Israeli history photo of the week: NY Public Library

A Library of Congress collection of photographs that document Israel before the creation of the state.

December 6, 2012 11:31
1 minute read.

new york public library. (photo credit: New York Public Library)


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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, here presented, are two American Colony photographs, which we found in the New York Public Library archives. We thank the NYPL for granting permission to present them here.

The first is a picture of shepherds and sheep. What drew our attention were the buildings and mosque, easily identified in our feature "Jerusalem's Nablus Road -- Where History Marched." The original caption to the photograph of the soldiers notes that they were passing the American Colony residence, located on Nablus Road. The Colony's location gave the photographers a front row seat for the arrival of the German Emperor Wilhelm II in 1898.

The second photo found in the New York Public Library is a picture of farming practices in Palestine over 100 years ago. The American Colony photographers frequently shot pictures of mismatched plowing animals.

We theorize that the American Colony members, who were well versed in the Old Testament, focused on agricultural prohibitions found in the Bible. In this particular case, they illustrated the prohibition "Thou shall not plow with an ox and an ass together." (Deuteronomy 20) They also provided pictures of the prohibition "Thou shall not muzzle an ox in its threshing" (Deuteronomy 25)

More photos can be viewed at

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