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Picnic at Mar Saba, 1902

Picnic at Mar Saba, 1902

Photo Credit: The Library of Congress

These are members of the American Colony, a Christian community in Jerusalem founded by immigrants from the United States and Sweden. The image is part of a Library of Congress online presentation titled “The American Colony in Jerusalem, 1870-2006.”

This presentation features selected documents from the American Colony in Jerusalem Collection. The full collection in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress represents well over 10,000 items stemming from the history of the American Colony, a non-denominational utopian Christian community founded by a small group of American expatriates in Ottoman Palestine in 1881.

The physical collection focuses on the personal and business life of the colony from the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, through World War I and the British Mandate, and into the formation of the state of Israel.  It includes draft manuscripts, letters, postcards, telegrams, diaries or journals, scrapbooks, printed materials, photographs, hand-drawn maps and ephemera. Most collection items are in English, with some material in Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, and Swedish.

Mar Saba is a Greek Orthodox monastery overlooking the Kidron Valley in Judea, east of Bethlehem. Founded in 483, it is considered to be one of the oldest inhabited monasteries in the world. It maintains many of its ancient traditions, one of which is the restriction on women entering the main compound. The only building that women can enter is the Women’s Tower, near the main entrance.

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