Fezzes and hats: Zion Cinema through the memories of Jews and Arabs of Mandatory Jerusalem

« Fez et chapeaux : le cinéma Zion » à travers les souvenirs des Juifs et des Arabes à Jérusalem au moment du mandat britannique

Abstracts

Fezzes and Hats: Zion Cinema in Jerusalem” investigates the role and significance of cinemas as a cultural, social, and political phenomenon in Mandatory Palestine. The article focuses on the specific case of Zion Cinema in Jerusalem, using Jewish and Arab memoirs to bring it to life and uncover its function and importance in the city. Oscillating between historical description and cultural analysis, the article uses this case study to develop a broader discussion on the socio-cultural and political function of cinemas and cafés in Mandatory Palestine. It reveals these institutions as spaces of interaction between Jews and Arabs, men and women, and examines the gradual transformation of some from meeting places into hubs of conflict and terror attacks in the late 1930s and 1940s.

« Fez et chapeaux : le cinéma Zion » examine le rôle et la signification des cinémas comme phénomène culturel, social et politique dans la Palestine sous mandat britannique. L’article se concentre sur le cas spécifique du cinéma Zion à Jérusalem, s’appuyant sur les écrits et souvenirs de Juifs et d’Arabes pour lui redonner vie et mettre au jour sa fonction et son importance dans la cité. Oscillant entre la description historique et l’analyse culturelle, l’article s’appuie sur cette étude de cas pour développer une discussion plus large sur le rôle socio-culturel et politique des cinémas et des cafés dans la Palestine sous mandat britannique. Il montre que ces institutions sont des espaces d’interaction entre Juifs et Arabes ainsi qu’entre hommes et femmes, et examine comment certains de ces cinémas et cafés se transforment graduellement, passant d’espaces de rencontre à lieux de conflit et d’attaques terroristes à la fin des années 1930 et dans les années 1940.

Index

Mots-clés

Jérusalem, Arabes, Juifs, Mandat britannique, cinémas, cafés

Keywords

Jerusalem, Arabs, Jews, British Mandate, cinemas, cafés

Outline

Text

Introduction

Silent films had already made their way to Jerusalem in the first decade of the 20th century, and were occasionally screened in coffee shops near Jaffa Gate, quickly gaining popularity. One of the city’s first cinemas was established at the Feingold House on Jaffa Road in 1912. During World War One, the cinema changed hands several times in light of political developments: from a Christian Romanian by the name of Joritash (Goriani), to a German Templer named Feig, to his Jewish partner Israel Gut. Accordingly, the cinema relocated several times, finally inhabiting a shack at the Antimos Garden on land leased from the Greek-Orthodox Church, in the middle of Jaffa Road.1 This chain of events intersected with major shifts that transpired in Jerusalem at the time. Modern Jerusalem developed outside of the Old City in the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. Its expansion was prompted by several factors: significant population growth, improved roadways and development and modernization processes under Ottoman rule, and the capitulations regime, which drew the Great Powers to Jerusalem and spurred their competition over control of the city. Jaffa Road, extending westward from Jaffa Gate in the Old City, served as the connective axis between old and new Jerusalem. Over the years, it gradually transformed from a rural intercity road into a major, developing urban street that crossed residential neighborhoods, local and foreign institutions, workshops, and commercial venues. In 1917, shortly before they conquered Palestine, the British issued the Balfour Declaration – the primary catalyst for the national Jewish-Arab conflict in Palestine.

The British worldview was based on rigid ethnic-religious divides and binary distinctions between East and West, tradition and modernity, and the sacred and mundane, concepts foreign to the multicultural, diffused city of the late Ottoman era. Among other things, this approach was reflected in the planning of public space. The new city, which had previously developed in geographical, visual, and functional proximity and continuity to the Old City, now grew removed and distinct from it, expanding toward the west.2 Encouraged by these and other changes in the local land market, the Zionist movement purchased the Antimos Garden and two additional plots near the center of Jaffa Road from the Greek Orthodox Church. On this land, at a considerable distance from the city center at Jaffa Gate, the British paved two new roads: King George Street and the “main” street that later became Ben-Yehuda. Thus, the Jerusalem “Triangle,” which quickly developed into the city’s urban quarter, was formed.3 The cinema in Antimos Garden, on the corner of Ben Yehuda Street and Jaffa Road, found itself at the center of this quarter, and was named “Zion Cinema.” With the help of another Jewish partner, Yitzhak Peretz, Gut eventually replaced the cinema-shack with a two-story building that included an 800-seat theater. The square in front of the cinema soon became the city’s main square, and was widely referred to as “Zion” Square.4

Image 10000000000004F5000006F16EDB79D0.jpg

Yellow highlighting of the cinemas was made by the author

The National Library of Israel,The Eran Laor Cartographic Collection [Jer 470].

Guide map of Jerusalem for the British Soldier (1946)
Drawn by Survey Directorate H.Q. Pal & T.

Despite the apparent involvement of Zionist institutions and individuals in establishing the new urban quarter, it quickly grew into a diverse area that attracted consumers and entrepreneurs from all populations of the city. The main commercial and office building in Zion Square was built by the catholic-Arab Sansur brothers, and carries their name to this day. Additional Arab entrepreneurs established multiple buildings, businesses, and offices in the area alongside and sometimes in partnership with Jewish counterparts. While the shared name of the cinema and square may have reflected a complex duality between the new spirit of cinema and modernism on one hand and a mythical symbol of national redemption on the other, the multiple functions, entrepreneurs, and populations that both served tipped the scale significantly toward the former.5 This predilection was rooted in a long-standing tradition of shared life between different ethnic and religious communities in the city that intermingled in everyday, social, and cultural arenas. It was also exhibited at Zion Cinema and the additional cinemas, cafés, and businesses established in its vicinity. Though Arab Jerusalemites were not ignorant of its national significance, they regarded the name of “Zion Cinema” and “its” square as a religious symbol and private name, familiar to them from generations of shared Arab-Jewish life in Jerusalem.6 However, like in any typical film epic, the seeds of conflict were bound to spring into the heart of this increasingly complex plot. As national tensions escalated, the halls of “fezzes and hats” in central Jerusalem also became hubs of friction, though they continued to attract most populations of the city throughout the majority of the Mandate period.

The current article concerns the social and cultural life that developed against this backdrop in Mandatory Jerusalem, a life cultivated through the combination of cinemas – the primary cultural platforms of the time – and cafés, one in which Zion Cinema played a central role. The article describes and analyzes this unique urban experience and the changes it underwent, based on the diaries and memoirs of those who lived through it, along with relevant press and literature.7

Cinema and Urban Development

Many scholars have written on the important role of cinema in 20th century urban development. This new medium embodied the distinctive characteristics of the modern era: enhanced visual experience and accelerated pace of life in response to technological developments and popular culture. It was both influenced by these developments and instrumental in driving them. Cinemas were open to a new set of populations, including women, youth, the elderly, and the working class, and were key to the development of public urban space. Film generally communicated in widely accessible universal language, giving viewers the sense that they were “citizens of the world”. More than any other medium, film managed to convey the pace of modern life, particularly that of modern cities. It was able to express the awe and enchantment of the urban dweller, modeled after the flâneur (“stroller”) protagonist in the works of modern thinkers, primarily Walter Benjamin. In fact, the camera managed to mimic the flâneur’s point of view so effectively, that urban life sometimes seemed more “real” on screen.8

This interplay between cinema and urban development was particularly evident in Mandatory Palestine. City centers in the region developed around the cinemas, which were designed like the grand cultural halls of the time. The “cinema-square” model became pervasive in Palestine’s urban settings,9 and Mandatory cities therefore lacked the prominent monuments or eye-catching fountains of major cities around the world.10 The cinema became the axis around which cities flourished, and its exterior their functional and visual focal point. Cinemas were designed by leading architects in the avant-garde style of the time and housed cultural performances of every genre: operas, theater, and public and political assemblies. However, the new medium – silent film and later sound film – is that which ultimately defined them and their role in public life and space.11

In light of the great popularity of film during the Mandate period, additional cinemas quickly opened in the Jerusalem Triangle, which attracted the diverse populations of the city as well. Contrary to Zion Cinema and the duality reflected by its name, those built around it – Orion, Edison, Eden, Studio, Rex, and Tel-Or – exhibited motifs that reflected the world of film and its universal spirit in both name and function. Numerous cafés opened around the cinemas, whose names – “Café Europa”, “Café Vienna” – also demonstrated the cosmopolitan aspirations of the shared urban quarter and a common yearning for “the real thing,” which was in itself the image of an image best depicted on screen.12 The cinemas had a formative effect on the urban landscape with their prominent location, architectural style, and display windows, the big banners hung over their broad entryways, and the lights emanating from them at night, dominating the street setting. These were designed to draw the attention of passersby and maximize the visual temptation of cinematic wonder. While the least visually extravagant, Zion Cinema gained a “cathedral-like” presence through its central location in the city square, its crucial role in social and cultural city life, and the crowds regularly congregated at its entrance: whether waiting for tickets, engaged in chance encounters, or using the location as a gathering place.13

Many Mandate-period diaries and memoirs by Jerusalemite Jews and Arabs note the centrality of Zion Cinema and the versatile city life that developed around it, enriched by the cafés and additional cinemas in the area. This evolution took place within broader contexts of urban development that also included accelerated construction and physical development, mixed Jewish-Arab living, diverse trade and commerce, liberal professions, and the concentration of British government offices in the new city center. This variety and density of urban functions was integral to the rapid growth and vitality of this environment, and in turn, contributed to the flourishing of cinemas and cafés. This shared communal life began to change toward the end of the 1930s, as these important hubs of connection between Jerusalemite Arabs and Jews became hubs of friction as well.

