Thursday, April 23, 2015

Life and Death of a Jewish Courtyard in Jerusalem's Old City

A scene in a Jerusalem courtyard in the Jewish Quarter, April 1917 (Imperial War Museum Q 86316)

The picture of this Jerusalem courtyard in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City was taken by a German army photographer during World War I and was found in the British Imperial War Museum.  Jerusalem at the time was ruled by the Ottomans. 

The distinctive arches on the building on the right identify it as the Rothschild Building, part of the Batei Machaseh compound built for Jewish residents of the Jewish Quarter.  It was donated by Baron Wilhelm Karl de Rothschild of Frankfurt.  The building still bears the Rothschild family's coat of arms. The compound was built between 1860 and 1890 to provide housing for Jerusalem's poor.

The Rothschild Building appears in a series of dramatic Life Magazine photographs taken by John Phillips during the Jordanian capture of the Old City during the 1948 war. The arches can be seen on the left side of these pictures; the picture above was a reverse view of the ones below.  The first was taken in the midst of the fighting in June 1948, and the Jews are seen gathering their belongings for their evacuation.  The second picture, taken in July 1948, shows the looting that took place.  The pictures appear in the DaledAmos blog.

Jewish Quarter courtyard prior to evacuation (Life Magazine, John Phillips)

Jewish Quarter after the evacuation and looting (Life Magazine, John Phillips)

Phillips' last picture shows the Jews' evacuation from the Old City under the guard of Jordanian Legionnaires.  The Rothschild Building serves as the backdrop to the tragic picture.

Jewish refugees heading to the Zion Gate near the Rothschild Building

Monday, April 20, 2015

"The Merchants of Jerusalem" -- Are They Not Jews? Pictures Taken by a German Photographer during World War I

"A typical merchant in a Jerusalem street market, 1917" (British Imperial
War Museum, Q 86352)

This series of pictures was taken in 1917 by a "German official photographer" in Jerusalem -- before the capture of the city by British forces in December, 1917.

All of them bear the same caption: "A typical merchant in a Jerusalem street market, 1917."

Nowhere in the captions are the subjects identified as Jewish, but they appear so, particularly upon examining their side curls (peyot), and they appear to be Sephardic -- Jews from the Arab world.

For the residents of the Holy Land, the period was one of abject poverty and even starvation.  Jewish men, including heads of households, were forcibly conscripted into the Turkish army, in hiding, or fled the country.  A severe plague of locusts struck the region in 1915 and ravaged crops.  Rapacious Turkish troops looted residents almost at will.  Some of the men pictured here could have been beggars.

Why were the men labelled "merchants?"  Perhaps the photographer associated them with another well-known Jewish merchant, Shylock?
The dire state of the Jews of Jerusalem during the war was described in a report to the Twelth Zionist Congress in 1921: “In Jerusalem [apparently in 1917] …dozens of children lay starving in the streets without anyone noticing them. Typhus and cholera carried off hundreds every week, and yet no proper medical aid was organized. … a considerable portion of the Jerusalem population perished. The number of orphans at the time of the capture of Jerusalem by the English Army was 2,700." 

The same "merchant" appearing to
be fending off somone. (British
Imperial War Museum, Q 86350)

Another "typical merchant" (Q 86351)


This "typical merchant" was photographed just
inside the Jaffa Gate of the Old City of
Jerusalem (Q 86348)

Another angle of the "merchant" above
(Q 86349)


Click on the pictures to enlarge.  Click on the caption to view the originals in the Imperial War Museum.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mystery Picture: A Fountain Found and a Windmill Disappears

Several excellent answers were received giving the location to our latest mystery picture. But where's the windmill?

One caption in the Ottoman Archives labels this picture as the Ottoman Train Station Opening Ceremony.
Another identifies it as the dedication of the Fountain in 1902. (Ottoman Imperial Archives)

As pointed out by several readers, the location is the public sabil (public fountain) above the Braichat HaSultan (Sultan's Pool) valley outside of Jerusalem's Old City, on the road between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The event is the public (re)dedication of the fountain, one of seven built by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century.

