(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.
From the earliest days of photography, the Western Wall has been a favorite subject for photographers. The Wall or Kotel was always a magnet for Jews who came to pray at the remnant of the Temple retaining wall. On the other side of that Wall once stood the Holy of Holies.
During Arab riots in the 1920s and during the Arab revolt (1936- 1939) Jews were often attacked in the Old City.
That's why this set of the American Colony's photographs of the Old City is so unusual. It shows Jews walking to the Western Wall between 1934 and 1939 "on their usual Sabbath* walk to the Wailing Wall," according to the caption.
The subjects hide their faces because of their desire to avoid being photographed on the Sabbath.
Possibly because of the dangers there are few women or non-Orthodox worshipers in this set of pictures. Yet, one little blond girl appears in two of the pictures.
To maintain order in the Old City, the British police established gun positions and built walls to separate Arabs from the Jews. In 1929 and again in 1939 the British evacuated Jews from the Old City.
But the American Colony photographers still found pious Jews who continued to flock to the Western Wall, and their pictures are presented here.
In 1948, the Jordanian Legion captured the Old City of Jerusalem, imprisoned or expelled all of the Jews, and destroyed the Jewish Quarter. Jews were not permitted to visit the Western Wall until 1967 when the Israel Defense Forces reunited the city.
More photos can be viewed at http://www.israeldailypicture.com.