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The National Photo Collection (Israel)

Source: gpophoto.gov.il photo code: D728-072.jpg.

Zion cinema in Zion square, Jaffa Street, Jerusalem, 1945.

In Honor of “The Audience and the Arts”

This galvanized shack was instrumental in the social development of Jerusalem. […] For many years, “Zion Cinema” served both us and our neighbors. Fezzes and hats sat side by side in peace and amity. The cinema became a kind of Jewish-Arab club. Within its walls, Jewish and Arab youth uttered joint cries of excitement as love scenes played on the screen. […] Over the years, the hall shed its old form and assumed a new one. A stone structure was built atop the metal ruins. But we, the children of 1920s Jerusalem, still remember the metal shack and the holes carved into its western wall, revealing the stars of the screen. […] When we went to the cinema, especially on Saturday evenings after Shabbat, we would see half of Jerusalem’s population at the entrance before the show. During the week, everyone knew who had visited the cinema on Saturday evening.14

Many of the accounts by Jews and Arabs of Mandatory Jerusalem describe visits to the cinema, particularly Zion Cinema, as a formative experience. The powerful appeal of this medium reflected the rise of visual images, popular culture, and the middle class. Visits to the cinema were perceived as magical: the lavish interior and exposure to the wonders of technology, the encounter between different populations, going out to “the city” and enjoying its cafés, ice cream parlors, and street vendors, and of course, the films themselves, were all essential to the experience. Being universal, affordable, and widely accessible, the cinema quickly became the favored recreational activity of urban Jerusalemite society. Aside from “fezzes and hats,” Zion Cinema and the other cinemas around it were frequented by British officials and military personnel as well as members of new populations in the city. Cinemas were also among the first public places in which women and men, of varying ethnicities and social backgrounds, sat alongside one another as equals.

Yaakov Yehoshua, in continuation of the opening quote, shares that in the days of silent films, the owners of Zion Cinema would invite a small orchestra as accompaniment:

If a little war was happening on screen, the orchestra would speed up with boisterous battle songs, and if passionate lovers were shown, it would play melodies saturated with love and youthful pining. Thus, the orchestra helped audiences understand films that were not necessarily accessible to all.15

The viewing experience was a highly emotional one. Audience members would whistle, gesture, clap, and shout in various languages throughout the screening. Together, these elements made visiting the cinema a shared cultural experience. 16

Zion Cinema, also referred to as “Zion Hall” and sometimes as “Zion Theater,” served as Jerusalem’s main cultural hall throughout the Mandate period. In addition to films, it regularly featured the Palestine Opera led by conductor Mordechai Golinkin, concerts by famous violinist Bronislaw Huberman, performances by the “Habima”, “Ha’ohel”, and “Ha’matateh” theaters, and international artists including Jascha Heifetz and Jacques Thibaud. It also hosted a variety of balls and public assemblies.

In 1923, “Traviata” (La Traviata), the debut show of the Palestine Opera, was performed in Hebrew on the Zion Cinema stage at least four times within a six-month period. While the Doar Hayom newspaper criticized the high ticket prices, it noted approvingly that the 800-seat theater was full, the opera enthusiastically received, and that despite the language barrier, “a considerable amount of British and Arab patrons” had attended.17
British high commissioners and head officers would regularly attend operas and concerts at Zion Cinema, often bringing their guests.
18 Governor Storrs, under the aegis of the Pro-Jerusalem Society, initiated concerts for all residents of Jerusalem at Zion Cinema. As recalled by Justice Gad Frumkin, the ten-year anniversary of the Hebrew-language Habima Theater was celebrated at Zion Cinema in December 1928 under the auspices of High Commissioner Chancellor.19 Additionally, the Zionist movement elected to open the second and third sessions of its Assembly of Representatives at Zion Cinema. Both sessions, in 1922 and 1925, were boycotted by the ultra-Orthodox due to the issue of women’s participation in Assembly elections, and characterized by ongoing tension vis-à-vis Sephardi (Oriental) leadership over the lacking representation of Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews.20 Zionist leaders, from Chaim Weizmann to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, delivered speeches during public assemblies at Zion Theater. In honor of Weizmann’s speech in December 1922, the Palestine Opera agreed to postpone its scheduled performance that evening. Every seat was occupied by noon, and as evening approached, the lobby doors were opened in order to contain the massive crowd at the entrance, estimated at roughly 5000 people.21 Yaakov Yehoshua remembers hearing Zionist leader Nahum Sokolow’s speech at Zion Hall. Conducted on a Saturday afternoon, the speech was attended by “nearly all residents of Jerusalem,” and Yehoshua, then a young man, listened while standing, crowding alongside many others.22

The events and performances at Zion Hall were not limited to the Hebrew language or to Jewish community affairs. Audiences at Zion Cinema, and later the other cinemas in its vicinity, were mixed. Jewish cinema owners would advertise screenings and performances in Arabic newspapers, adding holiday greetings around Christian and Muslim holidays, and Arab cinema owners did the same with their Hebrew speaking audience.23 In 1932, renowned Egyptian singer-composer-oud-player Mohammed Abdul Wahab performed at Zion Hall. This was Abdul Wahab’s second performance in Jerusalem, and with his popularity rising across the Middle East, he chose Zion Hall as a venue. Tickets for this event were highly coveted as well, and standing audience members outnumbered seated ones. The event is described in the diaries of Arab music ethnomusicologist and oud player Wasif Jawhariyyeh, who was then at the outset of his musical career. During his visit to Jerusalem, Abdul Wahab stayed in the lavish home of writer and scholar Issaf al-Nashashibi in Sheikh Jarrah. Moments before the concert began, news arrived that Supreme Court Justice Ali Bey Jarallah, among the eminent figures of Jerusalem and a frequent guest of al-Nashashibi, had passed away. Jarallah was also a friend and colleague of Justice Frumkin, whose memoir described him as “the most outstanding character among the judges” of his time.24 Grief washed over the full hall, and it seemed the concert would be cancelled. However, several moments later, Abdul Wahab appeared on stage, delivered a brief eulogy in Jarallah’s memory, dedicated the performance to “the audience and the arts,” and swept the hall away. In a different context, this may not have been possible, but the cinematic space, stripped of the familiar settings of authority and tradition, empowered “the public” and its ability to independently define the “appropriate.” At the end of the show, al-Nashashibi invited the excited Jawhariyyeh backstage for a handshake and introduction.25

Jawhariyyeh had come across the late judge several times through their joint social circles. They had met two years prior at the home of Jawhariyyeh’s friend Hassan Sidki al-Dajani during a welcome party for a Turkish string ensemble that also performed at Zion Hall. Other members of the al-Nashashibi family were also present at the event, including then-mayor of Jerusalem Raghib al-Nashashibi. The occasion was particularly memorable for Jawhariyyeh, as it marked his first encounter with the cümbüş, a modern oud that had yet to be seen in Mandatory Palestine, later known as “the modern oud of Ataturk,” which also made its debut on the “Zion” stage. Jawhariyyeh, among the foremost oud players in Jerusalem, continued to prefer the traditional oud nonetheless.26
Like Jaffa and Haifa, Jerusalem had ties to the rest of the Middle East, and artists of all Arab and Muslim regions – Umm Kulthum, Sabbah, Farid al-Atrash, and others – came to perform there. Al-Atrash performed in Jerusalem in the 1930s, at the Edison Cinema.
27 Ghada Karmi, who was born and raised in the Katamon neighborhood, also describes Zion Cinema in her diaries, stating that, “Visiting Egyptian film stars, singers and comedians performed there to packed, excited audiences of Jerusalemites who felt themselves part of a new glamorous world.”28 Prior to Abdul Wahab’s live performance at Zion Hall, he often appeared on film screens at Zion Cinema as well as in Tel-Aviv, Haifa, and other locations in Mandatory Palestine. Hazem Zaki Nusseibeh, a news editor for the Palestine Broadcasting Service in Arabic and later a high-ranking diplomat and minister in the Jordanian government, recalls the film Wardat al-Hubb al-Safi (“the white rose”) starring Abdul Wahab, claiming it was among the first sound films screened at Zion Cinema. Particularly memorable to him is the image of Arab women walking to the cinema:

I remember vividly crowds of women, most of whom in the early 1930s were still veiled and wearing the milayas (long black robs), walking briskly towards the cinema [Zion]. They were excited at the prospect of watching a talking film in Arabic for the first time in their lives. None came by car or bus, because these were a rarity, and walking was the order of the day. It would be inconceivable today to see such big Arab crowds wandering at ease in the heart of the Jewish quarters, without as much as a raised eyebrow in surprise or protest. The two peoples were still living side-by-side in amity and peace, notwithstanding their diametrically opposed political platforms.29