Simon provided a contemporary photo and this explanation:  It would be hard and dangerous to take a picture from the same location as today's mystery photo, because you would need to stand in the middle of a very busy road. In fact you would need to crouch down, because the level of the street has obviously risen since the photo was taken.

This screen capture from Google Maps Street View is very close though: Mishkenot Sha'ananim, the arch of the drinking fountain at the end of Sultan's pool, and the Sephardic synagogue in Yemin Moshe can all be seen in both pictures. I'm not sure why the Montefiore windmill isn't visible in the old picture -- either it's behind the flag or it blends into the background.

Unless I'm missing something, I don't see where the picture was doctored: the fancy pediment on top of the drinking fountain looks like a wooden attachment made at the time, not photo-doctoring.

Google Street View picture of the site today. Note the windmill of Yemin Moshe
Jonathan added:  Suleiman the Magnificent's fountain "sabil" on Hebron Road (technically the dam at the southern end of the Sultan's Pool). Built in 1536. The entablature above the sabil is not original and was added by the editor. Mishkenot Shaananim is in the background. 

What's missing in the Ottoman picture? A whole windmill!

The same dedication ceremony before the 114-year-old Ottoman version of "Photoshop"
 (Harvard, Central Zionist Archives)
Why was the windmill, built for the Jewish community in 1857, removed from the Ottoman picture?  Perhaps because the imposing structure overshadowed the fountain. 

We thank Martin for this additional view of the fountain (below), taken from the Sultan's Pool. The hand-colored picture is from Chatham University's collection of Jerusalem pictures.

The fountain is in the center of the dam beneath St. Andrew's Church and St. John's Eye Hospital (today
the Mt. Zion Hotel)

On the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (today's "Hebron Road") Note the fountain on the dam.
(Hand colored. Chatham University)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Where Did this Ceremony Take Place over 100 Years Ago? FYI, the Photo Was Doctored!

Mystery Photo:  We discovered the picture  below in the newly digitized Ottoman Imperial Archives.  As we investigated where it was photographed we discovered that this picture had been doctored.

Picture taken in Jerusalem in 1901 or 1902.
 We invite our readers to tell us where the picture was taken.  Photograph the modern-day location and send it to or post your answer in the comments.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Why Was a Ton of Matza Delivered to the US Army's 77th Division in France during World War I?

Reposting a Classic Special Passover Feature

Original caption: "Packing shipment of Matzoths [i.e. matzos] for the 77th Division for
men of Jewish faith in the A.E.F. [American Expeditionary Force] for the Passover Holiday,
 at Warehouse #40, Q.M.C. Depot, St. Denis  [France] / Signal Corps. U.S.A."
(April 9, 1919, Library of Congress)
The Jewish tradition of eating matza (unleavened bread) on Passover is so profound that the armed services of several countries provide Passover supplies to their soldiers even at the front. That's the practice in Israel, for sure, but the archives of several libraries provide pictures of Jewish soldiers observing Passover in the British and American armies during World War I, almost 100 years ago.

 Jewish soldiers of the British army celebrating Passover in Jerusalem in 1918. (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)

But when we saw the picture above of perhaps a ton of matza sent to American forces in France we wondered why so much was required.

Thanks to the archivists at the Library of Congress' Prints and Photographs Division for acceding to our request and digitizing and publishing the U.S. army photograph above online.  

The 77th Division and the "Lost Battalion"

The 77th Division was made up of draftees from the New York City area, one of the first draftee units deployed in combat in World War I.  They assumed the name "Metropolitan Division" or the "Statue of Liberty Division." Many of the men had lived a tough hardscrabble life on the streets of New York, perhaps a factor in their surviving a hard-fought battle in the Argonne Forest in October 1918 where the Division's "Lost Battalion" was surrounded by German troops and held out for a week without food and water.  In a 2001 film about the "Lost Battalion," the men were described as Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Polish "gangsters."

