“Stranger Things” in Jerusalem: Goethe and Goebbels in the Ticho Family Garden

How Else Lasker-Schüler ventured into her own alternate universe in downtown Jerusalem…

“The Banished Poet”, by Else Lasker-Schüler, 1942. The National Library collections

We may imagine the Ticho family garden in its heyday: a serene spot in the midst of a slowly expanding city, pine trees providing a sanctuary of scent and occasional shade; Patients of the famous eye doctor quietly erring across the garden path into the clinic, their companions catching a glimpse of Anna Ticho’s drawings and aquarelles; British Government officials, emigre intellectuals and local artists strolling the grounds while contemplating the state of the Mandate and of the escalating War in Europe.

Or we could delve into Else Lasker-Schüler’s version of this garden. In her play “I and I”, completed in Jerusalem in 1943, the poet conjures up a dystopic alternative to the eye doctor’s “tropical garden”. This “garden of hell” could be described as an early slapstick version of the “Upside-Down” – the parallel universe featured in Netflix’s “Stranger Things”. The writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is able to move between both gardens, while Goebbels, Goering and other figures are confined to the diabolical garden. The rest of the horrific yet humorous cast consists of Faust, Mephisto, Max Reinhardt, the poet herself, a scarecrow, the editor of the Haaretz newspaper, and other historical and fictional characters from the German literary and theatre worlds or from the country’s political and military elite.

Else Lasker-Schüler, February 1919, the Schwadron Portrait Collection at the National Library of Israel

The play itself was written during Else Lasker-Schüler’s period of forced exile in Jerusalem, after the Swiss Authorities had refused her re-entry to the country in 1939. By 1941, when she began writing “I and I”, she was already seventy years old and a distinguished poet and painter, although now deemed a “degenerate artist” by the Nazi regime. In Jerusalem she would publish her most famous poetry volume, “My Blue Piano”, through the Tarshish Publishing House in 1943. During these years she continued to paint and worked on her third play, which was not staged during her lifetime.

A 1979 production of Lasker-Schüler’s play “I and I” (Ichundich) in Düsseldorf. Photo by Ulli Weiss, Foto Lore Bermbach, the National Library collections.

Her young admirer, the literary scholar and writer Werner Kraft, likewise a refugee from Germany since 1934, settled in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighborhood, where he wrote his major studies on Karl Kraus and Rudolf Borchardt. Mostly working from the desk at his home, he wrote a journal chronicling and reflecting upon the fate of German-Jewish refugees amidst the urban and rural communities of the yishuv. His entries on Else Lasker-Schüler from these days include a passage from July 24th, 1941, in which he fittingly depicts the courageous and outrageous imagination of Else Lasker-Schüler, which reaches its creative peak in the play “I and I”: “She speaks of Wolfgang Ephraim Goethe, divides herself into Faust and Mephisto, lets the latter claim to have saved the former from the ‘bourgeoisie’. She lets the devil capitulate in face of this world of Hitlers, has Goebbels copulate with Mrs. Martha Schwertlein, and evokes all the magic of the old, noble Germany. She breaks grammar rules, sometimes writes in verse or in a “platt” everyday language, generates associative rhymes like children or the sick, yet with an overall effect of shattering greatness” (originally quoted in Marbacher Magazin 71, 1975).

A 1979 production of Lasker-Schüler’s play “I and I” (Ichundich) in Düsseldorf. Photo by Ulli Weiss, Foto Lore Bermbach, the National Library collections.

Indeed, the play moves between past and present, Germany and Jerusalem, and even contains a play within a play. It portrays awe-inspiring literary magnets alongside the devils of their day. While Goebbels appears in the play as a diabolical pleb, the Nazi Minister had in fact impacted Else Lasker-Schüler’s personal fate, as she notes in several letters from the 1930s to friends and acquaintances. She names Goebbels as directly responsible for banning her works and inciting violence against her. These letters are scattered among the two main portions of her archive, kept at the National Library in Jerusalem and the German Literary Archive (DLA) in Marbach, Germany. Examples include letters she wrote to Emil Raas and Fritz Strich, which are kept at both archives.