Manar Hassan examines the significant role of cinema in opening up public urban space to Arab women during the Mandate period, and in allowing them to enjoy new experiences and social roles. It likely had a similar effect for Jewish women from a traditional-patriarchal background.30 The very concept of men and women sitting side by side during a joint cultural experience was new to many. The cinemas were also among the first places that young girls could visit in independent groups, without adult supervision. This was partly due to the immense popularity of film, and perhaps also to its liminal position between public space and closed, confined space, and the versatile settings in which it could be viewed: from private homes or charity and social events, to neighborhood cinemas such as the Regent/Orient and Al Sharq, to the big cinemas in the city center.31

The Zion Hall stage was also the first to feature Palestinian women performers. This occurred for the first time in 1928 during “The Sacrifices,” (al-Dhabāʾiḥ) a play produced by the Islamic Sports Club in Jaffa (al-Nādī al-Riyāḍī al-Islāmī fī Yāfā). The play was originally written for the Egyptian “Ramesses” theater but was instead debuted by the Jaffa Theater on the Zion Hall stage in Jerusalem. Arab-Palestinian women had never before performed on stage, and men customarily played the female characters. Hassan adds that after the groundbreaking performance, Arab women began appearing in shows for women’s associations, sports and culture clubs, and schools across Mandatory Palestine. One example was the acting committee of the Sports Education Club in Jerusalem (al-Nādī al-Riyāḍī al-Tahdhībī), which gave Arab women an opportunity to explore and develop their acting skills. In 1929, the committee produced the play “Abed al-Rahman al-Nasser King of Andalus” (ʿAbd al-Raḥman al-Nāṣir Malik al-Andalus) at Zion Theater with a cast of 50 actresses and actors.32

In hindsight, this series of events seems almost fictional. However, as Hazem Zaki Nusseibeh aptly describes, in the 1920s and 1930s and even in the first half of the 1940s, shared life traditions were still strong, persisting despite national tensions and often surmounting them. The interrelation between modernism and nationalism is a universal historical phenomenon.33 However, accelerated urban development also significantly increased opportunities for members of different communities to encounter one another in shared public space, and to contribute to its development. In Jerusalem, the numerous daily interactions between members of various populations, both intentional and unintentional, in varying, diverse arenas, fostered an affinity toward the shared urban community that flourished for many years alongside, and not strictly in contrast with, national affinities.34

As a developing urban environment, Zion Square was also a sphere of interaction between the old and the new, and one of social stratification. While urban development generated new economic opportunities and social mobility, the new bourgeois lifestyle also gave impetus to an expanding class of artisans and service providers in traditional and new fields, who were enmeshed in modernization processes yet pushed to their margins. These distinctions became as integral to the urban landscape as national ones. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the semi-invisible figures of the lower class are less present in direct documentation of the square and more so in literary works, photographs, and childhood memories, which may lend them a picturesque-exotic quality, but still stand as social documentation. These sources reveal the tamarind vendor, the shoe shiners, the porters – mainly Jews of Kurdish and Bulgarian descent, the Ethiopian chestnut roasters, the Sudanese green chickpea (āmilah malʾāna) vendors, the “magic box” (undūk al-ʿAjāʾib), which both preceded and imitated the cinema, and the “temporary” poor – Yekkes (German Jews) in white robes and chef’s hats, who abandoned their liberal professions for lack of demand and sold hotdogs for a living outside of Café Europa.35

Through all of its different incarnations, Zion Cinema never matched the lavish or avant-garde style typical of other cinemas at the time. However, its central location in the city square, its crucial role in the social and cultural life of Jerusalem and the large billboard advertising it from a distance drew one’s gaze to the building and lent it a cathedral-like presence. This presence was further emphasized under special events in which electric signs were displayed on the front of the cinema such as at the coronation of King George VI in May 1937 and the end of World War II in 1945. The centrality of the cinema in city life was also reflected by the constant crowds at its entrance waiting for tickets or using the central location as a gathering place and meeting point and the ongoing traffic surrounding it, composed of passersby, vendors, and vehicles.36 In many ways, Zion Cinema embodied the spirit of shared public life during this period, and the various trends, contradictions, and gaps that characterized it.

In 1931, the theater expanded to include 1,200 seats and a larger stage that could accommodate ensemble shows, concerts, and opera. The renovated hall opened with a screening of the Charlie Chaplin film “City Lights.”37 Additional cinemas opened around the square during the Mandate period: Eden (1928), the somewhat distant Edison (1932), Orion (1938), Rex (1938), Tel Or (1941), and Studio (1944).38 Rex was owned by Josef P. Albina, a well-known Jerusalemite Christian-Arab contractor and entrepreneur, head of the Arab Chamber of Commerce, and for a time, a member of the city council.

He was friendly with Gut (owner of Zion Cinema), and, as Gut did with his Arab patrons, would advertise shows and send greetings to his Jewish clientele in Hebrew press. Rex Cinema would also screen films with Hebrew translation. Albina was known as an amateur photographer and had a personal interest in film. Next door to Rex, he established the smaller Studio Cinema, where he screened Egyptian and self-produced films in Arabic under “Nile Film Ltd.” for both Arab and Jewish audiences.39 The most visually avant-garde of the cinemas was the Orion, which was built in the mid-1930s and modeled after the renowned Radio City Music Hall in New York. With 1,400 seats, it was also the largest in the city. 40

Some of the most prominent cinemas in the center of Jerusalem were the product of Jewish-Arab partnerships. Albina founded Rex in cooperation with the Armenian Patriarchate, which owned the land, and entrepreneur Yona Friedman. Ezra (Moshe) Mizrahi, owner of the Edison, established the Orion Cinema along with Daoud Dajani and the Dabah family. However, in both cases, co-ownership lasted a relatively short time, and both Mizrahi and Albina purchased their respective partners’ share. While these partnerships ended somewhat tensely, it seems both cases revolved around business interests. In contrast, Albina maintained a stable, close partnership with the two Jewish co-owners of his large construction company: engineer Baruch Katinka and contractor Tuvia Donia, brother-in-law to Chaim Weizmann. The construction company “Albina, Donia, and Katinka” built the main Jerusalem post office as well as airports and military bases across Mandatory Palestine, and made sure to employ workers of all religions and ethnicities. 41

Zion Cinema maintained its seniority in Jerusalem throughout the Mandate period, and was rivaled only by the Edison, which was built in the early 1930s and also added the title “theater” to its name. The Edison Cinema opened with a widely attended ceremony that included government and municipal representatives and honorable figures from all populations of Jerusalem. Journalist and editor Itamar Ben-Avi, who delivered the opening speech at the ceremony, commented on “the joyous fact that most theatres and cinemas in Mandatory Palestine, from Gut’s Zion Cinema to Abarbanel’s Eden, from Carasso’s Ophir to Mugrabi’s Opera, to, especially, the Edison – the largest and most lavish of them all, belonging to Mizrahi and his sons – have been established by Hebrews of the Orient.” Gut either earned his place on this list by error or due to his ability to blend-in and his partnership with Yitzhak Peretz.42 The relationship between Gut and Edison Cinema owner Ezra Mizrahi was characterized by tense competition and mutual accusations that ended up in both the press and the courtroom on several occasions.43 Their relationship with Albina, on the other hand, was friendly. While the Edison Cinema was indeed larger and more elaborate, Zion Cinema had the advantage of its central location, and the lively street life that flourished around “its” square. 

The Zion Cinema building was renovated once again toward the end of the 1930s, and now included six stories all together. The Gut and Peretz families, who owned the cinema and had previously shared the first floor, now lived on the third and fourth floors of the new structure. The two families shared a warm, intimate relationship. They kept their doors open, spent holidays together, and jointly celebrated family occasions on the building rooftop. During this period, many of the business and office owners in the area lived in nearby apartments or split their quarters into a residential and commercial space. Israel Gut, a known figure in Jerusalem, was born in Lviv (Galicia), graduated from the Reimann School of Art in Berlin, and worked as an art teacher at the Bezalel Art School during his early days in Palestine. Thanks to his many occupations and active membership in Freemasonry lodges and the Rotary Club, Gut forged connections with Jews, Arabs, and British officials. At the Freemasonry lodges, Gut was able to meet his neighbors: attorney and Sephardi leader David Abulafia, who built the large building adjacent to Zion Cinema with the help of another neighbor – Mikhail Sansur, architect Spiros Houris, who planned many of the luxury buildings in the city including that of Issaf al-Nashashibi in Sheikh Jarrah and several of the eclectic-style houses in the elegant row bordering Zion Square on the Jaffa Road side, as well as Baruch Katinka and many others. 44

