Israel's History in Pictures: Celebrating Shavuot

Newly available piictures from the Library of Congress collection of Israel's history.

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Ark of Istanbuli Synagogue
Ark of Istanbuli Synagogue

The Shavuot Holiday, Celebrating the Giving of the Torah

The picture on the main page headlining this article is of Torah scrolls in the ark of the Istanbouli Synagogue in the Old City of Jerusalem (circa 1930), "one of the oldest synagogues in Jerusalem." The synagogues in the Old City were all destroyed after the Jewish Quarter was captured in 1948.
(Library of Congress)

Jews around the world commemorate the holiday of Shavuot this week, the day on which tradition says the Torah was given to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai.

The Torah -- also known as the Pentateuch or Five Books of Moses -- has been the foundation of the Jewish faith for 3,000 years, the basis for the monotheistic Christian and Islamic religions, and an inspiration for spiritual, moral and ethical values.

The picture above shows a Yemenite Jewish scribe and his father, Shlomo Washadi (c 1935)

Torah scrolls are handwritten with quills by God-fearing scribes on the parchment made of the skins of kosher animals. One skipped or illegible letter of the 304,805 letters of the Torah makes the scroll invalid for reading in the synagogue service. A Torah damaged beyond repair is buried.

A desecrated synagogue in Hebron with Torahs strewn on the floor (1929) is another picture in the Library of Congress collection. The Library of Congress archives also include pictures of the Hebron Jewish community after they were decimated in a pogrom by Arab attackers. Among the photos are pictures of the destroyed synagogue and its Torah scrolls.