Israeli history photo of the week: Lag Ba'omer

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

Children's Lag Ba'omer procession (photo credit: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept.)
Children's Lag Ba'omer procession
(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 includes a feature on Lag Ba'omer, the end of a month-long mourning period when traditional Jews refrain from weddings or joyous gatherings.  The mourning remembers the thousands of students of Rabbi Akiva, a renowned spiritual leader at the time of the Talmud.  They died in a great plague that ended on Lag Ba'omer.  In Israel, Lag Ba'omer is celebrated with bonfires, hikes along nature trails, and gatherings at the tombs of of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in the Galilee town of Meron and of Shimon the Just (Hatzaddik) in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. Bar Yochai, a student of Rabbi Akiva's, was known for his opposition to the Roman rule in the Land of Israel.  He and his son were forced to flee to the Galilee where they hid in a cave for 12 years.  Lag Ba'omer is the day of his death, but it is actually celebrated in recognition of the Torah teachings he gave over to his students.Hundreds of thousands of celebrants are expected to visit Shimon Bar Yochai's tomb in Meron by Wednesday night.Shimon Hatzaddik was a High Priest of the second Temple in Jerusalem for 40 years. According to Jewish tradition, Shimon clothed himself in his High Priest's vestments to receive Alexander the Great as he marched toward Jerusalem.  Alexander stepped from his chariot and bowed to Shimon, who, he said, had appeared to him in a dream predicting his victories.  Many traditional Jews who cannot travel to Meron in the Galilee celebrate Lag Ba'omer at Shimon Hatzaddik's tomb located in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in northern Jerusalem.  Jewish homes around the tomb had to be evacuated in the 1948 fighting.  In recent years Jewish families have returned to the neighborhood. More photos can be viewed at