Numerous cafés, hotels, and businesses opened around Zion Cinema, offering various merchandise and an elegant setting for the lively activity of various populations, and forming a distinct urban fabric. The demand for hotels and boarding houses began to increase in the mid-1930s with the Nazis’ rise to power and the subsequent influx of Jewish refugees from Europe, and persisted during World War II, when Mandatory Palestine served as a transit and supply station for the British military.45 During the 1930s, dozens of cafés had opened in Jerusalem, mostly in the city center, the majority of which were owned by German-speaking Jews.46 Alongside the well-known “Europa” and “Vienna” cafés in Zion Square, other cafés became social and culinary institutions as well: “Kapulski” in the Zion Cinema building, “Atara,” “Zichel,” and “Elno” on Ben Yehuda Street, “Alaska” on Jaffa Road, “Tuv Ta’am” and “Ritz” on King George Street, “Fink” on the corner of King George and Ha’poalim (Ha’Histadrut) Street, the elegant Hesse Restaurant behind Rex Cinema. Café Europa was located in the front of the Sansur building, the main office building in Mandatory Jerusalem, which was situated opposite Zion Cinema and owned by the aforementioned brothers Mikhail and Khalil Sansur – among the prominent entrepreneurs in Jerusalem and residents of the Katamon neighborhood. The cafés were populated by Sephardi and Ashkenazi (European) Jews, Christian and Muslim Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, and British military and government personnel. The patrons smoked, played chess, chatted, read newspapers and books, listened and danced to music, and conducted social gatherings, events, work and business meetings, heated discussions, and even political negotiations.47

The popular “al-Jawhariyyeh” Café, owned by Wasif’s brother Khalil Jawhariyyeh, was located at the western entrance of the Russian Compound on Jaffa Road near Zion Square. The size of four stores put together, the café was located on the ground floor of a British government building and had six street-facing doors. Wasif would sometimes perform there with a mixed ensemble of Arab and Jewish musicians. Al-Jawhariyyeh was frequented by members of all ethnicities and religions who enjoyed the contemporary Middle Eastern musical and culinary menu, inspired by the modern cafés of Beirut.48

Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews would also regularly visit the Arab cafés at the Jaffa Gate and the garden-cafés outside the city, in Beit Jala, Ein Karem, and Beit Safafa. Most Arab cafés continued to offer the traditional combination: coffee, hookah, backgammon, Middle Eastern music, and conversations about a range of issues from the everyday to the philosophical. Alongside these were a smaller number of “literary cafés” and bar-cafés frequented by intellectual circles. The Vagabond Party, led by Khalil al-Sakakini, would gather at the “Mukhtar” Café near the Jaffa Gate. Sakakini later drew groups of intellectuals, including Arab-speaking Jews, to the “Piccadilly” Café in Mamilla.49 Yaakov Yehoshua recalls meeting with al-Sakakini at the “Qahwat al-Ma’arif” at the Jaffa Gate.50 In most of the Arab cafés, women and men did not sit together. According to Ghada Karmi, this is why many members of the Arab middle class preferred Jewish cafés. They were also lured by their “Viennese” atmosphere and menu, and the sidewalk tables from which one could observe passersby. Men and women, Arabs and Jews, also jointly attended lectures and concerts and used the tennis courts, libraries, and cafeterias at the YMCA and King David Hotel, although they largely did so as families.51 The constant expansion of the middle class stimulated cultural, public, and political involvement among both Jews and Arabs. Press in Hebrew, Arabic, and other languages thrived. New newspapers were established, European and international magazines were prevalent, bookstores and libraries multiplied, public assemblies and cultural events were held routinely, and several thousand social, educational, charity, and sports clubs, as well as various organizations, professional and otherwise, were active across the city and saw a steady increase in women’s participation. Along with the political events of the period, this social vitality enhanced national awareness, gradually influencing the lives, habits, and dispositions of Jerusalem’s residents. Nonetheless, the demand for events that crossed cultural, religious, political, and social orientations persisted at least until the mid-1930s.

Dark Shadows

While the outbreak of the Arab revolt (1936-1939) did not shift this dynamic at its core, it did cast a dark shadow over it. Throughout this period, the halls of “fezzes and hats” in central Jerusalem also became a target for Arabs and Jews who sought to escalate the national struggle and infuse shared daily life with terror. In May 1936, an Arab assassin shot at patrons exiting the Edison Cinema, killing three and wounding several others. Following this harrowing event, Ezra (Moshe) Mizrahi wrote to his competitor Israel Gut in a moment of solidarity: “With regards to the horrific event… I would be glad to know Mr. Gut’s position on whether we should continue screenings, and whether he is planning to open his cinema.” 52

In January 1939, a bomb was thrown toward the entrance of the Orion Cinema, injuring seven, including a British solider and Arab police officer. In May of that year, three bombs were planted at Josef Albina’s Rex Cinema by members of the IZL – an underground Zionist paramilitary organization – dressed as ordinary cinema patrons. Two of the bombs detonated and injured eight individuals, among them three British police officers (one of whom lost his leg), three Jewish police officers, ten Arab citizens, and two Jewish citizens. Following the incident, the British district commander closed the cinemas and cafés in the area for roughly one month, after which they were staffed with guards who conducted rigorous security checks at the building entrances. 53 External reality had now penetrated the cinemas through events that, though reminiscent of cinematic action scenes, carried real, devastating implications.

Commercial venues and cafés became targets as well. In 1938, Albina and his two partners Donia and Katinka travelled to the north for a construction site inspection. On their way back to Jerusalem, they were caught in an Arab terror attack near the Haifa market. Donia was badly injured. Katinka and Albina managed to rush him to the hospital, but his death was pronounced shortly thereafter. The remaining partners jointly decided to keep “Donia” in the company name after his death.54 While Albina, a known social figure, steered clear of political involvement, Katinka, formerly the head technical engineer of the Hejaz railway, maintained close ties with Zionist leadership and the Haganah paramilitary organization. In 1937, a year before Donia’s death, Katinka lent his car to Haganah members who claimed they were independently planning to launch a “bold operation.” Following a coordinated plan, Katinka left his car in an alleyway near Zion Cinema, sat at Café Vienna, and even engaged police officers in lively conversation so as not to arouse suspicion. Roughly one hour later, it was announced at Café Vienna that a bomb had been thrown into Café Lifta at the entrance to Jerusalem, a known locus of Arab attacks on buses and vehicles transporting Jewish passengers, from which a bike rider had been shot several days prior. The bomb killed the son of the Lifta village mukhtar and another individual, and wounded several.55 The following day, Katinka arrived for work as usual at the company he shared with Albina and Donia. Ordinary life continued in the gaps between such events, but the shared space that was once a given began to gradually transform into an arena of conflict as well.

In December 1947, several days after the UN partition plan was adopted, Arabs stormed the Jewish commercial center in Mamilla and set its stores on fire. In retaliation, IZL members set fire to the nearby Rex Cinema. Josef Albina saw his cinema go up in flames from the home of his friend Constantine Salameh. Together, the two events marked the beginning of the civil war in Jerusalem, and the end of the shared life era.

Summary and Conclusions

Cinemas played a singular role in the urban development of Mandate-period urban space. For decades, Zion Cinema served as the central axis of urban life in Jerusalem. The urban fabric that developed around it was characterized by a density and diversity that made it distinctly urban despite its modest size. The assorted architecture, multi-layered lifestyles, and various populations living in the area and utilizing its many daily, social, and cultural functions, created a cyclical, vital, and effervescent environment that fostered many forms of interaction between all populations of the city.

It might seem that Zion Cinema and the others around it were simply arenas of random encounters between strangers. However, the events described throughout the article indicate a range of deeper connections, both overt and covert, forged between the different populations. Residents of the city were drawn to the cinema not only for its films, but also in order to see and be seen, to feel part of the shifting world around them. In this sphere of visibility, they were continuously reflected in one another’s eyes as citizens of a joint urban space. The space of the cinema, stripped of the familiar contexts of moral authority and tradition, became one in which rigid social norms such as gender, class, ethnic, and cultural divisions softened and could be reinterpreted.

This dynamic demonstrated the increasing strength of the public, as well as that of different groups within it that had yet to find expression in urban life. The cinemas functioned as the cultural halls of the time – the versatile performances featured on their stages brought together east and west, and deepened the cosmopolitan nature of the city. This was further enhanced by the many lively cafés surrounding the cinemas and the different populations that moved through them. The cinemas were also spheres of economic and professional activity and business partnerships that crossed ethnic-national divides. Their prominent social role and cosmopolitan character was further reinforced by the status and public interest they garnered in the various branches of local press.

In parallel, the cinemas also functioned as a space for discovering “the other” and as a platform for events and activities that emboldened social distinctions and collective political awareness. With the escalation of national conflict, these hubs of interaction also became hubs of friction. The two sides increasingly employed urban terror, and dread penetrated shared daily life. In this context, shared reality became a catalyst for confrontation, as the communal, partition-free lifestyle that had been common practice was now perceived as over-exposed and unsafe. Cinemas, cafés, and stores, which were once spheres of connection, now became accelerators of ever-intensifying conflict as well. Therefore, alongside its functional aspects, the cinema is revealed as a space of partnership and division, and, in more ways than one, a complex mirror: of human, social, and intra-group dynamics, which tell the story of a period and the shifts that defined it.

