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March 26, 2013


Figure 1: The Coptic Archbishop of the See of Jerusalem, Yacobos II, in a visit to the Coptic Church in Jaffa, 1947, accompanied by the British District Commissioner in Jerusalem, William Ryder McGeagh.

The above photograph credited to Universal Images Group, shows in its site caption “Priests at the Coptic Convent in Jaffa. Several Coptic priests take part in a ceremony at the Coptic Convent in Jaffa, wearing black floor-length robes and heavy, ornate crosses. Behind them, at the bottom of the steps, is William Ryder McGeagh, District Commissioner in Jerusalem. Jaffa, British Mandate of Palestine (Israel), April 1947. Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Israel, Middle East, Asia.”

Interesting picture. Copts, of course, have been present in the Holy Land since the early Christian era. In Jaffa, their modern presence goes back to the time when Ibrahim Pasha, the eldest son of Muhammad Ali Pasha (1805 – 1848), invaded the Holy Land, Lebanon and Syria (1831 – 1841), which were occupied by the Ottoman Empire at the time. In Jaffa they founded a church and monastery, named after Saint Antony the Great.[1]

Although the caption attached to the image talks about Coptic priests, the man with the square hat is most probably Syrian priest; furthermore the man in the centre with a staff in his left hand is a bishop. This must be the Yacobos II, archbishop of the Coptic See of Jerusalem (1946 – 1956), who was consecrated by Patriarch Yusab II (1946 – 1956).[2] This perhaps was his first visit to Jaffa’s Coptic community after his ordination in his new position, and it most probably happened around Easter of the year 1947.

1947 was of course a year before the Israeli Declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948, the day before the British Mandate was due to expire. In the picture is William Ryder McGeagh, British District Commissioner in Jerusalem (the man with the cross just above his head), who accompanied the Coptic archbishop on his visit.


[1] The monastery used to be a large hostel for Coptic pilgrims to Jerusalem who arrived in the Holy Land by ship from Alexandria to Jaffa first. After spending a night there, they travelled to Jerusalem on foot, a distance of some 33 miles.

[2] See a list of the archbishops: Archbishop Basilios, Coptic See Of Jerusalem in The Coptic Encyclopedia, Volume 4 (New York, Macmillan, 1991).

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