In a long letter to Professor Strich from December 1934, for example, Lasker-Schüler bewails her last days in Berlin before fleeing to Zurich. She speaks particularly of Goebbels who vilified and haunted her on the radio, in newspapers and in pamphlets handed out on the street. She continues to painfully note how she was beaten in public, had stones thrown at her and was encouraged by her landlord to leave, since he no longer felt he could guarantee her safety. Upon arrival in Zurich she had no choice but to sleep six nights on a bench by the lake because none of her acquaintances were in town (letter kept at the DLA). The letter is sealed with a drawing of a female and male figure with a new moon hung above them and relates to brief descriptions of the poet’s recent trip to “The Land of the Hebrews” and the fantastical travel journal she was writing.

The fusion of fact and fiction in the above letter is repeated, albeit in heightened fashion, in “The Land of the Hebrews” and later in “I and I”. In the play, Lasker-Schüler also moves between real and imagined locations, all inhabited by historical and fictional figures from both the past and the present. The sixth act of  “I and I“ takes place in the “eye doctor’s garden” where the “princely poet” – Else Lasker-Schüler herself – converses with a well-read scarecrow who tells her of his past travels with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Hermann’s Dorothea. The poet herself claims not to read much because she disdains the sound of pages turning. Among the many characters evoked and transformed in the play, the scarecrow in the sixth act takes on a unique, transgressive position – he is on the one hand a well-read, cultured figure who in the past accompanied literary giants, yet is now kept at the end of a “tropical garden” with no food at his disposal. This we may read as a reflection of the poet’s state: on her material and intellectual isolation in exile, her banishment into this “tropical garden” of Eretz Israel where tea parties and salon conversations take place, but from where she nonetheless longs for her past life.

“The Banished Poet”, by Else Lasker-Schüler, 1942. The National Library collections

The poet’s state in the world is an ongoing topic in Else Lasker-Schüler’s writing long before her exile, yet the “banishment of the poet” becomes a real and thematic trope in her writings and painting after 1933. The National Library holds many paintings and drawings of Else Lasker-Schüler, one in fact named “The Banished Poet”. It was completed between 1935 and 1942. Lasker-Schüler added the year “1933”, probably for symbolic value, as well as lines from her first poetry volume “Styx” from 1902 from which she frequently quoted to her friend and muse Ernst Simon in Jerusalem during her years there. The painting is both thematically and aesthetically typical of Else Lasker-Schüler during these years, when she was already complaining about pains in her arm but also insisting that she “must paint”. The iconic left profile features flat pencil strokes, with depth and color added by the use of red, blue and yellow crayons.

The appearance is Oriental, of course: apart from the Egyptian profile, the wide clothes and pointy shoes also remind us of the famous 1912 photograph from Berlin in which the poet is dressed as an Oriental prince, a figure that slowly emerges during these years in prose volumes like The Nights of Tino from Baghdad (1907) or The Prince of Thebes (1914).

Else Lasker-Schüler as an Oriental prince, 1912

The melancholic and perhaps even resigned recline of the poet’s figure in the painting preempts a far more confusing and deliberately split personality in “I and I”. Here the poet does not fold in the face of evil that conquers the world, or refrain from confrontation with the Mephistos, Goebbels or Goerings. Her fate and dealings with the world continue the paradigmatic Faustian split in the attempt to confront the forces of good and bad in the world. In the eye doctor’s garden, she glimpses her very own past, as well as Germany’s, in the hollow, hungry figure of the scarecrow. The playwright thus dangles the audience intermittently between metaphysics and history, between poetry and politics, between the hellish garden of Nazi horror and the estate of a renowned Jerusalem eye doctor.


