Featured Post

Jerusalem then and now: A journey in photos

25 rare old photos of an ancient city matched with images showing what's new and what remains eternal

Israel is about to mark what I believe is one of the country’s most important national days: Jerusalem Day.

Jerusalem Day commemorates the unification of the city in 1967 under Israeli sovereignty, when IDF soldiers liberated the Old City from Jordanian occupation.

Only then were Israelis able to return to the holiest place on earth for the Jewish people, the Western Wall, after 20 years during which they had been denied access to the site.

I decided to celebrate 48 years of the unification in a special way, by inviting you to join me on a journey through time in Jerusalem — a journey in photos.

Recently, a rare collection of photographs was unveiled by the U.S. Library of Congress, uncovering some stunning scenes from Jerusalem during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I selected 25 of these amazing early photographs of the city, and compared them with photos from my own collection. Some were taken from the very same angle, others from a similar point of view, but all of them show remarkable differences and similarities alike.

Witness what these 100+ years have done to Jerusalem and how, while becoming more advanced and developed, the historical character of the Holy City remains intact just as it has for thousands of years.

1. Damascus Gate, 1890.

One of Jerusalem’s most beautiful gates, built in 1537 under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.


Damascus Gate, today.


2. The Western Wall, 1898.

Notice that some stones contained writings in Hebrew, believed to be the work of visitors who wanted to commemorate their names upon the wall.


The Western Wall, today.

With time, the writings had faded and were replaced by a new tradition of placing notes in between the stones. Nowadays, there are separate praying spaces for men and women.


3. David Citadel, 1898.

The citadel dates back to the Mamluk era and was built on the site of an earlier fortification erected by King Herod.


David Citadel, today.


4. The Tower of David, c. 1930s.


Entrance to the Tower of David Museum, today.

The Tower of David Museum was opened in 1989 and contains archeological ruins dating back some 2,700 years.


5. The Garden Tomb, 1898.

Discovered only in 1867, the Garden Tomb is considered by some Christians to be the site of burial and resurrection of Jesus.


The Garden Tomb, today.


6. Tomb of Absalom, Kidron Valley, 1860.

Monumental tomb traditionally associated with Absalom, son of King David.


Tomb of Absalom, today.


7. The Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives, 1898.

Burial on the Mount of Olives began in the period of the First Temple, some 3,000 years ago. The cemetery is the last resting place for some of the most esteemed people in Jewish history.


The Jewish Cemetery, today.


8. Mount of Olives, view from the Kidron Valley, 1898.

This photograph was taken before the rise of the Church of All Nations, which would be built between the years 1919-1924 near the garden of Gethsemane.


Mount of Olives, view from the Kidron Valley, today.

The Church of All Nations, seen here in the middle, is currently dominating the landscape.


9. Rooftops of the Christian Quarter, 1898.

Seen here are the Church of the redeemer and its Bell tower on the right, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre dome on the left.


Rooftops of the Christian Quarter, today.


10. The Calvary, the 12th station of the Cross at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, 1898.


The Calvary, today.


11. Dormition Abbey, Mount Zion, 1898.

According to the tradition in Christianity, it is commonly believed that here, near the site of the Last Supper, Virgin Mary died.


Dormition Abbey, Mount Zion, today.


12. The Lions’ Gate, Old City Walls, 1890.

The gate was named the Lions’ gate after the four carvings just above its entrance, which are in fact leopards. They were placed by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century.


The Lions’ Gate, today


13. Zion Gate, 1898.

Zion gate leads into the Jewish Quarter and was the gate through which Israeli soldiers broke into the Old City during the 1967 war.


The gate closed and guarded by British soldiers during the Arab revolt against Jews and the British colonial rule, 1938.

zion gate 1938

Zion Gate, today

The facade shows the scars of the 1948 war and has never been restored. The numerous bullet holes are visible to this day.


14. Jaffa Gate with the Tower of David on the background, 1900.


Jaffa Gate with the Tower of David on the background, today.


15. Lancers marching through Jaffa Gate, overlooking the David Citadel, 1900.


Overlooking the David Citadel from Jaffa Gate, today.


16. The British War Cemetery of Jerusalem, 1917.

Located on Mount Scopus, the cemetery contains some 2500 graves of fallen soldiers who died in the region during World War I.


The British War Cemetery of Jerusalem, today.


17. Overlooking the Temple Mount and Western Wall, 1920.


Overlooking the Temple Mount and Western Wall, today.

The Western Wall yard was built after the liberation in 1967 to make room for the masses of worshipers frequenting the site.


18. Damascus Gate, 1925.


Damascus Gate, today.

Art installations during Jerusalem’s annual Festival of Light.


19. St. Paul’s Church, 1934.

Established in 1873 with the support of the English Church Missionary Society.

st. paul-church-jerusalem-1934

St. Paul’s Church, today.

st. paul-church-jerusalem

20. View from the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, 1934.

The center was established during the 1880’s to accommodate pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. The Notre Dame church was opened here in 1904.


View from the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, today.

The center serves today as a boutique guesthouse and contains the church and a couple of restaurants. It is one of the most striking buildings in Jerusalem.


21. British troops on the roof of the Tower of David, 1938.


View from the roof of the Tower of David, today.


22. Overview of Jerusalem’s Old City, from Jaffa Gate on the left to Mount Zion on the right, 1938.


Overview of Jerusalem’s Old City, today.


23. A scene from Jaffa Street, 1940.


Jaffa Street, today.

The construction of Jerusalem’s light rail began in 2002 and became operational as recently as 2011. Today Jaffa Street is closed to any other means of transportation but the light train.


24. Rooftops of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, 1950.

According to Christianity, the site of the crucifixion and where Jesus is said to have been buried and resurrected.


Rooftops of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, today.


25. Rays of light shining upon the Old City, 1942.


Some things never change: rays of light shining upon Jerusalem’s Old City, today.


For more of Israel’s amazing landscapes visit my website, or join me on my Facebook page.

For feedback and inquiries, email me at: noamc75@gmail.com.

Thank you to the U.S Library of Congress for the older photographs.

About the Author
Noam Chen is a Tel Aviv-based photographer, specializing mostly in Landscape and Portraits. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the world, including National Geographic magazine, Entrepreneur, The Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Le Figaro and more. He has exhibited in group and sole exhibitions in Israel, France and the U.S. Noam works closely with the Tourism and Real Estate industries in Israel, and now offers photography services throughout the U.S as well.
Related Topics
Related Posts