Israeli history photo of the week: Jews of Jerusalem

JPost special feature: A Library of Congress collection of photographs that document Israel before the creation of the state.

September 22, 2011 12:00
1 minute read.

Elderly Jewish? man, seated under tree (1898) 311. (photo credit: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept.)


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Which Jew is Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yemenite, Chassidic, anti-Chassidic misnaged, anti-Zionist Satmar, etc.? Sometimes it's difficult for veteran Jerusalemites to tell today. Imagine how difficult it was for the Christian photographers of the American Colony photographic department 100 years ago. Usually, they got it correct, but not always.

The photographers clearly enjoyed taking pictures of the picturesque and exotic Yemenite community that arrived in Jerusalem in the 1880s. The elderly, bearded pious Jewish rabbis were also a favorite subject.

Note the American Colony's original captions.

From all the photographs one conclusion is certain and elementary: The Jews -- all sorts of Jews --were a part of the Jerusalem landscape 100 years ago and even 150 years ago when photography was in its infancy. 

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.

More photos can be viewed at

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