You can find Else Lasker-Schüler’s Archive at the National Library of Israel


This article is part of a series of guest articles written by participants in the archival project “Traces and Treasures of German-Jewish History in Israel”. The project, which was initiated in 2012, is a collaboration between The Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach and the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow (Leipzig). It is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

This project promotes the arrangement and description of archives of German-Jewish scholars, writers, and artists and encourages archive-based research in the fields of Cultural Transfer, the History of Science, the Migration of Knowledge, and the History of Ideas. It offers junior scholars and students the opportunity to combine academic research with archival practice and provide an essential foundation for new cultural and scholarly discussions, by making previously inaccessible personal archives, literary estates, and historical collections available to international research.


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Pesah Hevroni: Among the great Jewish mathematicians of the twentieth century, inventor and brilliant scholar, native of Jerusalem

The archive of Dr. Pesah Hevroni is not large, but it succinctly and accurately recounts the tragic story of one of the great Jewish mathematicians of the twentieth century, an inventor and brilliant scholar born in Jerusalem, who never quite came into his own

Photo: from Wikipedia

The archive of Dr. Pesah Hevroni is not large, but it succinctly and accurately recounts the tragic story of one of the great Jewish mathematicians of the twentieth century, an inventor and brilliant scholar born in Jerusalem, who never quite came into his own. Its scant folders of letters and documents contain – in addition to an impressive correspondence with the world’s leading mathematicians of the first half of the twentieth century – a concise account of the intellectual world of this scientist and inventor who spent most of his life in Jerusalem.

Pesah Hevroni was born to a Chassidic (Chabad) family in the Mazkeret Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem in 1888. He attended yeshiva at Etz-Hayim and Beit Hamusar and was considered a prodigy in the world of Torah study. However, the life of this bearded, sidelock-sporting, yeshiva boy took a dramatic turn when he discovered a book on cosmography – Shvilei Derakheha – in his grandfather’s library.  Appended to this book was a booklet containing short, illustrated introductions to planary geometry, trigonometry, and other mathematical areas. Intrigued by the discovery, Hevroni set out to learn more about the subject. The first stop in this quest was Beit Hasfarim Midrash Abravanel on Chabashim Street, the earliest iteration of the National Library. He hoped to find more books on mathematics in the library in order to feed the intense curiosity that had awakened in him. However, as Yosef Yoel Rivlin tells us, the road leading to the library was not without its obstacles. He was forbidden to visit this institution, which the extremist factions to which his grandfather, R. Hayim Elazar belonged regarded as profane.

Despite the difficulties he faced, the young yeshiva boy managed to acquire a significant body of mathematical knowledge from books and independent study. The more he learned, the clearer it became to him that he needed to leave the world of Torah study and undertake secular studies, specifically in the sciences, to which he was drawn. Thus, the shy yeshiva boy found his way to the most zealous intellectual in Jerusalem at the time, Eliezer Ben Yehuda. Ben Yehuda, discerning Hevroni’s technical abilities, believed he could find him a place among the students of Boris Schatz, who had just founded the arts and crafts school of Bezalel. Hevroni’s encounters with Ben Yehuda and Schatz led to further encounters with leading figures in education in Palestine at the time, who were immediately impressed by the young man’s exceptional talent. With their help, he finished his high school studies quickly. Then, having cut off his sidelocks and shaved his beard, he was sent to study mathematics at university in Zurich, Switzerland, thanks to the assistance and encouragement of Paul Nathan. In 1914, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, Pesah Hevroni earned the title doctor of mathematics. He was the first native of the old settlement in Palestine to earn this title.  When he informed his teachers in Zurich, who nicknamed him “the Star of the East”, that he intended to return to Jerusalem immediately, they were extremely upset and tried to deter him, but to no avail.

Despite his incisive mathematical genius, Hevroni did not manage to take his place among the faculty of the newly established Hebrew University. An exchange of letters in his archive testifies to the fact that, although he taught at the university from its first day and was actually among the founders of the institute of mathematics, the university administration persistently refused him tenure as a lecturer.  A letter sent to him by Professor Hugo Bergman of the Hebrew University, and a former director of the National Library, was intended to help him achieve his goal of tenure. However, despite a recommendation from Albert Einstein and warm words from Hugo Bergman, this was not to be. A humiliated and rejected Hevroni was forced to pursue his research outside of the only academic center in the country at the time, in conditions of abject poverty.

