Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ottoman Archives Posts More Rare Photos of the Holy Land This Week

More pictures were digitized and posted by the Ottoman Imperial Archives this week, and we are thankful to the archivists for preserving and sharing their photographic treasures.

Among the pictures was this unique photo of Jerusalem, taken from the Mt. Scopus area and dated 1886.  The remnants of snow are still visible.

Jerusalem's Old City and Temple Mount, photographed from the east. (Ottoman Imperial Archives, 1886)
Another photo, dated 1916, shows the Galilee town of Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  One of Judaism's holiest cities (along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed), Tiberias dates back to the era of the Bible and the Talmud.

View of Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee (Ottoman Imperial Archives, 1916)
By Ottoman order the town was confined within the ancient walls until 1908 when a Christian order built a convent outside of the walls.  Several farms were established in 1911 outside of the walls, and they are visible in the photograph.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Ottoman Imperial Archives Releases Important Mystery Photo of Jerusalem

The Ottoman Imperial Archives continues to digitize and post Online its massive collection of documents, photos and illustrations.

Resposible archivists and librarians around the world realize the importance of digitizing its treasures and sharing them with the world.

We will continue to present and analyze the photographs from this archive as we review and identify them, but we wanted to immediatey share this historic photograph of Jerusalem's Old City taken from the Mount of Olives.
Jerusalem's Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque. Also note the small Muslim
graveyard in front of the city wall and the "Golden Gate" or "Gate of Mercy." (Ottoman Imperial Archives)

We surmise that the photographer or owner of the photo was French from the notes made on the image to identify 16 sites numbered on the photograph.  It is difficult to read the notes, but number 3, "Mosque d'Omar," and number 12, "Tombeau de David [David's Tomb]," are legible  and in French. 

But when was the photograph taken?

The answer is provided by one of the landmarks not contained on the tourist list -- the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue near the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter.

The Hurva and Tiferet Yisrael Synagogues. The former
was built by students of the Gaon of Vilna, the latter
by followers of Hasidic sects. The two groups
frequently clashed.
The Hurva, built in 1864, is the building on the left with the dome.  Short of funds, Tiferet Yisrael didn't complete its dome until Emperor Franz Josef of Austria visited the site in 1869 and supposedly asked why it had no roof. "Why, the synagogue took off its hat in honor of Your Majesty," he was told.  He contributed money for the project, and the synagogue was dedicated in 1872.

The photo of the topless synagogue, therefore, was taken prior to 1872, more than 140 years ago.

Both synagogues were blown up by the Jordanian Legion during the 1948 war.  The Hurva was recently rebuilt, and there are plans to rebuild the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue, too.