Of the battalion's 550 men, almost 200 were killed and 150 were captured or missing.

A Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Lee J. Levinger, served in France during World War I and wrote that the 77th Division had "thousands" of Jewish soldiers -- for whom the matza in the picture was intended.
Patch of the 77th Division

Levinger described several incredible moments in his memoir:
The great event of my service in Le Mans was our Passover celebration on April 14th, 15th and[77] 16th, 1919. The general order for Passover furloughs read:
"Where it will not interfere with the public service, members of the Jewish faith serving with the American Expeditionary Forces will be excused from all duty from noon, April 14th, to midnight, April 16th, 1919, and, where deemed practicable, granted passes to enable them to observe the Passover in their customary manner."
The full program included a Seder, four services, a literary program, a vaudeville show, a boxing  exhibition, two dances and a movie.... But certainly the most popular of all was the Seder. The soup with matzah balls, the fish, in fact the entire menu made them think of home. We held the dinner in an army mess hall, standing at the breast-high tables. The altar with two candles and the symbols of the feast was at the center of the low-roofed unwalled structure. Toward evening the rain, so typical of winter in western France, ceased; the sun came out, and its last level rays shone directly upon Rabbi Kaufman and his little altar. It was a scene never to be forgotten, a feast of deepest joy mingled with solemnity. Afterward we adjourned to the Theatre Municipale for a full religious service with a sermon.
Pvt Krotoshinsky: "You know a Jew finds
strength to suffer...."
During the Argonne Forest battle, the 77th Division's "Lost Battalion" was finally relieved after taking heavy casualties for five days.  Their rescue is often credited to a carrier pigeon that delivered a message to headquarters with their position.  Levinger told a different story:

New York Times, November 5, 1953

Private Abraham Krotoshinsky ... was awarded the D. S. C. [Distinguished Service Cross] for bearing the message which informed the division of the exact location of the unit, and was instrumental in releasing[118] them. Krotoshinsky was an immigrant boy, not yet a citizen, a barber by trade. His own words give the story simply enough:

"We began to be afraid the division had forgotten us or that they had given us up for dead. We had to get a messenger through. It meant almost certain death, we were all sure, because over a hundred and fifty men had gone away and never come back. But it had to be done. The morning of the fifth day they called for volunteers for courier. I volunteered and was accepted. I went because I thought I ought to. First of all I was lucky enough not to be wounded. Second, after five days of starving, I was stronger than many of my friends who were twice my size. You know a Jew finds strength to suffer. Third, because I would just as soon die trying to help the others as in the 'pocket' of hunger and thirst.

"I got my orders and started. I had to run about thirty feet in plain view of the Germans before I got into the forest. They saw me when I got up and fired everything they had at me. Then I had to crawl right through their lines. They were looking for me everywhere. I just moved along on my stomach, in the direction I was told, keeping my eyes open for them.... It was almost six o'clock that night when I saw the American lines. All that day I had been crawling or running doubled up after five days and nights without food and practically nothing to drink.
Then my real trouble began. I was coming from the direction of the German lines and my English is none too good. I was afraid they would shoot me for a German before I could explain who I was.... Then the Captain asked me who I was. I told him I was from the Lost Battalion.

[119] Then he asked me whether I could lead him back to the battalion. I said, 'Yes.' They gave me a bite to eat and something to drink and after a little rest I started back again with the command. I will never forget the scene when the relief came. The men were like crazy with joy."

[Note: Later Krotoshinsky moved to Palestine to try his hand at agriculture.  Unable to make a living there, he moved back to New York with his family, but he was still unemployed.  He received a presidential appointment to work in a New York post office.]
Watch "The Lost Battalion" Movie here.
Rabbi Levinger described another incredible event during the fighting:  A soldier in a famous fighting division ... sought a private interview with me. It seems that in the advance on the St. Mihiel sector he had rescued a Torah, a scroll of the Law, from a burning synagogue. Throwing away the contents of his pack, he had wrapped the scroll up in the pack carrier instead, and carried it "over the top" three times since. Now he wanted permission to take it home to give to an orphan asylum in which his father was active. A soldier was not ordinarily allowed to take anything with him besides the regulation equipment and such small souvenirs as might occupy little room, but in this case a kindly colonel became interested and the Torah went to America with the company records.