Hevroni’s archive contains letters from the world’s greatest mathematicians, to whom he sent his articles and studies, many of which were published in various contexts all over the world. Hevroni did not rest on his laurels but participated in founding the Israel Association for Mathematical Research, worked to further science education in the country, and nurtured many students, some of whom became important scholars.

In addition to his mathematical research, Hevroni dabbled in inventing. A letter from the manager of the Mograbi Cinema in Tel Aviv teaches us that Hevroni invented a planetarium that made use of the theater’s projectors. Towards the end of his life Hevroni also became absorbed by the idea of world peace, and even began an essay on the subject, which he entitled “Journal of Peace.” It appears that he never completed this piece, but even the excerpts preserved in his archive, written in fine pencil and beautiful script, bear testimony to the fascinating spirit of this special individual.

Pesah Hevroni passed away on 18 Adar 5723 (1963), on his seventy fifth birthday. Yosef Yoel Rivlin learned from his sister that “even in his final moments, his fingers moved over the bedcovers as if writing mathematical forms and equations, and his lips continued to move….”

Letter from Hugo Bergmann to Pesah Hevroni


The Father of Hebrew Cinema and His Lost Film

Ya'acov Ben-Dov is considered the founder of silent cinema in Israel. This is the story of the few remaining segments of his legendary first film, Judea Liberated.


On a Tuesday afternoon in early December 1917, the second night of Hanukkah in the Hebrew year 5678, General Edmund Allenby entered the old city of Jerusalem, and the British conquest of the Land of Israel began. This was also the moment, according to the late cinema scholar Ya’akov Gross, that ushered in the age of Hebrew cinema. The Jerusalemite photographer Ya’acov Ben-Dov stood at the Jaffa Gate with his silent film camera, documenting the historic events. The segment was incorporated into a film Ben-Dov produced that year: the first Hebrew motion-picture, titled ‘Judea Liberated’ (Yehuda Ha’meshukhreret). The film’s production was an arduous process, and its fate afterwards is a rather open-ended story of many twists and turns… Let’s start at the beginning.

Ya’acov Ben-Dov was born in Ukraine. He attended the Academy of the Arts in Kiev and was already making a living as a photographer by then. He immigrated to Israel and was one of the first students to attend the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts. He later became the head of the school’s photography department. As early as 1912, Ben-Dov reached out to Arthur Ruppin, the director of the Palestine Office of the Zionist Organization, asking for a loan of 2,500 francs from the national treasury to acquire a “cinematographic machine”, as he called it. Ben-Dov stressed that his films would serve the cause of “important propaganda.”

Though his efforts were futile, a few years later Ben-Dov won an award for his devoted service in the Austrian military during WWI – his first silent film camera. It was with this camera that he filmed Allenby in Jerusalem as well as many short scenes filmed all around the young Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine. These scenes made up Ben-Dov’s first silent film, completed in late 1918. The name of the film was “Judea Liberated” and ahead of its release an elegant program was produced listing the scenes in order.


The program produced ahead of the release of “Judea Liberated” featured an outline of the film’s scenes

Several movies were produced in Israel even before “Judea Liberated” was completed, yet Ben-Dov was the first to successfully persist in his work for years, earning him the title ‘the pioneer of silent film in Israel’. However, the movie was damned even before its release. The production did not receive any support from the national institutions as Ben-Dov had hoped. Though it was eventually bought by theatres, and most likely screened, the film was not commercially successful. One of the film’s few copies stood at the heart of an ongoing trial involving Yehiel Weizmann (brother of Chaim Weizmann’s, Israel’s first president, and father of Ezer Weizmann, Israel’s seventh president). This copy made its way to London, South Africa, and its tracks were eventually lost in the United States in the 1930s. Only a few scenes survived and were fortunately incorporated into other films created by Ben-Dov.

