Aside from being the holiest spot in Judaism, the Temple Mount has become the most volatile spot in the entire Middle East. And now, writes Israel Hayom’s Nadav Shragai, nearly two centuries of photographic history of this prime spot in God’s eternal Holy City are ready to be seen for the first time:
Tags: History Israel Israel Hayom Nadav Shragai Photography Temple Mount
James Finn, a British consul in Jerusalem in the 19th century, once described in his diary the Sudanese guards at the Temple Mount compound as people whose very look could arouse fear and even as having murdered Christians who snuck into the compound.
These Sudanese guards were so stealthy that in 1855, the Muslim Waqf put them in jail to ensure that the Belgian Duke of Brabant, a Christian, could visit the Mount safely. The Waqf went so far as to forbid photographers to document the historic visit, during which the “superior religion” (as Islam sees itself) honored someone who represented either Christianity or Judaism.
When the exhibit “The Mount,” which is currently open at the Tower of David Museum, was being researched, museum director and curator Eilat Lieber and curator of the exhibit Shimon Lev left no stone unturned to find a photograph of that historic visit and were astonished that none could be found. Although that fit in well with the fact that the first photographs of the Temple Mount, from 1839, were taken from a distance, mostly from the Mount of Olives, by Christian photographers who controlled the newly-invented craft. The work – while lovely – suffers from its distance from the subject.
But only a few years later, the Mount was opened to Christian, Armenian, and even one photographer who had been born Jewish and later converted. Many documented the inner compound and events that took place there. The exhibit “The Mount” offers an exciting photographic glimpse at the modern-day biography of the Jerusalem volcano, its eruptions (which were almost always the result of events that started far away), and many peaceful moments of the last 180 years.
A Jewish visit from Cyprus
In 1898, when non-Muslims were no longer barred from the Temple Mount compound, German Emperor Wilhelm II visited. Photographers from the American Colony in Jerusalem took pictures. Three years later, in 1901, running water was put into Al-Aqsa Mosque. Lev and his research assistant Yael Brandt discovered a rare photograph of the ceremony marking that development in a book called “Al-Quds Album,” which was published by a Turkish organization.
“That was the first place in the Old City to be connected to running water,” Lev says.
The curators also managed to locate a picture of King Hussein of Jordan switching on the first electric lights at Al-Aqsa…