1 Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, Yerushalayim ha’yehudit ha’chadasha be’tkufat ha’mandat: shchunot, batim, anashim [The new Jewish city of Jerusalem during the

2 Israel Kimhi, “Toldot tichnuno shel merkaz ha’ir Yerushalayim (1918-2000)”[History of urban planning in the Jerusalem city center 1918-2000], in

3 Aminadav Ashbal, Hachsharat ha’yeshuv: parshiot ve’mifalim be’arei ha’aretz – Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv, ve’Haifa [Israel Land Development Company:

4 Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, op. cit., p. 812-816; Kobi Cohen-Hattab, op. cit., p. 161; Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 21; Kroyanker, The Triangle, op; cit.

5 The name of “Zion Square” (unlike the cinema) only became official post-statehood due to prior Arab and British objection. A 1920s map refers to the

6 On shared life between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem during the late Ottoman period and Mandate period, see: Yaakov Yehoshua, Ha’bayit veha’rechov be’

7 The article is based on the author’s PhD dissertation: Yudith Oppenheimer, Zion Square – hermeneutic study of public space, PhD, supervised by Prof.

8 Boaz Neumann, Lihiyot be’republikat Weimar [Being in the Weimar Republic], Tel Aviv, Am Oved, 2005, p. 263-296 (in Hebrew); Scott Bukatman, Ha’adam

9 “Mugrabi” is the Tel Aviv equivalent of “Zion”. It too, preceded Mugrabi Square, lending it its name and character (the official name of the square

10 Ariel Hirschfeld, El achron ha’elim: al mizrakot Roma [Toward the last of the Gods: the fountains of Rome], Jerusalem, Keter, 2003, p. 27-64 (in

11  See for instance: Maayan Hillel, Cultural changes in Palestinian Arab Society, 1918-1948: Haifa as a case-study, PhD Dissertation supervised by

12 Kroyanker, The Triangle, op. cit., p. 39-47.

13 Neumann, op. cit.; Shalit, op. cit.; Bukatman, op. cit.

14 Yaakov Yehoshua, Yerushalayim ha’yeshana ba’ayin ve’balev [Old Jerusalem in the eye and in the heart], Jerusalem, Keter, 1988, p. 222-223 (in

15 Yehoshua, Old Jerusalem, p. 222-223.

16 Ibid., p. 222-223; Shalit, op. cit., p. 193-205; Maayan Hilel, Cultural Changes, p. 177-179; Maayan Hilel, “Be’armonot ha’kolnoa shel yemei ha’

17 Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 23; Doar Hayom, 31.7.1923, 12.8.1923, 5.9.1923, 8.5.1924 (in Hebrew); Yedioth Ahronoth, 7.1.1924 (in Hebrew).

18 Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 23. The Palestine Symphony Orchestra later became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; Doar Hayom, 31.7.1923, 12.8.

19 Gad Frumkin, Derech shofet be’Yerushalayim [The life of a Jerusalem judge], Tel Aviv, Dvir, 1954, p. 293-294 (in Hebrew); on Zion Hall as the

20  Ha’aretz, 8.3.1922, 16.6.1925 (in Hebrew); Doar Hayom, 6-9.3.1922, 16.6.1925 (in Hebrew); David Kroyanker, Rechov Yaffo, Yerushalayim: biografia

21 Doar Hayom, 21.12.1922 (in Hebrew); Ha’aretz, 24.12.1922 (in Hebrew).

22 Yehoshua, Old Jerusalem, p. 223.

23 Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 395-398; Moshe Hananel, Ha’yerushalmim: masa be’sefer ha’telefon ha’mandatory 1946 [Jerusalemites: a journey through

24 Frumkin, op. cit., p. 240-241.

25 Tamari and Nassar op. cit., p. 178-179.

Jawhariyyeh does not note the year of this event. It was determined via cross reference with an announcement in Doar Hayom dated 10.7.1932, regarding

26 Ibid, p. 204-205. Jawhariyyeh personally attests to having remained loyal to the traditional oud; ibid, Hassan Sidki al-Dajani was an attorney

27 Manar Hassan, Smuyot min ha’ayin: nashim ve’ha’arim ha’palestiniot [Invisible: women and the Palestinian cities], Tel Aviv, Van Leer Jerusalem

28  Ghada Karmi, In search of Fatima: a Palestinian story, London and New York, Verso, 2002, p. 36.

29 Hazem Zaki Nusseibeh, Jerusalem, a living memory, Nicossia and London, Rimal Publications and Melisende Publishing, 2009, p. 391-392. On Nusseibeh’

30 See for instance: Hassan, op. cit. p. 60-65; Ellen Fleishmann, “Young women in the city: Mandate memories”, Jerusalem Quarterly2, Institute for

31 Neighborhood cinemas were established in Baka, the German Colony (Orient/Regent), and other locations, see Hassan, op. cit.; Hananel, op. cit., p.

32  Hassan, op. cit., p. 62-65, 110-116, p. 122-123.

33 Anderson, B. Imagined communities: Reflection on the origin and spread of nationalism. Revised and extended edition, London, Verso. 1991, p. 37-46.

34 See Nusseibeh’s quote above (footnote 29); for further references see footnote 7.

35 Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 222-223; also see Lapierre and Collins, op. cit., p. 80; the shoe shiners and porters are also mentioned in S.Y.

36 For the photographs in reference see: Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 70; Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 35.

37 Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 36.

38 Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 42-43; Eden Cinema had previously functioned as an outdoors cinema in Gan Ha’ir, but moved into its permanent structure

39 Palestine Post, 19.6.1938, p. 4 (in Hebrew); Hananel, op. cit., p. 48, 322; Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 395-397; for Rex Cinema advertisements in

40 Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 44-46, p. 216, Kroyanker also mentions Aviv Cinema, which operated as an outdoor cinema until ousted in favor of the

41 Baruch Katinka, Me’az ve’ad hena [From then ‘til now], Jerusalem, Kiryat Sefer, 1964, p. 287-290 (in Hebrew); Katinka and Donia also built the

42  Quote: Doar Hayom, 7.1.1932 (in Hebrew), also see: Doar Hayom, 12.11.1931 (in Hebrew).

43 Hananel, op. cit., p. 320, 322, the full name of the Edison owner was Ezra Moshe Mizrahi, appearing in this source as Moshe Mizrahi; Avi Mor, Ha’

44 Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 19-29, 52-54, 222-227; Freemasonry lodges were members’ clubs for businesspersons and professionals in the liberal

45  Ben-Arieh, op. cit., p. 877-879; according to Zoar and Aharonson, during these years, nine Jewish-owned hotels and guest houses were established

46  Greenzweig claims there were over fifty cafes in Jerusalem during these years, but it is unclear whether this includes Arab cafés. Michael

47 “Atara” Café moved from Jaffa Road to Ben-Yehuda Street in the 1940s. Greenzweig, art. cited, p. 255; Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 27, 53, 55, 391;

48 Tamari and Nassar, op. cit., p. 110-111.

49 Salim Tamari, Mountain against the sea: essays on Palestinian society and culture, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2009 p

50 According to Yehoshua, the café was located in the second floor of a building near Jaffa Gate. From its balcony, Mufti Amin al-Husseini and Khalil

51 Karmi, op. cit., p. 37-38; Davis, art. cited, p. 45-46.

52 Hananel, op. cit., p. 321. As aforementioned, the full name of the Edison Cinema owner was Ezra Moshe Mizrahi, appearing in this source as Moshe

53 Ha’boker, 30.5.1939, p. 1, 31.5.1939, p. 6, 20.6.1939, p. 6 (in Hebrew); Ha’aretz, 30.5.1939, 21.6.1938, p. 3 (in Hebrew); Ha’mashkif, 31.5.1939, p

54 Katinka, op. cit., p. 287-290, p. 297.

55 Ibid, p. 281-282, Katinka notes that while the attack went against the wishes of Haganah leaders, he did not hesitate to assist; on the second man

Appendix

Name Glossary:

Abulafia, David: Born in Turkey, a graduate of the law school of Istanbul University. He immigrated to Jerusalem in 1921, and took leadership positions in the Sephardi-Oriental Jewish community as president of the Sephardic community committee and as its representative at the Zionist National Assembly and the National Committee. He also served as a member of the city council. He owned one of the main residential and business building in Zion Square.

Albina, Josef P.: A leading Arab Christian entrepreneur, co-owner of “Albina, Donia, and Katinka joint Arab-Jewish construction company. He served as head of the Arab chamber of commerce and as a city councilor. He was the founder, co-owner and later the sole owner of the Rex Cinema, known also as an amateur photographer and film producer.

Ben-Avi, Itamar: A Journalist and the son of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the driving force behind the revival of the modern Hebrew language. He was brought up to be the first native speaker of Hebrew in the modern era. He wrote in his father’s newspaper Hatzvi and later founded and edited the Hebrew daily, Doar Hayom.

The Dabah family: Arab Entrepreneurs and co-owners of Orion Cinema.

al-Dajani, Hassan Sidki: A Arab lawyer, publicist, city councilor and political activist affiliated with the al-Nashashibi family. He was killed in 1938 by extremists associated with the rival Husseini family.