The scenes, which were tracked down and identified by film researcher Ya’akov Gross, are all held at the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive and include the following:

  • Allenby’s historic entry to Jerusalem, and a reception held in honor of the British general in the summer of 1918.
  • One scene depicts the reception held in Jerusalem for the Zionist Commission chaired by Chaim Weizmann. The commission was formed following the Balfour Declaration and visited Israel in April 1918. The full movie, its quality outstanding, shows the members of the commission touring the Western Wall and other sites.
  • In another scene, thousands of Muslim pilgrims gather at the Temple Mount (the al Aqsa Mosque compound) before the traditional Nabi Musa procession. The pilgrims would travel from Jerusalem to a site in the Judean desert where, according to tradition, Moses is buried. In the film’s program, the scene is titled ‘The Sacred Space’.
  • The Hebrew University cornerstone-laying ceremony attended by Chaim Weizmann, July 24th, 1918
  • An assortment of scenes from the last part of the film, recording life in Jewish colonies in Israel, including Rishon LeZion, Ness Ziona and Gedera

The scenes were edited by Ya’akov Gross, who integrated them into a short biographical film about Ben-Dov. Watch the scenes here:

Click here to watch the full movie, produced in cooperation with the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive.

Though somewhat defeated, Ben-Dov was not disheartened and pursued his efforts to produce movies in Mandatory Palestine. He and a partner established the Menorah Film Company. His second movie, the first film to be produced by the company, was titled ‘The Land of Israel Liberated’ (Eretz Yisrael Hameshukhreret) and was more highly regarded. Ben-Dov created at least thirty films, both through Menorah as well as later on with the support of the Jewish National Fund and Keren HaYesod. Most of these, like “Judea Liberated”, were lost.


“By Popular Demand!” A poster promoting a special screening for children of the Menorah film – ‘The Land of Israel Liberated”

And yet in the late 1920s Ben-Dov’s star began to fade. The sound revolution in filmmaking and technological advancements left this pioneer cinematographer behind. The JNF and Keren HaYesod opted not to purchase his films, and he eventually sold his film library to the producer Baruch Agadati who freely incorporated Ben-Dov’s materials into his movies. And so, just like his first film, the memory of Ben-Dov’s work in silent film cinema was lost; only years later would it again be widely recognized.



Nathan Gross and Yaacov Gross, The Hebrew Film: The History of the Silent Film and Cinema in Israel [Hebrew], Jerusalem: authors’ edition, 1991

Hillel Tryster, Israel Before Israel: Silent Cinema in the Holy Land, Jerusalem, Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, 1995

The videos in this article are courtesy of the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive.

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Rare Images: When the Land of Israel Shook in 1927

Rare Images: When the Land of Israel Shook in 1927

These photographs document the powerful earthquake that led to hundreds of deaths in 1927.

On the 11th of July, 1927, Mandatory Palestine and Transjordan were struck by a powerful earthquake. The tremor measured 7.5 on the Richter scale. This was the most significant natural disaster in the region in the past century, as well as a seismological research milestone – the first earthquake in the area to be documented by scientific instruments.

Hundreds of people were killed and hundreds more were injured. Damage to property was severe. Nablus, Ramla and Lod were heavily affected. Jerusalem, Jericho, Amman and Al-Salt also suffered, on a smaller scale. In Nablus alone, more than one hundred people were killed. In Jerusalem, the Hebrew University buildings on Mount Scopus were badly damaged, including Gray Hill House, the temporary home of the Institute of Jewish Studies.

That fatal summer saw preparations for construction of the Jewish National and University Library building on Mount Scopus. At the time of the earthquake, the precursor of today’s National Library of Israel was still located in its old building at Beit Ne’eman (at the end of Habashim Street – now Bnei Brit Street in Jerusalem’s Musrara neighborhood). According to one report, the Library building was not damaged at all and the books within were also unharmed. Life in the library continued as usual. To attest to this fact, only a few days after the terrible disaster, the library staff hastened to hold a small exhibition on the subject of historic earthquakes in the region.

