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July 30, 1976 - Image 55

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1976-07-30

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56 Friday, July 30, 1976


Ancient Treasures of the Holy City Are Found
in the Historic, But Hidden, Jerusalem Archives


Municipality of Jerusalem

JERUSALEM — The existence of archives devoted to
Jerusalem during the last 100 years is probably one of our
city's best kept secrets. Housed in a basement, on a quiet
tree-lined street in the Talpiot quarter, documents in the
Jerusalem Archives that are stacked on 600 yards of
shelves, tell the colorful story of Jerusalem as it is today.
Life in the city under the Turks, the sprouting of Jew-
ish neighborhoods outside the Old City walls, 30 years of
British rule, minutes from meetings of the City Council un-
der Jordan when the city was divided from 1948-67 — all
this and much more you find among the 25,000 photos, 18,-
000 negatives, 1000 posters, maps and etchings and in the
library of 2300 books.
Acquiring these documents is often like stumbling
on hidden treasures. Who would have thought that one of
the best photo collections of life in Jerusalem in the years
1900-1905 could be bought for the ridiculously low sum of
half a Pound a photo (in 1968), after it was discovered on the
floor of the attic over the souvenir shop in the American
Colony Hotel?

Building up the archives is not left to lucky chances.
Menachem Levine, the director, and his assistant,
Tommy Lamm, an immigrant from Australia, comb the
city systematically for the private collections of Jerusa-
lem notables, neighborhood committees, public institu-
tions, industries and hoteliers. Once they get on the
track of a valuable find, they don't weary of long nego-
tiations in order to secure new material. This may go on
for years until the new treasure lands in the archives.

Levine is appalled at how otherwise sensible people, ei-
ther throw out or hold back documents. Such was the case
of a Jerusalem lawyer and one-time city councilman. From
Menachem's first contact with him, until his death 10 years

later, this lawyer insisted that he had discarded all material
of any historical significance. Only after he died, when the
family allowed Menachem to go through his files, did he
find the original contract and plans for the installation of
Jerusalem's first modern water, electricity and railroad
systems (including plans for a trolley car). This contract
between the Turkish Municipality and a Greek contractor,
Mavromatic, was never carried out because of the war in
It is the seemingly trivial item that often proves to be
invaluable in depicting life in Jerusalem's past. Food and
water coupons from Jerusalem under siege (1948) are rare
finds, probably because no one thought to give up his day's
rations for posterity's sake! Files of lawyers' correspond-
ence give evidence of educational institutions, yeshivot,
banks, building contractors, insurance companies that no
longer exist. Like pieces of a puzzle, these bits of informa-
tion fit together to give a more complete picture of the cul-
tural and commercial history of the city.

In addition to pictorial and printed evidence there is
an oral history project. Under this project, recollections
of historical events and life in Jerusalem are taped
from the records of living eye witnesses. In cooperation
with the Institute of Contemporary Jewry of the Hebrew
University, 30 old-time Jerusalemites have so far been

Half hidden though it is, the archives serve a host of
visitors — TV and film producers looking for documentary
material; journalists; architects working on the urban plan-
ning and renewal of Jerusalem; and university students
doing research. Just the casual tourist is missing. Only
when the archives will find their place in the new city hall
to be built on the Russian Compound, can the general public
be expected to enjoy some of the documented highlights of
their city's history.


A Bicentennial Feature

Solomon Etting: EarlyAmerican Merchant


Editor, Jewish Currents

When independence was
declared in 1776, Solomon
was only 12, living in York,
Pa. with his father Elijah
Etting, who had emigrated
from Frankfort, Germany,
and his native-born mother,
Shinah Solomon.
He became a prominent
merchant and entrepreneur,
being a director of the

Union Bank in Baltimore
(1791), Maryland represent-
ative of the federal Bank of
the United States (1796), an
organizer of the Baltimore
East India Company (1807)
and then a director of the
new Baltimore and Ohio
Railroad. Yet his beginnings
were humble.

