“City of Gold in Black & White”

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To commemorate Jerusalem Day, the City of David archive, in collaboration with photographer Koby Harati, has created a virtual exhibit presenting the visual connection between Jerusalem’s past and the modern-day capital - highlighting the timeless spirit of our enduring city.

Using photographs from the Eric & Edith Matson Collection of the Library of Congress, the exhibit juxtaposes black and white photographs of Jerusalem taken during the late 19th and early 20th centuries with full-color photographs of the city as it looks today. The seamless merging of the photographs is the result of the unique eye of the exhibit photographer, Koby Harati, who not only shot from the same angle used in the older pictures, but at the same time of day, and under the same weather conditions - creating a true integration of past and present.

The viewer is transfixed by the visual effect of landmarks that remain wholly recognizable and virtually unchanged alongside the tremendous development of the area as a whole.

“We spent hours going through the Library of Congress collection to find high quality photographs whose specific location we could re-capture,” said Harati. “The greater challenge was pinpointing the exact position and camera angle that the older photographs were taken at - to reimagine buildings and structures that no longer stood and how they would have impacted the view. We used aerial photographs and even a 3D model to visualize the spaces. When it came time to photograph, I decided to ask passers-by to be volunteer to hold the old photos. Their hands in these pictures perfectly encapsulate the variety of people and characters who experience Jerusalem, who derive meaning from it and make it what it is.”

The exhibit, which represents a sample preview of a large collection of photos being developed, features prominent sites of Biblical Jerusalem including the Shiloah Channel in the City of David, the Yad Avshalom monument, the Southern Wall and the Temple Mount.

Atara Spero-Harow, Director of the City of David Archives commented that "in the City of David we document every passing hour and every layer that is excavated. There are changes in the area that can be seen at the end of a work day, and some that take weeks, months and even years to see. This exhibit gives us the opportunity to step back and appreciate the incredible progress – both as a result of massive transformations and minute details that the City of David has undergone in the past century, making it truly a place that is building its future on the foundations of its past."


The G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection/ Library of Congress

Written by: David Rudman & Dr. Asaf Miles

In 1881, a small group of Americans arrived in Israel from Chicago with the goal of founding an American colony in Jerusalem. The group was led by the Spafford family:  Anna, Horatio and their two daughters. The idea for the colony was borne out of family tragedies which befell the Spaffords, motivating them to dedicate their lives to helping others and worshiping God.

Upon Horatio Spafford’s death (in 1888), the family matriarch, Anna, assumed leadership of the group, and was influential in the group's continued development in Jerusalem.

The colony members first resided in the Old City, but they were eventually joined by a Swedish group, forcing them to expand. They rented the house of Rabbah Effendi al-Husseini (today the American Colony Hotel) not far from the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

They quickly adapted to life in Jerusalem, and formed ties with their Arab neighbors. Since they had no missionary intentions, they also succeeded in earning the trust of neighboring Jews, in particular the recently-arrived Yemenite immigrants- - who they associated with the tribe of Gad - referring to them as “Gadites”.

The colony’s members lived a communal life and practiced several trades: weaving, sewing, agriculture and milling. They brought processing methods and agricultural machines with them, and imported looms from Sweden. The Swedish group also set up a bakery, since the bread the Americans ate was not to their liking, and they would later sell bread and cakes to the residents of Jerusalem.

The colony’s photography department was founded by Elijah Myers, an avid photographer. In October and November of 1898, he documented the journey of Wilhelm II, the Emperor of Germany, to Israel. Demand for the photos was high and provided the colony’s treasury with considerable funds. Following this success, an official photography department was founded in the colony and its active members included renowned photographers such as Hol Lars Larsson and Eric Matson. Larsson, one of the Swedish settlers in the colony, was considered the department’s most talented photographer, capturing many people and places during his journeys in the Middle East.

Throughout their 100 years of activity, the American Colony’s photographers documented countless historic events in Israel and the Middle East; the Ottomans’ surrender to the British, the dedication of the Hebrew University at Mt. Scopus in 1925, the aftermath of the 1927 earthquake, and more. In addition, the colony’s photographers took many photos of archaeological and historical sites as well as landscape images.

Eventually, the colony split up and ownership of the photography store was left in the hands of Olaf Matson, who managed it until the 1950s.

In 1964, Matson donated his vast collection of photos, which included thousands of negatives, to the American Library of Congress in order to preserve and commemorate them.

Eventually additional negatives and photos were discovered in various locations. A number of crates containing thousands of negatives were found in the basement of the American Colony building in Jerusalem.