Naturally, on the day after the disaster, the daily newspaper, Doar Hayom, devoted its pages, above all else, to the earthquake.


“A Great Tremor in Eretz Israel – It started at seven past three – the greatest tremor in its history – felt in all of the land’s cities and villages…” The article in Doar Hayom on the day after the earthquake. Click on the image for the full edition



The National Library Presents: The Earthquake of 1837

On July 13th, alongside a feature on the damages caused to various public buildings in Jerusalem, was an announcement in the paper that the Library had put together an exhibit on the history of earthquakes in the Land of Israel.


The article in Doar Hayom was published on the 13th of July, 1927. Click on the picture for the full newspaper

This article gives us a rare glimpse into what was offered in the improvised exhibition put together by the Library staff. The majority of focus in the exhibition was on the powerful earthquake that had preceded that year’s quake – this was the famous earthquake of 1837 which mainly affected the cities of Safed and Tiberias.

What was displayed in the 1927 exhibition?

The article in Doar Hayom explained that the exhibition presented three letters sent from the Land of Israel after the 1837 earthquake. They were written by Mr. Israel Mashkelov, Mr. Aryeh Yerachmiel, and Mr. Raphael Yitzchak Alfandari.

It appears that printed versions of letters sent from the Land of Israel to members and officials of the Amsterdam Jewish community were presented at the exhibition. The original letters made a great impression on the Jews of Amsterdam at the time, and they rushed to publish them in a small, three-page booklet. The booklet was widely distributed throughout Europe and became well known in the Jewish world. In these letters the earthquake is described in great detail. They also include a list of the villages and towns that were affected by the natural disaster, as well as the number of dead and injured in each locale.

This was how one of the survivors described the disaster of 1837:

“On the 24th of Tevet, during the afternoon prayer, a great and terrible tremor rose up, and any who looked upon the land could see the shaking, and here [Jerusalem] some houses and courtyards were also damaged and the whole city was afraid, but thankfully no one was hurt. And in Nablus houses fell and all the shops and sixty people perished and not one of them was of the People of Israel thank the Lord, but in Holy Galilee, ahh! Safed and Tiberias were left in ruins…Fallen and destroyed were all the houses, and all the synagogues, the Sephardic community, the community of Hasidim and our community of Pharisees were destroyed, and no house or street or marketplace was longer visible, even the wall of Tiberias fell, a fire broke out and the Sea of Galilee flooded the city.

O that my head were (full of) waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people, for we have lost two hundred souls, and I have been sent the list of our remnant, left naked, except for those who went with me to Jerusalem and who had departed from there before…”

The article also reveals that the exhibition featured a first edition Jerusalem printing of the book Seder Avodat HaKodesh, printed after the Israel Back printing house moved its printing press from Safed to Jerusalem in the wake of the earthquake. The book deals with Kabbalistic issues and was originally written by Chaim Yosef David Azulai. The1841 edition was accompanied by an unusual introduction from the printer. Israel Back was one of the pioneers of the art of printing in the Land of Israel, and he saw fit to preface the book with a long apology. He tells of the hardships he suffered, which forced him to move his printing press from the city of Safed, which was destroyed in the earthquake, to Jerusalem.

Forward by the publisher describing the earthquake in the book Seder Avodat HaKodesh.


Back’s “apology” gives readers of the book, almost one hundred and eighty years after its writing, a firsthand account of the devastation caused by the earthquake.

“…a great tremor which the Lord inflicted upon his land and his people… And the doorposts quaked from the voice of him who called, and the holy cities of Safed and Tiberias were destroyed and twenty-one souls were struck down in one moment. O that my head were (full of) waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the House of Israel … And it came to pass after that tribulation, the Children of Israel were dispersed to all corners of the Land of Israel …”

The Doar Hayom article, also mentioned another book displayed in the exhibition – Ahavat Tzion by Rabbi Simcha of Volozhin – which also adds to the recorded history of the earthquake in Safed and Tiberias.

