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The Mizpah Album
Published on 27/11/2013
The American Colony; Mrs. Spafford, Foundress

















On July 1 1920 the first British High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel (1870-1963) arrived in Jaffa. Samuel was a British Jew who had served in Parliament for many years, and served several times as a minister in the government. He was known to favour the Zionist movement and his appointment  was considered an expression of the will of the government to implement the Balfour Declaration and to establish a Jewish national home in Palestine. On June 30, 1925, Samuel finished his term of office and returned to Britain.

His son, Edwin Samuel (1898-1978) served as a senior official in the Mandatory government and was a senior civil servant and university lecturer after the establishment of Israel. Edwin Samuel deposited a rich collection of documents and photographs in the Israel State Archives about his and his father's activities.

One of the most beautiful and important items in the collection is an album called MIZPAH. It is bound in suede leather and the pages are connected by a white drawstring. It contains 51 high-quality photographs (on 26 pages) and three pages with 78 signatures, many of which are identified as belonging to the American Colony in Jerusalem.

The American Colony was founded in 1882 by American immigrants who had adopted a special version of Christianity. After a decade they were joined by a group of immigrants from Sweden. One of the occupations of some of the group was photographing Palestine. The entry of the United States into the First World War in April 1917 led to a decline in the situation of the community, which improved following the conquest by the British. Later descendants of members of the community deposited the negatives of their photographs in the Library of Congress.

The images in the album are organized as follows: the first 47 photographs are in black and white, 23 cm by 17 cm, and have a white border and caption at the bottom of the photo. They are followed by two images in colour but identical to their predecessors in size, margins and title. One shows a view of the Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights and Mt. Hermon. The second photograph shows Anna Spafford (1842-1923), the founder of the American Colony, in the courtyard of the building which is now the American Colony hotel.

Sir Herbert Samuel, 7/7/1920, at Augusta Victoria

The last two photographs are exceptional in both size and type of explanation.  No. 50 (Herbert Samuel in front of the Augusta Victoria building  which was then the High Commissioner's residence) is in black and white with a border –- but larger (about 17.8 cm by 24 cm). The inscription on the back reads: "Waiting to shake hands with the guests after the ceremony, Jerusalem July 7". This may refer to the induction ceremony of the High Commissioner, at which Samuel read a letter from the king of Britain to representatives of the communities in Palestine on July 7, 1920 (See photograph 19). Photograph 51 (the Zionist Commission for Palestine is in black and white and is borderless, size 19 by 14 cm. The inscription on the back gives a list in English of members of the Zionist Commission, dated April 4 (probably in 1918). The photograph was taken at the Lydda (Lod) train station when the members of the commission were on their way to Jaffa and Tel Aviv. These photographs do not have a caption below them.

We believe that the initial arrangement of the album was by topic rather than chronological arrangement. We see traces of this organization by topics such as Jerusalem, Trans-Jordan, Jaffa and Tel Aviv, the establishment of the British government, landscapes and other matters. Except for an image of the Dome of the Rock there are no houses of prayer. This arrangement, however, was probably disrupted when the album was dismantled for taking pictures and reassembled incorrectly. In our view photographs 50–51 were added at the last minute and are exceptional.

Most of the photographs were taken during the tenure of Samuel. Two of them are earlier: the surrender of Ottoman Jerusalem to the British (9 December 1917) and the visit of the Zionist Commission (4 April 1918). We found no photographs dated later than April 28 1925 (the military cemetery in Gaza). Some of the titles and dates beneath the photographs are incorrect. For example, the date that appears under Photograph No. 7 of Winston Churchill (March 1920), is wrong - the photograph was taken on March 29 1921. The caption appearing below No. 20: Reception at Government House: The High Commissioner and the Grand Mufti is also incorrect. On July 7 1920 the position of Grand Mufti did not yet exist and this is a picture of Samuel with the Mufti of Jerusalem.

Apparently the album was given to Herbert Samuel shortly before the end of his term on June 30 1925 by members of the American Colony, and he is referred to by his title of High Commissioner and not by name. Figure 49 (a colour picture of Mrs. Spafford), was intended to be the last in the album. Most of the glass negatives of the photographs in the album were deposited in the collection of the Library of Congress.

Editor: Arnon Lammfromm
English translation and editing: Louise Fischer
Content Editor: Oranit Levi

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A Special Joint Publication by the Israel State Archives and the Center for Educational Technology (CET)