In the run-up to Israel’s celebration of 50 years since the capture of Jerusalem’s Old City from the Jordanians, the National Library on Monday published previously unseen photographs of the Western Wall immediately after it was taken by the Israeli army.
The black and white photographs of Judaism’s holiest place of prayer — the wall helped support the artificial plaza on which the since-destroyed Jewish temples stood more than 2,000 years ago — capture then president Zalman Shazar, a helmet on his head, observing a reading of the Torah while the Six Day War was still going on, as well as then prime minister David Ben Gurion, who visited the day after the war ended.
Jews were not allowed to access the Western Wall while the Jordanians controlled it, from 1948 to 1967.
The black and white images also picture Shlomo Goren, the Israeli army’s first chief rabbi, who was memorialized in published photographs of the time blowing the shofar (ram’s horn) and jubilantly carrying a Torah scroll to celebrate the capture of the wall.
According to the Jewish calendar, Jerusalem Day takes place this year from Tuesday evening until Wednesday evening, even though, according to the Western calendar, the war took place June 5 to 10, 1967, with the arrival of paratroopers at the wall on June 7.
The images, from the Israel Press and Photo Agency created by Dan Hadani, also document Israel’s destruction of the Muslim Mughrabi Quarter on June 10, 1967, to make way for the crowds of Jewish worshipers expected to converge on the site.
That operation saw the razing of 135 homes. Some of the occupants subsequently moved to Morocco, others to Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Shuafat.
In 1968, the government expropriated the land and paid compensation to the uprooted families.
Also captured in the newly-released images are soldiers laying tefillin — small boxes containing biblical verses which are bound to the head and arms by leather straps — and members of the Jewish public praying at the site in the hours and days after the war, including a young girl yawning while other women pray.
Large swathes of the Israeli public, as well as the Israeli government, which annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 — consider the entire city to be part of the Jewish people’s eternal capital.
However, the Palestinians and most of the international community, do not recognize Israel’s stated ownership of East Jerusalem.
Resolution of the city’s status has been one of the thorniest issues in Israel-Palestinian peace talks over the years.