These rare pictures depict the final days of 400 years of Turkish rule over Jerusalem. In its long history, the inhabitants and rulers of the city of Jerusalem have changed countless times, from ancient pagans to Biblical Israelites to Byzantine Christians to Ottoman Muslims.
In 1517 the Ottoman sultan Selim I took the city and inaugurated a Turkish regime that lasted 400 years. The 16th century was a period of great urban development. In addition to the new walls, which still encompass the Old City, and the repaired water supply, new madrasahs and waqfs (religious endowments) and other charitable institutions multiplied. But by the end of the century the city began an economic decline that lasted until the 19th century. During that period a series of disputes between the Christian sects over rights at the holy places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem gradually developed into conflicts among the European powers. The Russians became the protectors of the rights of the Orthodox churches, the French and Venetians of the Latin institutions.
In 1831 Ibrahim Pasha, son of the Albanian Egyptian ruler Muḥammad Ali, captured Jerusalem and introduced a series of far-reaching reforms, which were retained when the Turks regained the city in 1840. The Muḥammad Ali crisis and the question of administering the holy places drew the Great Powers into ever-closer involvement in Jerusalem. By midcentury all of the powers had established consulates in the city. The consuls sought to extend their influence by affirming rights of protection over native non-Muslim groups, which until then had been governed under a system that accorded Muslims dominant status.
Under European pressure, the Ottoman Empire promised equal rights to Christians and Jews, an arrangement that many Muslims resisted. Although a municipality was established in 1887, politics remained largely oligarchic, and most offices were monopolized by members of Muslim notable families, such as the ʿAlamīs, the Ḥusaynīs, and the Khālidīs. Meanwhile, Jewish immigration, mainly from eastern Europe, changed the city’s demographic structure and the relative importance of the Old City compared with the new quarters outside the walls. This growing influx—which was by the 1880s part of a budding Zionist movement—further alarmed the Muslims, who were reduced to a minority of the city’s population.
In 1917, four centuries after first coming under Ottoman control, the city and surrounding territory was captured by the British, and a mandate was established. The British administered Mandatory Palestine until rising Arab and Jewish nationalist tensions led to the Civil War and Arab-Israeli War of 1947-1948 and the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948.
(Photo credit: Bain News Service/Library of Congress).