part I here


The Tower of David's Citadel at Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem. The clock tower on the left was built
in 1908 and torn down in 1922, enabling the dating of the picture.
(Presbyterian Research Centre, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand)

Western Wall (1867, (Presbyterian Research Centre,
Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand) and here

The picture of the Western Wall is from the Presbyterian Research Centre, but it also appeared in the Israel Daily Picture two years ago.  It was taken by Frank Mason Good in 1866/67 and published by the Palestine Exploration Fund.

Note in both photos the single figure praying and the buckets (?) hanging on the wall.

Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs (circa 1890)

Jacob's Well, near Nablus (Shechem) and
Joseph's Tomb. (1868)

Click on photos to enlarge.
Click on captions to view the original photographs.

Mobile users: visit

Monday, June 16, 2014

From the 4 Corners of the World:
Another Picture Collection from New Zealand
Part I

Women at the Western Wall (circa 1890, Presbyterian Research Centre,
Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand)

Proving that responsible archivists and librarians digitize and preserve their photographic treasures is the collection of 19th century pictures of the Holy Land in the Presbyterian Research Centre in New Zealand.  We present here a sample of the collection.

Rachel's Tomb, Bethlehem (Presbyterian Research
Centre, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand)

We thank Donald Cochrane, the former curator of the photographs and lantern slides, Myke Tymons the current curator, and Eva Garbutt, archivist at Knox  who gave us permission to use their photographs.

The Research Centre's introduction provides some details on the collection:

The Presbyterian Church Archives Research Centre holds a fascinating collection of 144 glass Lantern slides of various scenes from the Holy Land. The majority appear to have been taken in the latter years of the 19th century. While undated, some do carry a manufacturers name or trademark which can act as a guide to dating. Those high quality slides produced by the Aberdeen firm of George Washington Wilson (marked "GWW"), were produced throughout the late 19th century. Mr Wilson, who died in 1893, received patronage from Queen Victoria and a Royal Warrant due to his obvious abilities. Many slide sets are also numbered which show a considerable number missing...

The New Zealand collection is remarkable for the

Elderly Jewish men in Jerusalem. The photo was hand-colored with
hues that never would have been worn by the poor, pious men.
(Presbyterian Research Centre, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa)
angles of some of the pictures -- such as the women at the Western Wall, above -- different from many of the other conventional "postcard" pictures taken at the time.

Some of these photographs/slides were taken by Frank Mason Good in the 1860s. 

Color film was not available until years later. The color slides were transparencies with color applied.

Kerosene "stereo" lanterns to
 project slides onto a screen

In the 1880s, before movies or electricity, photographic slides such as these were projected in front of classes or audiences using a kerosene-lit lamp fitted with special lenses. The slides were often produced by optical manufacturers who sold the lanterns.

Lepers outside of the walls of Jerusalem. Note the Montefiore windmill
and Meshkenot Sha'ananim housing project behind them
(Presbyterian Research Centre, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand)

Sea of Galilee (Presbyterian Research
Centre, Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand)

Damascus Gate of Jerusalem's Old City

View our other lantern slide collections from Chatham University, the Church of Ireland, the Library of Congress, Oregon State University, and the George Eastman collection.

 With special thanks to David Bardin

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mosul Iraq -- Match Historical Pictures to Today's Headlines

Jews of Mosul (Credit: Keystone-Mast Collection, 
California Museum of Photography at UCR)
Jihadi forces overran Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, this week. Analysts explain Mosul's significance as the center of Iraq's oil-rich areas, the gateway for the Sunni radicals to attack Baghdad, and a debacle for the U.S.-supported Iraqi army. 

But Mosul also has an ancient history.  It was the Biblical city of Nineveh, so large that the Book of Jonah describes it as a "great city of three days
"Jewish Cobblers Repairing Shoes for  Arabs, near
Mosul, Mesopotamia"
 (Iraq)  (Credit: Keystone-Mast  Collection,
Museum of  
Photography at UCR ARTSblock, University of 
California, Riverside)
journey in breadth." 

The Assyrian King Sennacherib built a massive palace there on the banks of the Tigris River.

We present pictures of Mosul 80 years ago and of Jews of Mosul approximately 100 years ago.

Read here a 2007 account of a Jewish chaplain from the US Army's 101st Airborne who discovered the remnants of Mosul's Jewish community.

