Jaffa Gate, 1850
This is a photograph from the mid-nineteenth century of the Old City of Jerusalem next to the Jaffa Gate, as written in the French caption at the bottom of the photograph. It shows Jerusalem under Ottoman rule as a vibrant and living city with many diverse people: Arab women with baskets on their heads, devout Jews, smartly dressed young Arabs, Christian priests, and what seem to be beggars. On the street there is a shack, which might be a stable. There is an advertisement on the wall of the shack for the Jordan Hotel in Jericho, publicising their hot baths, wines, and garden, among other things.
On the left-hand side of the photo the moat of the Tower of David can be seen, built as part of its fortifications. The foundations of the tower can also be seen. Beyond the wall there is a tent and, in the background, empty land with shrubs and trees.
Jaffa Gate was built in 1538 during the construction of the walls by the Turkish rulers. Next to it, and still standing today, is the Tower of David, the foundations of which were built by King Herod at the time of the Second Temple. The gate is called Jaffa Gate, because this is the end of the old road which led from Jaffa to Jerusalem. Between the Jaffa Gate and the Tower of David there is a narrow strip of low wall. This section of the wall was opened in 1898 in honour of the visit of German Emperor Wilhelm II to enable him to enter Jerusalem in his carriage. This part of the wall was removed and the moat of the Tower of David filled with earth to allow carts and cars to enter the Old City of Jerusalem.
The photo was taken by the French photographer Félix Bonfils (1831-1885). Bonfils took thousands of photographs of the Middle East. Some were of views and sites, such as this photograph, while others were posed scenes of Europeans dressed in Middle-Eastern dress.
Jewish History teachers can use this photograph to discuss the history of the Old City of Jerusalem and the changes that have occurred over time and specially about Jerusalem during the Ottoman period.
Israel Studies teachers can use it to explore the various cultures who consider, and have ever considered, Jerusalem their home.
Which gate of the Old City appears in this photo?
What is the tower on the right-hand side of the photo?
Describe the different people who appear in this photo.
Which hotel is being advertised?
What can you see beyond the walls?
Reading Between the Lines
Why was this gate such a hub of activity?
Can you tell when this photo was taken? How?
What can this photo tell us about life in Jerusalem in the mid-nineteenth century?
Why did the photographer choose to capture this scene?
Find a modern photograph of this area.
What has changed and what is the same?
Research the history of the Tower of David. Why was it given that name?
Which different civilisations made their mark on Jerusalem over the years?
Create a series of Facebook status updates from the Tower of David over the centuries as it fell under the control of different civilisations.
The entrance area to Jaffa Gate in 1850