Sunday, September 20, 2015

Yom Kippur at the Western Wall 100 Years Ago

Reposting a feature from last year
Jews at the Kotel on Yom Kippur (circa 1904) See analysis of  the graffiti
on the wall for dating this picture. The graffiti on the Wall are memorial notices. (Library of Congress)
On Tuesday night, September 22, Jews around the world will commemorate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  For many centuries, Jews in the Land of Israel prayed at the Western Wall, the remnant of King Herod's retaining wall of the Temple complex destroyed in 70 AD.

Several readers noticed and commented on the intermingling of men and women in these historic pictures. It was not by choice. 

The Turkish and British rulers of Jerusalem imposed severe restrictions on the Jewish worshipers, prohibiting chairs, forbidding screens to divide the men and women, and even banning the blowing of the shofar at the end of the Yom Kippur service.  Note that the talit prayer shawls, normally worn by men throughout Yom Kippur, are not visible in the pictures.

Jews at the Western Wall (Ottoman Empire Archives)

Editor' note: In September 2015, the Ottoman Empire Archives tweeted this picture of Jews at the Western Wall, circa 1900 when the Turks ruled Palestine.  Note the small tables permitted at the time, a very unusual concession.

The men are wearing their festival/Sabbath finery, including their
fur shtreimel hats. Note the prayer shawls.  (Credit: RCB Library1897)

We found one rare picture in an Irish church's archives, dated 1897, showing men wearing prayer shawls at the Kotel.

View this video, Echoes of a Shofar, to see the story of young men who defied British authorities between 1930 and 1947 and blew the shofar at the Kotel.

Another view of the Western Wall on Yom Kippur. Note the various groups of worshipers: The Ashkenazic
 Hassidim wearing the fur shtreimel hats in  the foreground, the Sephardic Jews wearing  the fezzes in the
center, and the women in the back wearing white shawls. (Circa 1904, Library of Congress)
For the 19 years that Jordan administered the Old City, 1948-1967, no Jews were permitted to pray at the Kotel.

Many of the photo collections we have surveyed contain pictures of Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall over the last 150 years.

After the 1967 war, the Western Wall plaza was enlarged and large areas of King Herod's wall were exposed.  Archaeologists have also uncovered major subterranean tunnels -- hundreds of meters long -- that are now open to visitors to Jerusalem.
Click on the photos to enlarge.  Click on the captions to see the originals. 

1 comment:

  1. In the large pictures, the men do not seem to be wearing prayer shawls except in the far corner. It is the custom to wear a prayer shawl during all the services on Yom Kippur. Why is it assumed that the picture was taken on Yom Kippur?