Israel's History in Pictures: 1936 Photo Diary

A Photo Diary from Palestine, 1936,<br/>by a Tour Guide, Writer, Diplomat ... and Spy

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Arutz Sheva Staff,

Spinney's Market
Spinney's Market
INN: Diary

John Whiting prior to 1917

John David Whiting, born in 1888 in Jerusalem, grew up within the American Colony community the Old City. The Library of Congress records that he was a "tour guide, businessman, writer and photographer."  He served as American Vice-Consul of Jerusalem from 1908-1910 and from 1915-1917. 

Letter from "Lawrence of
Arabia" to Whiting. Click
to enlarge

Fluent in Arabic, he was also a British intelligence agent. 

At the request of the Turkish leadership, Whiting photographed the terrible locust plague that struck Palestine in 1915, a task that allowed him to travel throughout the country on the eve of World War I.  A letter from T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") to "My dear Whiting" after the British capture of Jerusalem thanks Whiting for his activity in support of the British, including providing hospital care for soldiers: "Thank you for all you and yours did for me, when I blew in with my Battalion that first evening looking for places to guard etc!!"

Around the same time Whiting was filming locusts in Palestine, an acclaimed Jewish agronomist Aaron Aaronson was traveling around the countryside doing his agricultural research.  Aaronson was the founder of the pro-British NILI spy network working against the Turks.  Historians have not found a link - yet - between the two men.

In 1936 and 1937, Whiting traveled throughout the Middle East in Palestine, Transjordan, Lebanon and Syria. An album with 242 photos is in the Library of Congress archives, and several pictures from his "Diary" will be reproduced here in the coming days, starting with the one on the page and reproduced above.. 

Whiting's trip coincided with the "Arab Revolt," incited by the Jerusalem Mufti, the Pro-Hitler Hajj Amin al-Husseini, against the Jews and the British, and this picture reflects that bloody conflict which left scores of Jews dead.

It is labelled as being photographed   "immediately after bomb throwing at Spinney's market. Searching all passing through Jaffa Gate breach" (1936). 

More historical pictures and essays at