Celebrating from afar

The American Colony in Palestine celebrates Independence Day in 1918.

Army Troupe (photo credit: Courtesy: Library of Congress)
Army Troupe
(photo credit: Courtesy: Library of Congress)
The founders of the American Colony in Jerusalem in 1881 were proud of their American roots. The group of utopian, millennialist Christians were later joined by Swedish-American and Swedish believers.
The American Colony set up clinics, orphanages, cottage industries and soup kitchens for the poor of Jerusalem, earning favor with the Turkish rulers of Palestine. Their concern for all citizens of Jerusalem was evident in the shelter and assistance they provided to poor Yemenite Jews who arrived in Jerusalem in 1882.
When World War I broke out, the American Colony’s photographers were able to work on both sides of the conflict.
At the start of World War I and before the United States joined in the war effort, American aid to the Jews of Palestine was crucial for their survival. In October 1914, the US Navy’s North Carolina delivered $50,000 for the Jews’ relief. In some cases the funds were administered through the American consul general in Jerusalem so that the money would not be confiscated by Turkish authorities.
The British army, under General Edmund Allenby, captured Jerusalem in December 1917. Seven months later, Allenby was the guest of honor at the American Colony’s Fourth of July celebrations.
A curious picture appears on the same album page with Allenby at the American Colony festivities. It appears to be a group of actors who performed at the reception.
Indeed, the group is probably part of the British army’s theater and concert group, known as a “Pierrot troupe,” that entertained the troops during the war.
The woman is a female impersonator, and the figure second from the left appears to be an actor portraying a Faginesque Jew with a long beard, black hat, bottle of wine and candlesticks.

The writer served as a senior Israeli diplomat in Washington. Today he is a public affairs consultant and publisher of www.israeldailypicture.com.