Palestine in the 1800s

 9,000 Photos from Palestine in 1800’s – with no trace of Muslims or mosques

Félix Bonfils (1831-1885) was French photographer and writer who was active in the Middle East. Four years after his arrival he reported 15,000 prints of Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Greece, and 9,000 stereoscopic-views. He traveled to the region several times and we hear of no mass population of Palestinians, which contradicts everything the Palestinians lie about to the world.

His pictures did not manage to capture any photographs of a single so-called ‘Palestinian’ who are suppose to have lost land to Jewish occupation, if we believe Arab propaganda.

W.C. Prime 1857 in “Tent Life in the Holy Land”:
Félix Bonfils (1831-1885): Dome of the Rock 1875:

Amin al Husseini made the dome his special project. It had fallen into a state of utter disrepair, but al-Husseini saw it to his political advantage to restore it. The dilapidated Dome of the Rock was a decaying old relic well into the 20th century. It was of no import and it was no longer used as a place of worship.

Félix Bonfils (1831-1885): Entry of Pilgrims into Bethlehem at Christmas time, Palestine c. 1870 :

“There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction… One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee… Nazareth is forlorn… Jericho lies a mouldering ruin… Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation… untenanted by any living creature. “ – Mark Twain, “The Innocents Abroad”, 1867

“There are many proofs, such as ancient ruins, broken aqueducts, and remains of old roads, which show that it has not always been so desolate as it seems now. In the portion of the plain between Mount Carmel and Jaffa one sees but rarely a village or other sights of human life. There some rude mills here which are turned by the stream. A ride of half an hour more brought us to the ruins ..”  – B. W. Johnson, in “Young Folks in Bible Lands”: Chapter IV, 1892

“The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil”.  – British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s

“Palestine is a ruined and desolate land”.  – Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian –

“The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population”.  – James Finn, British Consul in 1857

In 1844, William Thackeray writes about the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem: “Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride.”

In 1866, W.M. Thomson writes: “How melancholy is this utter desolation. Not a house, not a trace of inhabitants, not even shepherds, to relieve the dull monotony … Much of the country through which we have been rambling for a week appears never to have been inhabited, or even cultivated; and there are other parts, you say, still more barren.”

In 1874, Reverend Samuel Manning wrote: “But where were the inhabitants? This fertile plain, which might support an immense population, is almost a solitude…. Day by day we were to learn afresh the lesson now forced upon us, that the denunciations of ancient prophecy have been fulfilled to the very letter — “the land is left void and desolate and without inhabitants.” (Jeremiah, ch.44 v.22)

“The area was under populated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880s, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained “The Holy Land” in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants – both Jewish and Arab.”  – The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913

-Ibn Khaldun (Arabic: أبو زيد ولي الدين عبد الرحمن بن محمد بن خلدون الحضرمي)-
one of the most credible Arab historians, in AD1377  wrote:

“Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel extended over 1400 years… It was the Jews who implanted the culture and customs of the permanent settlement”.

“In the East, however, crafts have established themselves since the days of ancient Persian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Israelite, Greek and Roman rule”.  [Ibid., p 55]

In The 13th century, Arab biographer -Yaqut ibn-‘Abdullah(Arabic: ياقوت الحموي الرومي‎)- noted Mecca is holy to Muslims; Jerusalem is holy only to the Jews.

“Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata” – a detailed geographical survey of Palestine in 1696 written in Latin by Adriaan Reland published by Willem Broedelet, Utrecht, in 1714.

Residents of the REGION mainly concentrated in cities: Jerusalem, Acre, Safed, Jaffa, Tiberias and Gaza.

In most cities, the majority of residents are Christians, Jews and others, very few Muslims who generally are Bedouin, seasonal workers who came to serve as Seasonal workers in agriculture or building.

Nablus: 120 muslims, 70 Samaritans
Nazareth: 700 people – all Christians
Umm al-Fahm: 50 people-10 families, ALL Christian
Gaza: 550 people- 300 Jews,250 Christian(Jews engaged in agriculture, Christians deal with the trading and transporting the products)
Tiberias: 300 residents, all Jews.
Safed: about 200 inhabitants, all Jews
Jerusalem :5000 people,most of them (3,500) Jews,the rest – Christian (1000) Muslim (500)


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  1. Saying that there were next to no Muslims present is to take this to an extreme. The Félix Bonfils archive (is it available online?) is worth studying, and it may be that he was only interested in Jews and Christians or that the Muslims objected to being photographed. As I recall, one of the famous French painters, it may have been Delacroix, used Jewish models to depict Arab life in the Magreb because the Arabs would not consent to have their images captured. Since Bonfils also photographed Egypt, comparing the two sets might indicate whether or not this was a problem.

    I do agree that the absolute numbers were low. In 1500 the total population (est) was 150,000. By 1800 that had climbed to 275,000. This is in contrast to a population of 2.5 million in the 1st century CE, mostly Jews. The reason there was no record of a Palestinian polity in those years is that there wasn’t enough people to sustain one let alone write about it. Further, and Bonfils indicates this, about half of the population was nomadic. Resat Kesaba writes about this and why it occurred due to a combination of factors.

    A Moveable Empire: Ottoman Nomads, Migrants, and Refugees

    • Fair comment. Yes, he clearly had his own subjects he photographed.

      • There are a number of books written in the 16th century which gives a fair idea of the population of the area.

        I also have first hand information from my family in the 1920s, there were not many Arabs then but they were arriving in great number looking for work.

        “The permanent Arab population increased 120 percent between 1922 and 1947. ”

        The Arab population of Jerusalem was always far smaller than the Jewish one. Jerusalem had no hold at all for the Arabs. It wasn’t until 1967 when Israel took the city from Jordan that suddenly the Arabs wanted it.

  2. You say “The reason there was no record of a Palestinian polity in those years is that there wasn’t enough people to sustain one let alone write about it.”

    There were none to write about full stop. Palestinians didn’t come into being until June 4th 1967.

    Arabs didn’t arrive in the Land of Israel until the mid 6th century.

  3. There was no mention at all of Palestinian Arabs prior to 1967. I’m old enough to remember.

    If anyone talked about a ” Palestinian ” they meant a Jew. You could even cop being called a “Palestinian ” if you lived in Australia.

    Time to blow the whistle on this . We turned a blind eye because we thought what the hell. Whatever. So long as there is peace.

    Didn’t work. Time for a new strategy.

    May I suggest the truth?

  4. Islam, whatever else it may be, represents a highly aggressive imperial ideology that seeks to replace everything around it with itself.

    The al-Aqsa Mosque is not the third holiest anything to anyone.

    Calling al-Aqsa the third holiest site in Islam would be like suggesting that Detroit, Michigan is the twelfth holiest site among Yazidis.

    In other words, pure bs.