Mosul, Iraq, 1932 (Library of Congress)

Mosul and the Tigris in the background, 1932 (Library of Congress)

Sennacherib's castle, Mosul, Iraq, 1932 (Library of Congress) See also here

Monday, June 9, 2014

Life in Palestine 1830-1880 as Described by a Very Unusual Woman, Lydia Mamreoff von Finkelstein Mountford

Von Finkelstein (Set in Stone, Fixed in Glass
We never heard of Lydia Mamreoff von Finkelstein Mountford (1855-1917) until we came across several clippings in a New Zealand archive from the 1880s. 

She was born in Jerusalem to a Russian family, apparently Jewish, according to historian Ron Bartur. She spoke Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, German, and French.  The family converted to Christianity and it appears she later became a Mormon.  She was a popular actress, missionary, and news correspondent. She traveled to the United States, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand presenting Bible-based plays.  She filed news reports on the German Emperor's visit to Jerusalem in 1898, and probably appears in the bottom left of this picture with a reporter's pad in hand.

One of her most interesting articles appeared in the Aroha News (New Zealand), October 24, 1888, entitled "PALESTINE FIFTY YEARS AGO AND PALESTINE TODAY."   Her observations about life in the Holy Land for Christians and Jews are fascinating, and we present excerpts below in blue:

Inside the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City as it appeared in Lydia
von Finkelstein's days, circa 1870. (New York Public Library)
About fifty years ago, with the exception of some Polish Jewish families, and a few Latin monks, there were no European residents in Jerusalem. At that period the Jews did not contribute either to the civilisation of the inhabitants or the improvement of the city, but adapted themselves to the manners of the people and the exigencies of the place. The monks confined themselves to their daily avocations in the convents, and to the entertainment of wealthy pilgrims and travellers, whose visits, like those of angels, were few and far between.

Receiving the German Emperor in 1898. Von Finkelstein, the reporter,
is presumably at the bottom left. (Library of Congress)

Von Finkelstein, in
 costume, 1885
(Imagining the Holy Land)

The Jews, as well as the native Christians, throughout Syria and Palestine, were daily and hourly subjected to oppression, extortions, exaction, robbery and insults from their Moslem neighbours. It was no unusual occurrence for the Moslem to enter their houses, ransack closets and boxes, and appropriate any article of wearing apparel, furniture, or food that took the marauder's fancy. The local Government authorities would occasionally, when in need of funds, levy blackmail to the amount of hundreds of pounds on the Jews and native Christians, threatening them with massacre and plunder in default of payment. Consequently, Jews and native Christians dared to make any display of wealth only at the risk of losing life or property, and often both....

... With the advent of the American and English missionaries came the dawn of a brighter day tor the Holy City, and indeed for the whole country. On account of Moslem fanaticism and prejudice, these messengers of the Gospel, and consequently pioneers of civilisation, were obliged for a certain period of time to adopt the Oriental dress for safety. The Oriental furniture, utensils, and cuisine, though in

Hezekiah's Pool in Jerusalem's Old City. All those windows and not
a pane of glass, 1865 (New York Public Library)
many respects better adapted to the climate and surroundings, were so entirely different to those of Europe and America, that those early settlers, wealthy or otherwise, may truly be said to have endured hardships and privations great and innumerable. Occidental furniture, utensils, crockery or glass, were not to be had for love or money; and only those fortunate families or individuals possessed them who had had sufficient foresight to bring such articles from their homes in Europe. Further, there was not a window in any house in Jerusalem that had a pane of glass in it; wooden lattices, shutters, and iron bars being the order of the day.

Portrait of von Finkelstein and three
unknown people taken by Krikorian,
a well-known Armenian photographer
in Jerusalem (circa 1885, Library
 of Congress)

About the year 1845, a European merchant first imported —at great inconvenience, risk, and cost, having to travel to Beirout and Alexandria to make the purchase—Occidental furniture, crockery, and windowglass. There were no facilities for travel, and no steamers touched at the port of Jaffa. Once, and later twice a year, the Jewish, Latin, and other communities sent messengers to Beirout from Jerusalem, a journey of about 150 miles overland, to fetch the mails and other matter that might have been brought by the steamers from Alexandria and Constantinople, which at stated periods touched for a few hours at Beirout. About the year 1845 steamers began to stop occasionally at the port of Jaffa...

The American Colony on the beach near Jaffa, 1866
(with permission of the Maine Historical Society)

IIn the year 1866 a large American colony came out, and settled in Jaffa. It was called the American Adams colony. The colonists held their estate under great disadvantages. Mr Adams, either through design or in ignorance of the laws, possessed no title deeds; neither were the colonists, who purchased lots, provided with the necessary documents — all holding the property under bills of sale and pm-chase, whose legality and validity could have been questioned at any moment. Consequently interested parties took advantage of their position, and the best and the largest portion of the land they had paid for was lost, and all the trees out of a fruit plantation cut down, rooted up, and carried away...