Dajani, Daud: Arab Entrepreneur and co-owner of Orion Cinema.

Donia, Tuvia: A Jewish engineer and co-owner of “Albina, Donia, and Katinka joint Arab-Jewish construction company. He was the brother-in-law of the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann. He was killed in a terrorist attack in 1938 in Haifa during the Arab Revolt (1936-9).

Friedman, Yona: A Jewish entrepreneur and co-owner of Rex Cinema.

Frumkin, Gad: Born in Ottoman Jerusalem to a Hasidic Jewish family that established the Hebrew newspaper Havatzelet. He was a graduate of the law school of Istanbul University and became one of the first Jewish trained attorneys in Palestine, and later one of the few Jews who served as judges on the Supreme Court of Mandatory Palestine.

Gut, Israel: Born in Lviv (Galicia), a graduate of an art school in Berlin, he taught at the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts before becoming the founder and co-owner of Zion Cinema. He was an active member of the Jerusalem Freemasonry Lodge and the Rotary Club, and was among the founders of the Maccabi Jewish sport club in Jerusalem.

Houris, Spiros: A distinguished architect in Mandatory Jerusalem, of a Christian Arab and Greek origin. He designed and built several buildings situated in the northern side of Zion Square on Jaffa Road.

Jarallah, Ali Bey: A prominent Arab public figure. A graduate of the law school of Istanbul University, he was appointed a judge during the Ottoman period. During the British Mandate period he served as the head of the Magistrates’ Courts and a member of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.

Jawhariyyeh, Khalil: Of Arab Greek Orthodoxy origin. Owner of the popular Jawhariyyeh Café in Jaffa Road and the brother of Wasif Jawhariyyeh (below).

Jawhariyyeh, Wasif: A composer, oud player, poet and chronicler, born in Jerusalem to an Arab Greek Orthodox family. He is known for his memoirs that span over six decades from 1904 to 1968, covering Jerusalem’s turbulent modern history.

Karmi, Ghada: A Palestinian physician, author and academic, born in Jerusalem to a middle class Muslim family. In her 2002 autobiography, In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story (2002), she describes growing up in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Katamon and the circumstances that brought her family to flee from it in 1948.

Katinka, Baruch: A Jewish engineer, contractor, and co-owner of “Albina, Donia, and Katinka joint Arab-Jewish construction company. During WWI he served as head technical engineer of the Ottoman Hejaz railway. He maintained close relationship with the Zionist leadership and the Hagana Zionist paramilitary organization.

Mizrahi, Ezra (Moshe): A Jewish entrepreneur. The founder, co-owner and later the sole owner of the Orion Cinema. He was also the founder and owner of the Edison Cinema.

al-Nashashibi, Issaf: A distinguished scholar, writer and public figure, born in Jerusalem to one of the two leading Arab families of the city. He is considered by many as the foremost Arabic scholar of his time.

al-Nashashibi, Raghib: A member of the al-Nashashibi family (above), an engineer, head of the municipal public works department and a member of parliament during the Ottoman period. During the British Mandate period he served as mayor of Jerusalem (1920-1934).

Nusseibeh, Hazem Zaki: A news editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service in Arabic during the British mandate era, and later a high-ranking diplomat and minister in the Jordanian government.

Peretz, Yitzhak: A Jewish entrepreneur and the co-owner of Zion Cinema.

al-Sakakini, Khalil: A groundbreaking educator, writer and scholar, the founder of the Al-Dusturiyyah first Arab modern school in Jerusalem, and one of the most prominent Arab intellectuals during the British Mandate period. His diaries are a rare record of the social, political and cultural life of the Arab elite in Jerusalem during the late Ottoman and British Mandate periods.

Salameh, Constantine: A distinguished Arab entrepreneur, the owner and builder of some of the most luxurious homes in Jerusalem during the British Mandate time.

Sansur, Mikhail and Khalil: leading Arab (Christian-Catholic) entrepreneurs, owners of the Sansur building in Zion square, the main business building in Mandatory Jerusalem. They were residents of the Katamon neighbourhood (from which they fled in 1948).

Yehoshua, Yaakov: A Jewish writer and researcher, specialized in Middle East studies. In his writing he described the life and customs of the Sephardic Jews in Jerusalem, highlighting their experience of shared lives with Arabs of in Jerusalem’s neighborhoods.

Abarbanel, Karaso, & Mugrabi: Cinema owners in Tel Aviv.

Notes

1 Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, Yerushalayim ha’yehudit ha’chadasha be’tkufat ha’mandat: shchunot, batim, anashim [The new Jewish city of Jerusalem during the British Mandate period: neighborhoods, houses, people], Jerusalem, Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, 2011, p. 812-816 (in Hebrew); Kobi Cohen-Hattab, Latur et ha’aretz, ha’tayarut be’yisrael be’tkufat ha’mandat ha’briti [Tour the Land, tourism in Palestine during the British Mandate period 1917-1948], Jerusalem, Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, 2007, p. 161 (in Hebrew); Raphael Gat and Rachel Ben-Sira, Zichronot mibeyt aba [Memories of father’s house], private publisher, 2001, p. 21 (in Hebrew); David Kroyanker, Ha’meshulash ha’yerushalmi [The Jerusalem Triangle], Jerusalem, Keter and The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2011, p. 42 (in Hebrew) (hereinafter: Kroyanker, The Triangle).

2 Israel Kimhi, “Toldot tichnuno shel merkaz ha’ir Yerushalayim (1918-2000)” [History of urban planning in the Jerusalem city center 1918-2000], in Ramon Amnon, Aviel Yelinek, and Asaf Vitman (eds.), Yordim ha’ira: merkaz ha’ir Yerushalayim [Downtown Jerusalem: the story of Jerusalem’s city center and its regeneration], Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2011, p. 81-85 (in Hebrew); Efrat Elisha, “Ha’tichnun ha’briti ve’hashpa’ato al Yerushalayim” (British planning and its impact on Jerusalem), Ariel 100-101, April 1994, p. 54-56 (in Hebrew); David Kroyanker, Adrichalut be’Yerushalayim: ha’bniya be’tkufat ha’mandat ha’briti [Architecture in Jerusalem: building processes under the British Mandate), Jerusalem, Keter and the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 1989, p. 21, p. 37 (in Hebrew); Dana Zoar and Ran Aharonson, “Miderech historit le’derech rashit: itzuvo vepitucho shel Rechov Yafo be’Yerushalayim, 1860-1948” [From a historical road to a main road: the formation and development of Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, 1860-1948], Cathedra, 121, Sept. 2006, p. 101-116 (in Hebrew).

3 Aminadav Ashbal, Hachsharat ha’yeshuv: parshiot ve’mifalim be’arei ha’aretz – Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv, ve’Haifa [Israel Land Development Company: affairs and factories in the cities of Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, and Haifa], Jerusalem, The Israel Land Development Company Inc., 1976, p. 21-28 (in Hebrew); Amnon Ramon, “Ha’historia shel merkaz ha’ir Yerushalayim (1860-2000)” [The History of the Jerusalem city center (1860-2000)], in Ramon Amnon, Aviel Yelinek, and Asaf Vitman, op. cit., Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2011, p. 23-25 (in Hebrew). Following the Russian revolution (1917) and the consequent halt in Russian pilgrim traffic, the Greek Orthodox Church lost its main source of income and fell into a major economic crisis. Subsequently, the Brits forced the church, the largest land owner in Jerusalem at the time, to sell large plots of land while forbidding their sub-division into smaller plots. This condition clearly benefitted the Zionist movement, the only institutional land buyer in the post-WWI era. (Ramon, ibid).

4 Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, op. cit., p. 812-816; Kobi Cohen-Hattab, op. cit., p. 161; Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 21; Kroyanker, The Triangle, op; cit., p. 42.

5 The name of “Zion Square” (unlike the cinema) only became official post-statehood due to prior Arab and British objection. A 1920s map refers to the square as “Samuel Square,” likely after “Herbert Samuel” street. Zoar and Aharonson, art. cited, p. 126 and footnote 89; Ben-Arieh, op. cit., p. 873; according to Even-Or, the British attempted to name the square “Sansur Square,” but this was never prevalently used. Shmuel Even-Or, “Yerushalayim: binyanim ba’ir ha’chadasha” [Jerusalem: buildings in the new city], Kardom, Issue 33, Ariel Publishing, 1984, p. 24-33 (in Hebrew); Charles Robert Ashbee, Jerusalem 1920-1922, London, s.n., 1924, p. 27.

