BBC Radio 4 programme on Jerusalem erases Jewish presence

In 1862 the population of Jerusalem numbered some 17,800 people, with the majority (eight thousand) being Jews. Two years prior to that date the first Jewish neighbourhood outside the Old City walls – Mishkenot Sha’ananim – had been built by Sir Moses Montefiore. Inside the Old City itself, restoration work on the Hurva Synagogue was in its advanced stages and the quarter boasted additional synagogues, schools and hospitals. The Mount of Olives had by that time been a Jewish burial ground for 3,000 years. 

In his diary account of the trip he made to Jerusalem in 1862, Albert the Prince of Wales recorded his meetings with Jerusalem’s Jews.

“In an entry on April 2 while in Jerusalem, he wrote of setting eyes on “the so called Wailing place of the Jews & close to it the remains of an arch of the bridge between the Temple & the Palace of King David”.

An eyewitness account published in the JC revealed that the prince was greeted by the chief rabbi, known then as the “First in Sion,” and several other rabbis.

His small party then went up “Mt Sion,” which the prince noted was “of course built all over” and toured a Spanish synagogue, “a very good one of its sort, also a new German synagogue. We then looked into a hospital for Jews, founded by Baron Rothchild [sic], & very well kept.” “

However, a listener to John McCarthy’s programme on Jerusalem from the series “In a Prince’s Footsteps” which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on May 8th (available here for a limited period of time) would have no idea that any Jews lived in the city at all when Prince Albert visited it in 1862 – or indeed before or after that date. 

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