The American Colony’s photos are a visual testimony to the history and landscape of Israel, and particularly Jerusalem. They allow the observer to experience an immediate encounter with Israel and its capital city, in a time of significant change that permanently altered the city.


Written by: David Rudman & Dr. Asaf Miles


The Kidron Valley and the Village of Siloam

The Kidron Valley acted as ancient Jerusalem's natural border for thousands of years and separated the city of the living (the City of David and the Old City) and the Mount of Olives that served as Jerusalem’s necropolis (burial ground) since Biblical times and thereafter. The Village of Siloam is located along the southern slope of the Mount of Olives, across a wide area riddled with ancient burial caves.

A group of impoverished Jewish immigrants from Yemen who arrived in Jerusalem in 1882 lived in this part of the Mount of Olives and found shelter amongst the many ancient graves which pockmarked the neighborhood. A few years later, the Ezrat Nidahim Association founded a neighborhood for Yemenite immigrants called the Village of Siloam, where they lived until they were driven out by Arab rioters in 1936.

Some of the photos in the exhibit were taken by members of the American Colony who also tried helping the Yemenite settlement in the village.


The Dung Gate

This gate is one of the seven open gates in the Old City wall, built by the Ottomans between1538-1542.

The Dung Gate is mentioned in the Bible, in the book of Nehemiah:
“And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire” (Nehemiah, 2).

But the gate that Nehemiah mentions was probably not located here, and the name originates from the trash that was removed through this gate.

At first, the Ottomans built a simple narrow wicket gate with no guard post like the other gates, and it only served for pedestrian passage and was closed for most of the time.  During the Jordanian period, with the development of the settlement to the south of the Old City, the gate was widened in order to accommodate vehicles entering the Old City.

In this ancient photo the small opening can be seen as it was during the British period, after the area surrounding the gate was renovated and stairs and paths for pedestrians were added.

(today the gate serves only as an exit from the Old City)

After a significant renovation which took place after the Six-Day War, the gate became the most central route for visitors to the Western Wall, and tens of thousands of people pass through it each day.


Absalom's Tomb

In the Kidron Valley, one can find a beautiful tomb carved out of the bedrock, known as Absalom's Tomb.

Jerusalemite tradition ascribes the tomb to Absalom, David’s rebellious son. Absalom forced David to flee Jerusalem (the City of David) but he was eventually killed by Yoav, a General in David’s Army. The following was said about Absalom: “During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.” (2 Samuel 18:18). Residents of Jerusalem who sought a connection to the Bible and to Jerusalem’s glorious past identified the impressive structure in the Kidron Valley as this tomb and the location was named Absalom's Tomb.

Residents of Jerusalem would bring their wayward sons to Absalom’s Tomb and let them throw stones at the tomb so they would learn the punishment of a wayward son.

The older photo shows the pile of thrown stones at the side of the structure.

With the progress of archeology in Jerusalem, the structure was dated to the First century CE based on its Hellenistic-Roman style, and was seemingly carved out of rock by a wealthy resident of Jerusalem during the late Second Temple period.

The previously neglected site underwent extensive tourist development in recent years and convenient trails and a hospitality tent for visitors were added.


The Exit at Hezekiah’s Tunnel

Hezekiah’s Tunnel was dug approximately 2,700 years ago by King Hezekiah.

The tunnel was dug deep in the ground upon the expansion of First Temple period Jerusalem (8th century BCE) in preparation for the invasion of the Assyrian army. The purpose of the channel was to divert the waters of the Gihon Spring to within the city walls, thereby protecting it.

The tunnel’s construction was a highly complex task, which is still not fully understood today, as it was dug from the north and the south simultaneously, until the 2 groups of diggers met underground. The tunnel's waters were channeled to a pool for storage, called the Pool of Siloam.

Channeling the spring’s waters to the Pool of Siloam is mentioned in both the Bible (2 Chronicles 32) and in an inscription found in Jerusalem which describes the meeting of the two groups of diggers.

The Byzantines constructed a church to the north of the Pool of Siloam, above the southern exit of Hezekiah’s Tunnel, in which they constructed a large pool.

In the photo, one can see the tunnel's exit and remnants of the Byzantine pool which was part of a large church built there in the 5th century CE.

Hezekiah’s Tunnel is part of the City of David National Park and each year hundreds of thousands of visitors walk through its waters, which still flow today.

The Mount of Olives and the Tomb of Zechariah

The Mount of Olives is the oldest active burial site in the Jewish world. There are findings and evidence of burial on the Mount of Olives dating back to First Temple period.

