Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Blessed Railway Line

Neat news for local railway buffs: two historians have found a rare section of Ottoman-era railroad tracks engraved with the Sultan’s blessing.

For the past two years, historians Yehuda Levanoni and Yaakov Shorer have been researching the Valley Railway. During the course of their work, they have witnessed how thieves have steadily depleted what is left of the antique tracks.
Levanoni and Shorer dreamed of finding an example of decorative railroad tracks, with the Ottoman Sultan's blessing molded onto them—very few of which were ever made.
Several months ago, while in the Negev, Levanoni came across railway tracks close to Kibbutz Mishmar ha-Negev, onto which a concrete structure had been erected. A closer inspection revealed that he had finally found what he had been looking for. [...]
While the exact reason for the decorative tracks is not known, Levanoni and other researchers believe that they were laid to mark the end of a section of the track, ahead of the inauguration ceremony. The blessing is in the name of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, who initiated the ambitious Hijaz Railway project. The blessing reads, “Be strong with the blessing of our master, the Amir of faithful, Sultan Abdul Hamid II! And (Allah will) support him!” The inscription was translated by Yitzhak Abadi.

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