Jaffa-Jerusalem Train Ticket, 1890s
This train ticket is printed in both Arabic and French and is a second-class train ticket from the village of Bittir to Jerusalem on the Jaffa-Jerusalem line, the only train line in Palestine at the end of the nineteenth century.
The ticket is printed in both Arabic, the language of Ottoman-era Palestine, and French as the line was financed primarily through French investors. In her 1915 book Recent Jewish Progress in Palestine , Henrietta Szold wrote: “One of the most important events of the period under consideration was the completion of the Jaffa-Jerusalem Railroad in 1892.”
The opening of the French built Jaffa-Jerusalem Railroad in 1892 made it far easier for pilgrims to travel from Jaffa to Jerusalem. While originally there had been just one train a day in each direction, it quickly gained in popularity so that by 1900, two trains were required. The journey time was close to 6 hours, far longer than the three hours which had been originally envisaged by the designers of the line.
E. A. Reynolds-Ball, author of a guidebook written at that time entitled A Practical Guide to Jerusalem and its Environs, wrote:
It requires only an ordinary amount of activity to jump out and pick the flowers along the line and rejoin the train as it laboriously pants up the steep ascent — a feat I myself have occasionally performed.
At the time of the Ottoman Empire Jaffa was the main port of Israel where pilgrims to Jerusalem disembarked from their ships. Bittir (or, more commonly, Battir) is a village west of Bethlehem and southwest of Jerusalem. The Arab village preserves the name of a second-century Jewish village, Beitar, that was destroyed during the final battle of the Bar Kochva Revolt. In the twentieth century, Battir’s development was linked to its location alongside the railroad to Jerusalem, which provided access to the marketplace as well as income from passengers who disembarked to refresh themselves en route.
Jewish History teachers can use this train ticket to discuss the building of the railway as part of the development of Israel at the end of the nineteenth century and its influence on local commerce. This can also include an explanation of the use of the line by the Ottomans and Germans during World War I.
Geography teachers can use this resource to examine the route of the train and the various landscape or topographical features of the journey.
What was this ticket used for?
On which train line would this ticket have been used?
Where was the passenger holding this ticket travelling to?
Which languages are printed on the ticket?
Reading Between the Lines
What was important about this train line?
Which cities did it connect?
When was this line opened?
Who funded the line?
Why are both French and Arabic used on this ticket?
Who would have benefitted from the new train?
Is this train line still open today?
Watch this video about Battir Station
Research this station. Does it still exist?
What does the village of Battir look like today?
Have you travelled on the train in Israel? What interesting landmarks are visible from the train nowadays?
Use a design programme to create a poster for the opening of a new train line.
A train ticket for the Jaffa-Jerusalem rail line in the late nineteenth century.