Click on pictures to enlarge
Responsible archivists and librarians digitize the historic photographic treasures in their institutions.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

WW100: Were Jewish Soldiers in the British Army Permitted to Celebrate Passover in Jerusalem in 1918?

Individual Jewish soldiers served in the ranks of the armies of Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand and were involved in the 1917 battles in locations such as Be'er Sheva and Rishon LeZion.  Another large group of Jews served in the British army's Jewish Legion, commanded by Col. John Henry Patterson and involved in combat after arriving in Palestine in 1918.  According to Patterson's memoirs, 2,000 soldiers were under his command. 

Patterson bitterly complained that his soldiers were forbidden from celebrating Passover in Jerusalem in 1918 and 1919, yet the pictures below show Jewish soldiers in Jerusalem on the holiday. How can the contradiction be explained?

Jewish soldiers from various British units celebrating Passover in Jerusalem, 1918. The various headgear suggests the
soldiers were from many army units, including ANZAC and Scottish, and not necessarily from the Jewish Legion.
 (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)
In Patterson's own words, the new sovereign of Palestine -- the British army -- continued the Ottomans' anti-Semitic practices against the Jews.  Patterson's fury could barely be contained when his Jewish soldiers suffered from vicious anti-Semitism within the army and from British commanders.
Col. John Henry Patterson
Palestine has become the theatre of an undisguised anti-Semitic policy. Elementary equality of rights is denied the Jewish inhabitants; the Holy City, where the Jews are by far the largest community, has been handed over to a militantly anti-Semitic municipality; violence against Jews is tolerated, and whole districts are closed to them by threats of such violence under the very eyes of the authorities; high officials, guilty of acts which any Court would qualify as instigation to anti-Jewish pogroms, not only go unpunished, but retain their official positions. The Hebrew language is officially disregarded and humiliated; anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is the fashionable attitude among officials who take their cue from superior authority; and honest attempts to come to an agreement with Arabs are being frustrated by such means as penalising those Arab notables who betray pro-Jewish feeling. 
The Jewish soldier is treated as an outcast. The hard and honest work of our battalions is recompensed by scorn and slander, which, starting from centres of high authority, have now reached the rank and file, and envenomed the relations between Jewish and English soldiers. When there is a danger of anti-Jewish excesses, Jewish soldiers are removed from the threatened areas and employed on fatigues, and not even granted the right to defend their own flesh and blood.

Discrimination against Jews was, however, still shown in other quarters. Early in April 1918 the men were considerably upset on the receipt of orders from G.H.Q. that no Jewish soldier would be allowed to enter Jerusalem during the Passover; the order ran thus: "The walled city (of Jerusalem) is placed out of bounds to all Jewish soldiers from the 14th to the 22nd April, inclusive."

