Photograph of Ben-Hinnom Valley and Mishkenot Sha'ananim, End of Nineteenth Century
The photograph shows the view to the west of the Old City in Jerusalem at the end of the nineteenth century, featuring Ben-Hinnom Valley at the edge of the Old City. In the centre of the picture, Sultan’s Pool can be seen, and in the background are the houses of Mishkenot Sha’ananim. The landscape is mostly empty of buildings and is covered with stone, trees, and shrubs.
The photograph appears in one of the old photographic collections of the National Library in an album called Little Fiorillo’s Album which contains photographs taken by the photographer Luigi Fiorillo who worked in the 1870s in Alexandria, Egypt.
At the time the photograph was taken, the situation of the Jewish community in Jerusalem was very difficult. They lived within the walls of the Old City, and due to the limited housing, rent was very high and crowded conditions resulted in sanitary problems and diseases. In order to find a solution to these problems, the Jewish population began to seek new homes outside of the Old City. The first Jewish neighbourhood to be built outside of the walls was Mishkenot Sha’ananim, shown in the right-hand side of the photograph. Sir Moses Montefiore built this neighbourhood in 1860 with funds from the inheritance of the American Jewish philanthropist Judah Touro. The name of the neighbourhood was taken from the book of Isaiah 32:18: “My people will abide in peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places.”
Mishkenot Sha’ananim’s isolated location outside the Old City walls left it exposed to Bedouin raids. People were therefore reluctant to leave the overcrowded Old City despite the clean and relatively spacious new houses; only the poor moved to the new neighbourhood through lack of choice. People were even paid to move there, and the neighbourhood was fortified with a stone wall and a heavy door that was locked at night. The improved sense of security in the area encouraged more people to move out of the Old City, and in the following years, additional Jewish neighbourhoods were built, including Machane Yisrael, Nachalat Shiva, Mazkeret Moshe, and others.
Today, Mishkenot Sha’ananim has become one of Jerusalem’s popular tourist sites and the houses have been turned into luxury guesthouses for visiting authors and artists.
Sultan’s Pool in the foreground of the photograph is an ancient water reservoir to the west of Mount Zion. The reservoir was allegedly constructed at the time of King Herod and was part of the city’s water supply network until the Ottoman period. The pool is dry today and is used for outdoor concerts and exhibitions.
The photographer, Luigi Fiorillo, was an Italian photographer based in Alexandria. In the late nineteenth century, Fiorillo travelled to many Middle Eastern locations, including Israel, and photographed the landscape. His photographs were then shown in exhibitions in Europe. Some of these are part of the National Library of Israel’s collections.
Geography teachers can use this photograph to teach about Jerusalem during the Ottoman Empire and the urban development of the city.
Jewish History teachers can use the resource in lessons about the Ottoman Empire in the Land of Israel and Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The resource can also be used to compare between ancient and modern Jerusalem.
Describe the landscape.
What sites can you see in the photograph?
What is the long building in the right-hand corner?
What is the description at the bottom of the picture?
What language is it written in?
Reading Between the Lines
The photograph is of Ben-Hinnom Valley.
Where is this valley?
Where is this place mentioned in the Bible?
In the centre of the photograph is Sultan’s Pool. What was it used for in the past?
What is it used for today?
On the right of the photograph is Mishkenot Sha’ananim.
Who established this neighbourhood?
When was it established and why?
Descriptions of the new neighbourhoods outside the walls of the Old City portray the difficulties of living in an isolated location.
How does the photograph illustrate this point?
What is Mishkenot Sha’ananim today?
Have you been there? If not, search the internet for modern photographs of the neighbourhood.
Is it similar to this picture?
Explain the differences.
What site is located in the area that connects it with Moses Montefiore? Explain the connection.
Draw a modern picture of the same view and compare the pictures.
The year is 1870. Write a letter from a resident of Mishkenot Sha’ananim to a family member still living in the Old City.
Describe the differences of living in the new neighbourhood.