Jewish women of the Orient 100-150 years ago

Commemorating the 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries after the establishment of the Jewish state.

Lenny Ben David ,

Jewish Women Preparing to Go Out
Jewish Women Preparing to Go Out
INN: British Mus.

Young Jewish girl from Beirut (British Library, Fouad Debbas Collection)

Last year, Israel's Knesset designated November 30 as the memorial day to commemorate the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries and Iran. Flourishing ancient communities were forced to flee anti-Semitic persecution, deadly pogroms, and confiscation of property.  An estimated 850,000 fled, most of them to Israel.  

Historic photographs of the Jewish communities and individuals serve to remind us of the rich heritage they left behind.  

Maison Bonfils studio was established in Beirut in 1867 and produced thousands of photographs from all over the Middle East.  Some of the most important pictures of Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem were taken through Bonfils' lenses.

Lebanese collector Fouad Debbas amassed some 3,000 Bonfils photographs.  When he died in 2001, his collection faced possible dispersal, deterioration, or worse.  The British Library's Endangered Archives Programme stepped in to save the collection, digitize it and post the pictures online.

In the British Library's honor, we present these Bonfils photos of Jewish women of the Middle East. We estimate they were taken in the last decades of the 19th century.

Syrian Jewish woman

A young Jewish girl from Egypt

Young Jewess

Jewish girl from Damascus

Young Jewish girl

Jewish girls

Young Jewess


Jewish women preparing to go out


Syrian Jewish woman