The caption reads: "Jewish Legion soldier (sic) during Passover in Jerusalem."  Clearly, this is not Jerusalem.
The library description of the photo also includes "Judean Hills region," a more likely setting.
(Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)
I cannot conceive a greater act of provocation to Jewish soldiers than this, or a greater insult. The days during which they were prohibited from entering Jerusalem were the days of the Passover. Think of it! Jewish soldiers for the first time in their lives in Palestine and barred from the Temple Wall of Jerusalem during Passover! Only a Jew can really understand what it meant to these men, and the great strain it put on their discipline and loyalty.
How provocative and insulting this order was will be better understood when it is realized that the majority of the population of Jerusalem is Jewish, and, therefore, there could have been no possible reason for excluding Jewish troops belonging to a British unit, while other British troops were freely admitted, more especially as the conduct of the Jewish soldiers was, at all times, exemplary.
Jewish soldiers at Passover Seder, Jerusalem, 1919 The photo is signed by Ya'akov Ben-Dov who moved to
Palestine in 1907 from Kiev. He was drafted into the Ottoman army during World War I and
served as a photographer in Jerusalem.  Ben-Dov filmed Allenby's entry into Jerusalem in 1917
(Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)
Not since the days of the Emperor Hadrian had such a humiliating decree been issued. However, to make up somewhat for the action of the authorities, I made arrangements for the Passover to be observed at Rafa with all the joy and ceremony usually attending that great Feast of the Jewish People. At considerable cost we provided unleavened bread, as well as meat and wine—all strictly "Kosher." As we were nearly 2,000 strong at this time, the catering for the feast had to be most carefully gone into, and Lieut. Jabotinsky, Lieut. Lazarus, and the Rev. L. A. Falk did yeoman service in providing for all needs. It was a wonderful sight when we all sat down together and sang the Hagadah on the edge of the Sinai desert. 
Passover was selected to insult their deepest religious feelings, by barring them access to the Wailing Wall during that week. No Jewish detachment is allowed to be stationed in Jerusalem or any of the other Holy Cities of Jewry.

Jewish soldiers -- their headgear and uniforms suggests they are from from various units -- celebrating 
Passover at the British Jewish Soldiers Home in Jerusalem, 1919 (Harvard Library/Central Zionist Archives)
The Feast of the Passover was celebrated during our stay at Helmieh. Thus history was repeating itself in the Land of Bondage in a Jewish Military Camp, after a lapse of over 3,000 years from the date of the original feast.

I had considerable trouble with the authorities in the matter of providing unleavened bread. However, we surmounted all difficulties, and had an exceedingly jovial first night, helped thereto by the excellent Palestinian wine which we received from Mr. Gluskin, the head of the celebrated wine press of Richon-le-Zion, near Jaffa. The unleavened bread for the battalion, during the eight days of the Feast, cost somewhat more than the ordinary ration would have done, so I requested that the excess should be paid for out of Army Funds. This was refused by the local command in Egypt, so I went to the H.Q. Office, where I saw a Jewish Staff Officer, and told him I had come to get this matter adjusted.

He said that, as a matter of fact, he had decided against us himself. I told him that I considered his judgment unfair, because the battalion was a Jewish Battalion, and the Army Council had already promised Kosher food whenever it was possible to obtain it, and it would have been a deadly insult to have forced ordinary bread upon the men during Passover. I therefore said that I would appeal against his decision to a higher authority. He replied, "This will do you no good, for you will get the same reply from G.H.Q." He was mistaken, for I found the Gentile, on this particular occasion, more sympathetic than the Jew, and the extra amount was paid by order of the Q.M.G., Sir Walter Campbell.

It is apparent that while Jewish soldiers from other units in the British army were permitted to attend seder in Jerusalem, the formal Jewish Legion was not, perhaps because of the army's desire to restrict a distinctly Jewish, nationalistic corps in its midst.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Pictures from the German Army March in 1917 Are Matched by a Reader to Today's Jaffa Road

Bravo to Simon, a reader of Israel Daily Picture, who provided these contemporary pictures showing the exact locations where German soldiers marched in Jerusalem during World War I.

Simon even recreated the exact photo angles.

Stay tuned.  More mystery pictures from World War I will be appearing here.

German soldiers marching in Jerusalem on Good Friday,
Passover Eve, 1917 on Jaffa Road
The exact spot on Jaffa Road 98 years later, the same
doorways, balconies.

German soldiers marching in Jerusalem on Good Friday,
Passover Eve, 1917 in front of the Fast Hostel, where the
Dan Pearl Hotel is located today
The 1917 buildings have been replaced, but this is
the spot where the German army marched

Simon wrote, "It's fascinating how in one picture the scene is little changed, apart from the modern shop signs and the light rail tracks down the street, but in the other picture nothing from 1917 is still there in 2015 -- even most of the street itself has been replaced by an underpass."