At 19, he married the
19-year-old daughter of Jo-


seph Simon, Rachel, with
whom he had four children.
A year after she died he
married the 27-year-old
daughter of Barnard Gratz,
Rachel, with whom he had
eight children. Both fathers-
in-law were prominent mer-

Marrying Rachel Gratz
in Philadelphia, Solomon
returned soon to Balti-
more, ran a hardware
store for a few years and
then went into shipping
and commerce. While liv-
ing in Lancaster with the
Simon family he had
founded a Masonic lodge
there, and in 1784 in Phila-
delphia he belonged to
Lodge No. 2 with Haym

In 1794, Etting was also a
member of the executive
committee of the Jefferson-
ian Republic Society of Bal-
timore. To call him an aboli-
tionist, as some have done,
is to exaggerate. The 1820
census lists him as owning
four slaves and employed
two freemen.
It is ti.*, e that in 1831 he
was a it, -,.der of the Mary-
land State Colonization So-
ciety, which advocated es-
tablishing a state in Africa

to which freed Negoes could
be sent, 'but of this move-
ment Carter G. Woodson,
the black historian, writes
that it "was no longer a
means of uplift for the Ne-
gro but rather a method of
getting rid of an undesirable
class that slavery might be
thoroughly engrafted upon
our country."
Etting was, however, the
initiator of a 30-year strug-
gle to get the Maryland Con-
stitution of 1776 amended so
as to abolish the discrimina-
tion against Jews that pre-
vented them from holding
office at a time when that
meant Jews could not even
be lawyers or serve on ju-
ries. On Dec. 13, 1797, the
Maryland House of Dele-
gates received a petition
from Solomon Etting "and
others" objecting to the con-
stitutional restriction
against Jews.
Not until Jan. 5, 1826 was
the constitution finally
amended — after decades of
struggle that had to defeat
snarling and open anti-Sem-
itic propaganda, with the
non-Jewish Jeffersonian
Presbyterian Thomas Ken-
nedy leading the debate in
defense of the "Jew Bill."


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Shown above are two of the treasures in the Jerusa-
lem Archives. The top photograph is the typical costume
of the Turkish "kavas" who guarded the consulates in
Jerusalem. The bottom photograph shows a letter from
Jewish boy scouts in Russia which was found in the attic
of an old Jerusalem school.

Thomas Jefferson Would Have Been Proud of Israel's Raid on Uganda


(Copyright 1976, JTA, Inc.)

Three Hollywood compa-
nies are reported rushing
pictures dealing with Is-
rael's action in rescuing the
hostages in Uganda.
One man who certainly
would have approved the
Israeli action was Thomas
Jefferson, the author of the
Declaration of Independ-

Jefferson knew all about
these hijackers. In his day it
flourished in the same sec-
tion of the world as today. It
was highly popular among
the so-called Barbary states
— Algeria, Tunis, Morocco
and Tripoli. Any ship going
through the Mediterranean
faced the likelihood of its
crew and passengers being
kidnapped and held for ran-
som unless regular tribute
was paid to the Barbary


Daniel Moynihan, for-
mer U.S. ambassador to
the UN, has proposed in-
ternational action to deal
with hijacking. Jefferson
proposed such action. He
was ambassador to France
at the time and he pro-
posed to his fellow envoys
the establishment of an
international naval unit to
combat this piracy.

The plan, approved by all
the powers, fell through
because of Jefferson's own
country. Congress did not go
along although it was sym-
pathetic. But at this time —
the period before the Consti-
tution was written — Con-
gress had little power. It
could only recommend to
the states that they appro-
priate for a given purpose
and Congress did not believe
the states would make the

The Jefferson plan re-
quired that the U.S. contrib-
ute one frigate for the inter-
national naval unit. Had it
been adopted, the country
would have saved itself
some 30 years of trouble.
The Barbary hijackings
were not ended until 1815,
when Commodore Decatur
paid a visit to Algeria and
taught it the kind of lesson
Uganda has just received.


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