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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Maine in Tel Aviv - The American Colony

You have probably heard about the famous American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem but did you know that there is also an American Colony in Jaffa established in 1866 by a group of Christians from Maine, USA?

Thirty-five families set sail on the Nellie Chapin but were unprepared for the hardships that lay ahead. They erected their wooden houses from prefabricated pieces, which they had brought with them. However, diseases, the climate, the insecure and arbitrary treatment by the Ottoman authorities, made many colonists wish to return home.


In front of the Maine Friendship House with Jean Homes
George J. Adams, leader of the American Colony made his purpose clear. "We are going [to Jaffa] to become practical benefactors of the land and people, to take the lead in developing its great resources.” “We have no purpose to interfere with their religion.” Their purpose was not to missionize but instead to assist the Jewish people.
By 1870 the houses were sold to the German Templers who established other settlements in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Galilee.
Very little remains of the wooden homes built by the first American settlers who embarked on their arduous journey over 150 years ago from the shores of Maine to the port of Jaffa. However, due to the determination of one couple, it is possible to visit one of the original homes which has been lovingly restored by Jean and Reed Holmes - the Maine Friendship House
The museum houses artifacts about the original settlers including documents and clothing. Make sure you watch the short movie which is screened in the basement of the house.
The house on Auerbach Street can be visited Friday 12:00 - 15:00, Saturday 14:00 - 16:00.
Visits can be arranged at other times by calling: 03-6819225.

Monday, January 14, 2013

History in Black and White

From David Ben Gurion declaring the new State of Israel to portraits of presidents and prime ministers, Rudi Weissenstein's camera captured the history of a nation. Together with his wife, Miriam, they opened the Pri-Or Photohouse in 1940. Today Israel's oldest photography store is run by grandson Ben Peter.

Last week on an unusually cold and wet Tel Aviv day I discovered this magical place in the heart of Tel Aviv. Over a hot coffee and surrounded by portraits of the Who's Who of Israeli history, Ben proceeded to tell us about his family, his work and the more than one million pictures taken by his grandfather documenting the history of the state.

With Ben Peter in the Photohouse - Shimon Peres looks on

Since Ben Peter began working with his grandmother, Miriam Weissenstein at the Photohouse, one of his goals has been to preserve his grandfather’s archive of one million negatives through digitization. On November 27, 2012, the building which had housed Pri-Or Photohouse on Allenby 30 for over 70 years was torn down, and on that same day a contract was signed with the National Library of Israel to preserve the archive.

The story of the Photohouse was documented in the film "Life in Stills" by Tamar Tal winner of the best film award at the DocAviv Festival in Tel Aviv in 2011. It tells the story of the special relationship between Ben and his 96 year old grandmother Miriam, the family and the photos.

Images of Miriam Weissenstein on the wall

Since Miriam's death last year at the age of 98, Ben divides his time between the store, touring the world promoting the film and keeping alive the legacy of his grandfather's pictures.

It's worth taking the time to stop by and peruse the wonderful photographic collection and perhaps purchase a souvenir of days past - if you can choose just one that is!

Pri-Or Photohouse - Zalmania is located on 5 Tchernikovsky Street, Tel Aviv. 03-5177916. Open Sunday - Thursday 10:00 - 18:00, Friday until 13:00.

Thanks to Aliza Orent for her photographs

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy 2013!

Enjoy the new year and this delightful picture of Sam and Jon Russoff at the Dead Sea during the last week of 2012.

Join us, the water is warm!