The book includes an account of the 1837 earthquake described from a tourist’s point of view:

“And the doorposts quaked from the voice of the tremor and two hundred courtyards were ruined and in each courtyard several homes, some of which fell to their foundations…and some 120 souls perished. And before the tremor one Hasid of the Land of Israel was told that great trouble would come to Safed but they did not know what it was. They arranged prayers and study as is customary in our country, but our sins were such that the verdict was not torn. And some wise scholars were found dead with their faces on their books, and the Hasid was among them. And in the morning light they found a few more people alive, but several days later the tremor returned and some twenty more were killed.”

Unfortunately, we have no documentation of the public’s reaction to the Library exhibition. However, it is likely that it aroused great interest, and it seems that its success encouraged the Library’s management to collect documentation of the more recent 1927 earthquake.

On March 5th, 1929, around a year and a half after the great earthquake of July, 1927, the following announcement appeared in Doar Hayom:


The public announcement published in March, 1929 in Doar Hayom. Click on the picture for the full newspaper


“The National and University Library is assembling a collection of valuable photographs from the earthquake of 1927. Anyone who has historical material is requested to present it to the library as a gift or for copying. It is recommended to attach to all photographs the name of the photographer, the name of the location in which the photograph was taken (city, village, street, building) and the exact date on which the photograph was taken.”

This public call was a success and the Library received an influx of very interesting photographs, creating a unique record of the damage caused by the earthquake in July, 1927.


What was captured in these rare images?

The most intriguing group of photographs is comprised of thirty-two silver prints of various sizes, which were apparently photographed with the same 6 X 9 cm camera. These photographs were taken by members of the “delegation” seen in some of the pictures. They captured the damage throughout the Land of Israel, as well as Transjordan. Members of this group (Mr. Reiser, Mr. Neumann and three members of the Badian family) traveled in their cars and documented the destruction caused by the earthquake. The captions were inscribed in Hebrew and English.

The photographs were donated to the National Library in 1929. Who were the five travelers who decided to tour the country and its surroundings in their car during the great earthquake? Unfortunately, no additional documentation beyond the names has surfaced to provide an answer to this intriguing question.

​​​ ​​ ​ ​

Earthquake damage in Nablus


Earthquake damage in Lod


A picture of the photographers who toured the country in the wake of the earthquake.


Earthquake damage in the village of Reineh Village in northern Israel


Earthquake damage in the village of Reineh Village in northern Israel


A street in Tiberias that was damaged in the earthquake

Another set of photographs includes 18 silver prints of various sizes, including photographs from the cities of Jerusalem and Nablus. The backs of some of the photographs are marked with the stamp of the German-based Internationale Foto-Aagentur press agency, as well as typewritten annotations in German. Apparently, these photographs were taken by various photographers and sent to the European press through the same news agency.

​ ​

Three black and white photographs from the city of Nablus were accompanied by a poignant letter from Yeshayahu Blechman, a loyal reader of Doar Hayom:

“… I am sending you three photographs that were taken a few hours after the tremors in Nablus. The photographs were taken by the manager of the Nablus branch of Spinney’s Ltd. The picture of the British police in the car seems to me to have been taken several days after the earthquake, and in the car we can see bread that was sent from Tel Aviv …”

Spinney’s was a supermarket chain that maintained branches across the Middle East. The chain supplied most of the products to the British colonies. It is, therefore, possible to infer that the shipment of bread that arrived in Nablus (in an open truck, without any cover) was taken by a representative of this company, who ordered the shipment from the branch of Spinney’s in Tel Aviv.

Another collection of photographs was donated to the Library by one of the photographers of the American Colony. The Colony’s photographers (chief among them, Eric Matson) documented the earthquake in various places throughout the country, including Jerusalem. The complete American Colony collection is kept in the Library of Congress, including photographs from this event.




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