At the foot of the mountain, next to the Kidron Valley, one can find several large impressive tombs carved out of rock. The tomb in the photo is called the “Tomb of Zechariah”, and served as a monument for the person buried in the area (in one of the caves nearby). For many years Jerusalem’s Jews ascribed the tomb to the prophet Zechariah son of Jehoiada, who lived during the First Temple period. His father, Jehoiada, saved King Yoash and even anointed him, yet Yoash killed Zechariah in the Temple, an event that became a symbol of the people’s betrayal and one of the causes of the Temple's destruction. Jews who lived under foreign rule in Jerusalem saw this tomb as the location to correct the sins of the past and therefore wanted to be buried next to it. They’d come to pray and hope for redemption. (It’s worth noting that the Roman-Hellenistic style of the tomb led researchers to date it to the 1st century CE).

In this photo, dated to January 1943, one can see the tomb with many graves nearby, while a prayer is being conducted on behalf of survivors of the Holocaust.

During the period of Jordanian rule, the graves around the Tomb of Zechariah were cleared and the tomb was fully revealed.

Recently the area underwent significant tourist development, allowing people from all across the world to come and visit.


The South-East Corner of the Temple Mount.

King Herod, who ruled Israel between 37 BCE - 4 BCE is known for his extensive construction projects throughout Israel, the most famous of which was the expansion of the Temple Mount and the renovation of the Second Temple – Jewish sages used to say that anyone who hasn't seen Herod’s reconstruction of the Temple has never seen a beautiful building in their lives.

When Herod renovated the Temple Mount, he surrounded it with retaining walls so they could support the large expansion. The Temple Mount’s four large retaining walls were partially preserved, and its western wall was the best preserved - hence its title as the Western Wall.

In the photo one can see the connection between the eastern and southern walls which includes several rows of stones which have survived for 2,000 years.


The Huldah Gates

The Temple Mount, which was renovated during Herod’s time in the First century BCE, is surrounded by four large retaining walls, the most famous of which is the Western Wall.

The walls included gates for entry and exit from the Temple Mount compound which served those visiting the Temple Mount. Remains of these gates are visible to this day, and can be found in the walls surrounding the mount.  In this photo of the Southern Wall, one can see three gates which were blocked over time. These gates contain the remains of the ancient gates from the time of the Second Temple, but most of the gates’ structure is the result of a later renovation.   The gates are mentioned in Jewish sources (Tractate Middot) and are known as the Hulda Gates.

In this new photo one can see some of the findings from the archaeological excavations which took place at the foot of the Hulda Gates, including a wide staircase which is surprisingly well-preserved from the times of the Second Temple, and was used by pilgrims as they ascended to the Temple.

Today one can visit the site through the Davidson Archaeological Park.


The Davidson Archaeological Park

This unique black-and-white photo shows a man standing on top of the walls of the Old City, built in the 16th century. These walls connect to the Temple Mount’s Southern Wall, over which the dome of the Al-Aqsa mosque can be seen, with a large park between the two walls. After the Six-Day War, archaeological excavations were undertaken throughout the park, yielding hundreds of remnants of lavish structures and fascinating findings spanning the centuries. Some of the most famous include Robinson's Arch, the Second Temple Period Pilgrimage Road and the Hulda Gates, and they are a testament to Jerusalem’s glory in the Second Temple period. The area in which archaeological excavations took place is now called the archaeological park, and remains an active excavation site. It includes a structure which serves as a museum and displays findings from the site’s excavations.


The Old City Wall

The Old City Wall, built by the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent from 1538-1542, utilized the layout of previously built walls. The wall segment seen in the picture was built according to a different layout than the one which existed during the First and Second Temple periods. During those times, the walls surrounded both the City of David and Mount Zion, but in later periods the city grew closer to the Temple Mount, and so the City of David, and the walls surrounding it, were excluded from the city's domain. This meant that Jerusalem’s location during the time of King David was gradually forgotten. 

The picture shows the wall as well as the Temple Mount’s southern wall, specifically the part which Suleiman used as a city wall. The picture also shows the City of David on the right, which was desolate at the time. The Mount of Olives can be seen in the background.


The Gihon Spring

The Gihon Spring was one of Jerusalem’s most important water sources. About 2,700 years ago, King Hezekiah diverted the spring’s water to the Pool of Siloam by constructing a massive underground tunnel, but the spring continued to serve as a water source in different periods. The steps leading to the spring were built In the Mamluk period.

This was the access point for Charles Warren who discovered the City of David’s water systems, which led to the understanding that this area was the original site of ancient Jerusalem.


Written by: David Rudman & Dr. Asaf Miles

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There is no better activity for a hot summer day than walking through the underground water tunnels
Brown family, USA
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