Von Finkelstein's performance - not in Jerusalem - but at a replica of Jerusalem at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair
 (from Set in Stone, Fixed in Glass) For more on "Jerusalem" at the 1904 World's Fair click here. Note the
Christian and Jewish banners on the stage

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The First "American Colony" Was Established in the Holy Land 150 Years Ago. Help Us Find It in Photographs

The American "Colony" in the 1860s. Please help us obtain
such pictures in high-resolution digitized form
We are proud that the photographs presented here are all "kosher."  They usually have lapsed copyright restrictions, but, in any case, we seek and obtain permission from the relevant collections, archives and libraries.  All pictures are presented with the links to the original source, and we find librarians and archivists thankful for our site driving readers to their material.

On occasion, however, we have skipped certain collections because of requests for payment.

Photograph of the colony founder, George
Jones Adams, c. 1841
We believe that pictures of Americans attempting to establish a colony near Jaffa in the 1860s are worthy of an entry in these pages. 

(Our research found that Mark Twain met some of the members of the failed colony and wrote about them.)

Unfortunately, the photographs can only be obtained in digitized high-resolution with payment.  In one case, a small American museum contains documents and photographs, and images must be purchased.  In the case of the Library of Congress, which has been amazingly cooperative in releasing their photographs, the photograph described below has never been digitized.

Title: The American Settlement, near Joppa, Palestine. Erected by the Adams Colony from Maine and New Hampshire, 1866-7
  • Date Created/Published: [1866 or 1867]
  • Medium: 1 photographic print.
  • Summary: Photograph shows buildings of the "American Colony" or "Adams City" near Jaffa, now Tel Aviv, Israel which was founded by George Jones Adams (ca. 1811-1880) in 1866.

  • Please click on the Paypal "Donate" button on the top right of our website,, to assist us in purchasing these historic, high-resolution digitized images. (We are not purchasing the originals, just digitized copies.)

    Wednesday, June 4, 2014

    The Shavuot Holiday in the Holy Land

    Shavuot celebration in Tel Aviv (1935, Israel
    Government Press Office, HT: Gina)
    "And it shall be when you come into the land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance and you possess it and dwell therein.  You shall take the first of all the fruit of the ground from the land that the Lord your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and you shall go to the place which the Lord your God shall choose to dwell in." [Deuteronomy XXVI:1-2]

    During the days of the Temple in Jerusalem Jews were commanded to bring their first fruits to the sanctuary during the Shavuot (Pentecost) pilgrimage festival.  It was a joyous thanksgiving holiday.

    Poster for Shavuot (1940, Israel
    Government Press Office)
    Children's procession in Kibbutz Ein Harod (1938,
    Israel Government Press Office)

    A Shavuot gathering?  Original caption: The Keren Hayesod. Agricultural Colonies on Plain of Esdraelon
     "The Emek [Jezre'el]." Zionist children at play. A spring group. Children picking wild flowers [Library of
    Congress, circa 1920-1933]

    In the early 20th century, the collective Kibbutz and Moshav agricultural movements adopted the holiday to exhibit their produce and farm equipment. The new "tradition" continues to this day.

    Reader Josh Korn of Canada provided us with this picture and a request:
    Kibbutz Naan, Shavuot 1932 (Courtesy Josh Korn)

    This photo is from Kibbutz Naan, dated from Shavuot 1932.

    I know only one of the people in the photo: the guy wearing glasses on the left is my dad. I'd love to find out who the others are.

    Sunday, June 1, 2014

    Jewish Festivals - Shavuot
    The Book of Ruth Recreated 100 Years Ago
    This feature is one of our most popular posting

    Photo portrait of "Ruth the Moabitess" (Library of Congress)
    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"
    And Naomi and Ruth both went on until they arrived at Bethlehem
    The Jewish holiday of Shavuot - Pentecost is 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 came to a field that belonged to Boaz who was
    of the family of Naomi's deceased husband
    The reading of the Book of Ruth is one tradition 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.

    A central element of the story of Ruth is her going to the local 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 had a levirate obligation to marry the widow).  The union resulted in a child, Obed, the grandfather of King David. 
    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." 
    Ruth carried it to the city and Naomi
    saw what she had gleaned

    We have matched the pictures with corresponding verses from the Book of Ruth.

    We present a few of the dozens of "Ruth" photographs found in the Library of Congress' American Colony collection.   See more of the pictures here.

    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, probably in the fields near Bethlehem.  "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.

    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.