A Holy Man for Shabbat

Rabbi Slideower 3
Recently I bought this fantastic face on eBay. I like to look at the faces of holy men and sages of considerable age and of all religions. Call it a perversion if you wish.  Old people simply look wiser than young people. In the modern society disrespect for our elders is growing. I know they said the same 100 years ago, but now it is really bad. Young people think they know everything and old people, often defenceless as they are with their illnesses and ailments, have never had as little acknowledgement by  younger people as they do today.  Ageing hits us all and also the youth-fascist that think they know everything at the age of 25. So it has been - and that´s how its always going to be. But they are so wrong.

Faces showing scars of a long life and history are specially intriguing and aesthetically superior to all the radiant beauty of youth - in my opinion. I also find it interesting to see that goodness and kindness can often be seen in a face. Evil, envy and other unpleasant human traits are easier to hide behind a mask, a wig, some make-up, a series of transplants and several injections of Botox.

The above face, which I bought on eBay, belongs to a Magic Lantern Slide series from around 1900-1910. One month ago, I introduced another slide from a Jerusalem series in my collection (see here). 

The Ashkenazi Rabbi on the above slide, whose name I do not know, was living in Jerusalem around year 1900. He was photographed by one of the fantastic photographers of the American Colony in Jerusalem*. His face to me radiates kindness and wisdom, and at the same time pain and sadness. You can read his entire life of this man in his wrinkles, his eyes and hair.

In Europe and North-America, children in Sunday schools or Jewish schools were seeing the Holy land in the fantastic photographs of the photographic department of the American Colony commune. The photographers of the American Colony like Elijah Meyers, Hol Lars Larsson and G. Eric Matson mediated the now long gone Middle East to the world. Now many of these images of the past are immensely important to historians and archaeologist. The photograph above is likely to be that of Elijah Meyers. Below is the print verion sold by the American Colony in its two shops in Jerusalem and around the world. The Edith and G. Eric Matson´s photo collection from the American Colony, donated to the Library of Congress, can be studied here.Jew Jerusalem 1900

Jew Jerusalem 1900 2

*The American Colony in Jerusalem was a religious society of Christian utopians from Chicago headed by Horatio and Anna Spafford, who in 1881 settled in Jerusalem (north of the Old City) and established a community.  Later their community also counted members of Swedes from Chicago and Sweden. The society engaged in philanthropic work amongst the people of Jerusalem regardless of religious affiliation, gaining the trust of the local Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. One of the activities they have become best known for was their photography of Jerusalem, The Holy Land and the surrounding Bible lands. The aim was to sell these photographs to introduce the Holy land to the rest of the world. Series with photographs from the Holy land spread around the world. The American Colony was also engaged in helping  Yemeni Jews move to Jerusalem and aiding the poorest of the Eastern European Jews who had made the journey back and who often lived in great poverty compared to their Arab neighbours. The utopians of the American Colony were not engaged in the annoying and respectless missionary activity among the Jews and the Muslims, like many later groups of Christian have practised in the region. See the photographs of the American Colony here.

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1 Smámynd: Árni Matthíasson

Thank you for that interesting entry, Vilhjalmur.

I assume that the Swedes you mentioned as joining the American Colony are the same people Selma Lagerlöf writes about in the second part of her great novel Jerusalem.

Árni Matthíasson , 26.5.2018 kl. 21:05


Thank you Árni, it´s a pleasure to know that someone has time to read something like this on an important election-day in Iceland.

Yes, these are the same Swedes from Dalarna, whom Lagerlöf  describes in her two volume work which recently were filmatized by Danish film-director Bille August. Every year a play based on the Selma Lagerlöf´s work Jerusalem is performed in Nĺs in Dalarna at the so called Ingmarsspelen. Also, I forgot to mention that some of the main buildings of the the American Colony were later adapted by the entrepreneurs, who bought the place after the colony was dissolved, added building to it and turned it into the exclusive American Colony Hotel, where one night´s stay costs the same as a week in other hotels - but breakfast is included.

FORNLEIFUR, 27.5.2018 kl. 04:47

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