Israeli history photo of the week: The Western Wall

May 17, 2012 14:43

JPost special feature: Library of Congress collection of photos that document Israel before creation of state.

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The 110-year-old Kotel photo

The 110-year-old Kotel photo. (photo credit: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept.)

The Library of Congress has recently digitalized a collection of over 10,000 photographs, taken by the "American Colony" in Jerusalem, a group of Christian utopians who lived in Jerusalem between 1881 and the 1940s. The photographers returned to the US, and bequeathed their massive collection to the Library of Congress in 1978. The collection includes Winston Churchill's visit to Jerusalem, Jewish expulsions from the Old City during Arab riots, and the building of Tel Aviv.

This week features photos of the Western Wall, including one of the oldest known photographs of the Wall from the Palestine Exploration Fund. It was taken by Frank Mason Good in the 1860s.

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Note the small and narrow confines of the Jewish prayer area.  In the course of hundreds of years, efforts to purchase the surrounding areas were denied.  Attempts to place benches or screens led to anti-Jewish riots, and the blowing of the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur was prohibited.  Between 1949 and 1967 Jews were not permitted to pray at the site. 

Only after the 1967 War Jews returned to the Old City of Jerusalem and the area enlarged.

We present here other photographs from the Library of Congress collection dating back over 100 years.

A photograph provided by the American Colony Photo Department and its successor company run by Eric and Edith Matson was republished and hand-colored, showing women and a Yemenite man at the Western Wall.

More photos can be viewed at

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