6 On shared life between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem during the late Ottoman period and Mandate period, see: Yaakov Yehoshua, Ha’bayit veha’rechov be’Yerushalayim ha’yeshana: pirkei havai miyamim avaru [Home and street in old Jerusalem: chapters of life from days gone by], Jerusalem, Rubin Mass Publishers, 1966, p. 215-244 (in Hebrew) (hereinafter: Yehoshua, Home and street); Vincent Lemire, Yerushalayim 1900: ir ha’kodesh be’idan ha’efsharuyot [Jerusalem 1900: the holy city in the age of possibilities], translated by Avner Lahav, Jerusalem, Magnes Press, 2018, p. 193-215 (in Hebrew); Menachem Klein, Kshurim: ha’sipur shel bnei ha’aretz [Lives in common: a local history], Tel-Aviv, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2015, p. 31-66 (in Hebrew) [hereinafter: Klein, A local history]; Yuval Ivri, Ha’shiva le’andalus: machlokot al tarbut ve’zehut yehudit-sfaradit bein araviut le’ivriut [The return to Andalus: disputes over Jewish-Sephardi identity between Arabism and Hebraism], Jerusalem, Magnes Press, 2020, p. 202-227 (in Hebrew); Menachem Klein, Lives in common: Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Hebron, London, Hurst and Company, 2014, p. 19-53; Michelle Campos, Ottoman brothers: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in early twentieth-century Palestine, Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 2011, p. 1-19, p. 74-82; Abigail Jacobson, From empire to empire: Jerusalem between Ottoman and British rule, Syracuse, New York, Syracuse University Press, 2011, p. 82-116; Salim Tamari & Issam Nassar (eds.), The storyteller of Jerusalem: the life and times of Wasif Jawhariyyeh, 1904-1948, Northampton, Massachusetts, Olive Branch Press and the Institute for Palestine Studies, 2014, p. 44-60; Abigail Jacobson and Moshe Naor, Oriental neighbors: middle eastern Jews and Arabs in Mandatory Palestine, Waltham, Massachusetts, Brandeis University Press, 2016, p. 28-46, p. 54-72.

7 The article is based on the author’s PhD dissertation: Yudith Oppenheimer, Zion Square – hermeneutic study of public space, PhD, supervised by Prof. Menachem Klein, Bar Ilan University, Interdisciplinary Studies Unit, Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies, 2017.

8 Boaz Neumann, Lihiyot be’republikat Weimar [Being in the Weimar Republic], Tel Aviv, Am Oved, 2005, p. 263-296 (in Hebrew); Scott Bukatman, Ha’adam ha’urbani ve’hamerhav ha’medumeh: iyun be’sirto shel Ridley Scott ‘Blade Runner’ [Human beings and the simulated space: an analysis of Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner], translated by Aya Breuer, Tel Aviv, Resling, 2005 (in Hebrew); David Shalit, Makrinim koach: batei ha’kolonoa ha’sratim ve’haisraelim [Projecting power: the cinema houses, the movies, and the Israelis], Tel Aviv, Resling, 2006, p. 193-205 (in Hebrew). Graeme Gilloch, Myth and metropolis: Walter Benjamin and the city, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1996, p. 1-20.

9 “Mugrabi” is the Tel Aviv equivalent of “Zion”. It too, preceded Mugrabi Square, lending it its name and character (the official name of the square was ‘November 2nd, date of the Balfour declaration, but it was widely referred to as Mugrabi Square). Mugrabi served as the main Tel-Aviv square throughout the Mandate period; on the interrelation between central local cinema and urban development in Arab cities in Palestine, see for instance: Zahraa Zawawi & Mohammad Abu Hammad, “Al-Assi Cinema Studio: glorious past & pale present”, Jerusalem Quarterly 69, Institute for Palestine Studies 2017, p. 43-49; Inass Yassin, Projection: three cinemas in Ramallah & Al-Bireh, Jerusalem Quarterly 42, Institute for Palestine Studies, 2010, p. 49-59.

10 Ariel Hirschfeld, El achron ha’elim: al mizrakot Roma [Toward the last of the Gods: the fountains of Rome], Jerusalem, Keter, 2003, p. 27-64 (in Hebrew); Shalit, op. cit., p. 193-205.

11  See for instance: Maayan Hillel, Cultural changes in Palestinian Arab Society, 1918-1948: Haifa as a case-study, PhD Dissertation supervised by Prof. Ami Ayalon, Tel Aviv University, The Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies, 2018, p. 104-108 (hereinafter: Hilel, Cultural changes).

12 Kroyanker, The Triangle, op. cit., p. 39-47.

13 Neumann, op. cit.; Shalit, op. cit.; Bukatman, op. cit.

14 Yaakov Yehoshua, Yerushalayim ha’yeshana ba’ayin ve’balev [Old Jerusalem in the eye and in the heart], Jerusalem, Keter, 1988, p. 222-223 (in Hebrew) (hereinafter: Yehoshua, Old Jerusalem).

15 Yehoshua, Old Jerusalem, p. 222-223.

16 Ibid., p. 222-223; Shalit, op. cit., p. 193-205; Maayan Hilel, Cultural Changes, p. 177-179; Maayan Hilel, “Be’armonot ha’kolnoa shel yemei ha’mandat nimtza escapism meshutaf”[Shared escapism in Mandate period cinemas], Social History Workshop (blog), Ha’aretz, 23.12.2019; https://www.haaretz.co.il/blogs/sadna/BLOG-1.826649 (in Hebrew); Similar scenes depicting film-watching as a community experience can also be seen in Fellini’s Amarcord.

17 Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 23; Doar Hayom, 31.7.1923, 12.8.1923, 5.9.1923, 8.5.1924 (in Hebrew); Yedioth Ahronoth, 7.1.1924 (in Hebrew).

18 Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 23. The Palestine Symphony Orchestra later became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra; Doar Hayom, 31.7.1923, 12.8.1923, 5.9.1923, 8.5.1924 (in Hebrew); Yedioth Ahronoth, 7.1.1924 (in Hebrew); Doar Hayom, 19.11.1924, 3.2.1935 (in Hebrew).

19 Gad Frumkin, Derech shofet be’Yerushalayim [The life of a Jerusalem judge], Tel Aviv, Dvir, 1954, p. 293-294 (in Hebrew); on Zion Hall as the location of this event see Davar, 19.12.1928 (in Hebrew), on the event itself see Davar, 21.12.1928, 23.12.1928 (in Hebrew), Ha’aretz, 21.12.1928 (in Hebrew).

20  Ha’aretz, 8.3.1922, 16.6.1925 (in Hebrew); Doar Hayom, 6-9.3.1922, 16.6.1925 (in Hebrew); David Kroyanker, Rechov Yaffo, Yerushalayim: biografia shel rechov – sipura shel ir [Jaffa Road, Jerusalem: the biography of a street, the story of a city], Jerusalem, Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies and Keter Books, 2005, p. 228-229 (in Hebrew); Gideon Misholi, “Tzion halo tishali” [Zion will you not ask], Ma’ariv, p. 32 (in Hebrew); Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 54, erroneously states that the first session of the Assembly took place in Zion Hall – the first session took place in 1920 and was held in the hall of the Alliance Israelite Universelle. See Doar Hayom and Ha’aretz, ibid. It should be noted that construction of the (first) permanent Zion Cinema building had only just begun in 1920, after the aforementioned shack collapsed in the snow that same year; on the representation of Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews in Zionist institutions see Jacobson and Naor, op. cit., p. 24-49, p. 54-60.

21 Doar Hayom, 21.12.1922 (in Hebrew); Ha’aretz, 24.12.1922 (in Hebrew).

22 Yehoshua, Old Jerusalem, p. 223.

23 Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 395-398; Moshe Hananel, Ha’yerushalmim: masa be’sefer ha’telefon ha’mandatory 1946 [Jerusalemites: a journey through the British Mandate telephone book 1946], Tel Aviv, Eretz Vateva, 2007, p. 48 (in Hebrew); for Rex Cinema advertisements in Hebrew press see issues of Ha’mashkif and others.

24 Frumkin, op. cit., p. 240-241.

25 Tamari and Nassar op. cit., p. 178-179.

Jawhariyyeh does not note the year of this event. It was determined via cross reference with an announcement in Doar Hayom dated 10.7.1932, regarding a 40th day memorial of Jawhariyyeh’s death (Y.O.). As background to this relationship, Jawhariyyeh mentions the friendship both al-Nashashibi and Abdul Wahab shared with the Egyptian “prince of poets” Ahmed Shawqi, who was also friendly with Jarallah. It seems Abdul Wahab did not know Jarallah, but the two had common friends. I have chosen to use the transliteration “Abdul” following the English translation by Tamari and Nassar (Y.O.).

26 Ibid, p. 204-205. Jawhariyyeh personally attests to having remained loyal to the traditional oud; ibid, Hassan Sidki al-Dajani was an attorney, entrepreneur, journalist, and city council member.

27 Manar Hassan, Smuyot min ha’ayin: nashim ve’ha’arim ha’palestiniot [Invisible: women and the Palestinian cities], Tel Aviv, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and Ha’kibbutz Ha’meuchad, 2017, p. 121 (in Hebrew); Hananel, op. cit., p. 321.

28  Ghada Karmi, In search of Fatima: a Palestinian story, London and New York, Verso, 2002, p. 36.

29 Hazem Zaki Nusseibeh, Jerusalem, a living memory, Nicossia and London, Rimal Publications and Melisende Publishing, 2009, p. 391-392. On Nusseibeh’s roles, see pages 52-53 of the aforementioned book and throughout, as well as Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins, Yerushalayim Yerushalayim [O! Jerusalem], translated by Aharon Amir, Jerusalem, Schocken, 1978, p. 20-21 (in Hebrew).

30 See for instance: Hassan, op. cit. p. 60-65; Ellen Fleishmann, “Young women in the city: Mandate memories”, Jerusalem Quarterly 2, Institute for Palestine Studies, 1998,  p. 32-36; on young Jewish women see for instance: Sarit Yishai-Levi, Malkat ha’yofi shel Yerushalayim [The beauty queen of Jerusalem], Ben Shemen, Modan, 2013 (in Hebrew).

31 Neighborhood cinemas were established in Baka, the German Colony (Orient/Regent), and other locations, see Hassan, op. cit.; Hananel, op. cit., p. 322; Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 39-52; Karmi, op. cit.

32  Hassan, op. cit., p. 62-65, 110-116, p. 122-123.

33 Anderson, B. Imagined communities: Reflection on the origin and spread of nationalism. Revised and extended edition, London, Verso. 1991, p. 37-46.

34 See Nusseibeh’s quote above (footnote 29); for further references see footnote 7.

35 Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 222-223; also see Lapierre and Collins, op. cit., p. 80; the shoe shiners and porters are also mentioned in S.Y. Agnon’s Shira, see for instance, Shira [Shira], Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Schocken, 1971, p. 149, 428-429 (in Hebrew); Shulamith Hareven, Ir yamim rabim [City of many days], Tel Aviv, Am Oved, 1992, p. 101 (in Hebrew); see photograph by Theodore Brauner (1951) at the Al Ha’makom website.

36 For the photographs in reference see: Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 70; Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 35.

37 Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 36.

38 Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 42-43; Eden Cinema had previously functioned as an outdoors cinema in Gan Ha’ir, but moved into its permanent structure on the corner of King George and Agripas when its license was revoked. Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 141.

39 Palestine Post, 19.6.1938, p. 4 (in Hebrew); Hananel, op. cit., p. 48, 322; Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 395-397; for Rex Cinema advertisements in Hebrew press see Ha’mashkif and others; on films with Hebrew translation see Davar, 20.12.1936 (in Hebrew). According to Davis, the Arab Chamber of Commerce in Jerusalem was established in 1936, and previously included all Jerusalem merchants: Rochelle Davis, “The Growth of the Western Communities, 1917-1948”, in Salim Tamari (ed.), Jerusalem 1948: The Arab neighbourhoods and their fate in the war, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, The Institute of Jerusalem Studies and Badil Resource Center, 2002, p. 40.

40 Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 44-46, p. 216, Kroyanker also mentions Aviv Cinema, which operated as an outdoor cinema until ousted in favor of the central bus station, ibid, p. 204.

41 Baruch Katinka, Me’az ve’ad hena [From then ‘til now], Jerusalem, Kiryat Sefer, 1964, p. 287-290 (in Hebrew); Katinka and Donia also built the Palace Hotel together for the Supreme Muslim Council headed by the mufti of Jerusalem, but did so in partnership with a contractor named Awad. This appears to have been a one-time partnership for the sake of optics, given the identity of the property owner. Awad, Albina, Donia, and Katinka were all involved in the construction of the YMCA building as well, apparently prior to the formal partnership between the latter three. See ibid, p. 257, p. 264; also see Palestine Post, 7.7.1938, p. 2 (in Hebrew); Palestine Post, 19.6.1938, p. 4 (in Hebrew) (the latter also attributes the construction of the Palace and YMCA to the joint company including Albina, which is a common error). See Palestine Post, 7.7.1938, p. 2 (in Hebrew), as well as Katinka, op. cit., p. 257, p. 264.

42  Quote: Doar Hayom, 7.1.1932 (in Hebrew), also see: Doar Hayom, 12.11.1931 (in Hebrew).

43 Hananel, op. cit., p. 320, 322, the full name of the Edison owner was Ezra Moshe Mizrahi, appearing in this source as Moshe Mizrahi; Avi Mor, Ha’hayim zeh sinema [Life is cinema], Ma’ariv, 3.4.1986, p. 38 (in Hebrew); Danny Rubinstein, Ba’tzad ha’lo nachon shel derech Yaffo [On the wrong side of Jaffa Road], Ha’aretz, 25.5.2006 https://www.haaretz.co.il/misc/1.1107630 (in Hebrew).

44 Gat and Ben-Sira, op. cit., p. 19-29, 52-54, 222-227; Freemasonry lodges were members’ clubs for businesspersons and professionals in the liberal fields. In the first half of the 20th century, membership in these clubs was common among upper-middle class individuals in their 30’s and 40’s. According to Campos, the lodges were mixed until the 1930s and were later separated in light of mounting national tensions, Campos, op. cit., 183-196; on Houris, see Adina Hoffman, Till we have built Jerusalem: architects of a new city, New York, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016, p. 296-299; on Abulafia see: Ha’aretz, 2.2.1953, p. 3 (in Hebrew).

45  Ben-Arieh, op. cit., p. 877-879; according to Zoar and Aharonson, during these years, nine Jewish-owned hotels and guest houses were established between Zion Square and the Russian Compound, and a smaller number of Arab-owned hotels and guest houses were erected down the street toward Jaffa Gate. Zoar and Aharonson, art. cited, p. 118-120; Cohen-Hattab, op. cit., p. 172-192.

46  Greenzweig claims there were over fifty cafes in Jerusalem during these years, but it is unclear whether this includes Arab cafés. Michael Greenzweig, “Café yerushalmi be’nichoach eropi: al batei ha’café be’yerushalayim be’tkufat ha’mandat” [Jerusalem coffee with a European aroma: on Jerusalem cafés during the Mandate period], Et-Mol 255 (in Hebrew); Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 27, 53, 55; Davis, art. cited, p. 48-49.

47 “Atara” Café moved from Jaffa Road to Ben-Yehuda Street in the 1940s. Greenzweig, art. cited, p. 255; Kroyanker, The Triangle, p. 27, 53, 55, 391; “Zichel” is mentioned several times in Agnon’s Shira, for instance on p. 421; Davis, art. cited, p. 48-49; Malon website, http://www.malon.co.il/article.aspx?id=16489 (in Hebrew).

48 Tamari and Nassar, op. cit., p. 110-111.

49 Salim Tamari, Mountain against the sea: essays on Palestinian society and culture, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 2009 p. 176-189; Davis, art. cited, p. 48-49; Yigal Shiloh, Kazeh ani rabotai: me’yomano shel Khalil al-Sakakini [Such am I, oh world!: diaries of Khalil al-Sakakini], Mevaseret Zion, Tzivonim, 2007, p. 217 (in Hebrew); Klein, A local history, p. 66, 95, 211; S.Y. Agnon, op. cit., p. 421.

50 According to Yehoshua, the café was located in the second floor of a building near Jaffa Gate. From its balcony, Mufti Amin al-Husseini and Khalil Beidas delivered the anti-Balfour Declaration speeches that led to the 1920 Nebi Musa riots. Yehoshua, Home and street, p. 166.

51 Karmi, op. cit., p. 37-38; Davis, art. cited, p. 45-46.

52 Hananel, op. cit., p. 321. As aforementioned, the full name of the Edison Cinema owner was Ezra Moshe Mizrahi, appearing in this source as Moshe Mizrahi; also see Klein, A local history, p. 138; on the attack itself see Ha’aretz, 17.5.1936 (in Hebrew).

53 Ha’boker, 30.5.1939, p. 1, 31.5.1939, p. 6, 20.6.1939, p. 6 (in Hebrew); Ha’aretz, 30.5.1939, 21.6.1938, p. 3 (in Hebrew); Ha’mashkif, 31.5.1939, p. 4, 10.5.1940, p. 7 (in Hebrew); Ha’tzofeh, 20.6.1939, p. 4 (in Hebrew).

54 Katinka, op. cit., p. 287-290, p. 297.

55 Ibid, p. 281-282, Katinka notes that while the attack went against the wishes of Haganah leaders, he did not hesitate to assist; on the second man slain see Davar, 26.3.1937, p. 17 (evening paper) (in Hebrew).

Illustrations

Yellow highlighting of the cinemas was made by the author

The National Library of Israel,The Eran Laor Cartographic Collection [Jer 470].

The National Photo Collection (Israel)

Source: gpophoto.gov.il photo code: D728-072.jpg.

References

Electronic reference

Yudith Oppenheimer, « Fezzes and hats: Zion Cinema through the memories of Jews and Arabs of Mandatory Jerusalem », Revue d’histoire culturelle [Online],  | 2021, Online since 31 mars 2021, connection on 27 octobre 2021. URL : http://revues.mshparisnord.fr/rhc/index.php?id=1344

Author

Yudith Oppenheimer

Yudith Oppenheimer holds a PhD from the Hermeneutics and Cultural Studies Program at Bar-Ilan University. Her PhD dissertation – Zion Square: A Hermeneutic Study of a Public Space – on which the article is based, constitutes a unique, comprehensive historical and cultural study of a concrete space within the complex urban, social and symbolic fabric of Jerusalem. She was a postdoctoral research fellow at Daat Hamakom Centre at Hebrew University, and is currently working toward developing her dissertation into a book. yudith@ir-amim.org.il