Clock towers were built in Eretz Israel in 1900 to celebrate 25 years of the rule of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II. 100 clock towers were erected throughout the Ottoman Empire in honor of the Sultan.
By erecting the clock towers the Sultan was able to make his personal mark on the town and convey a message of precision and advancement, expressing Turkey's transition into the modern European age.
The clock towers were built in every important city, always in the city's center and usually adjacent to government institutions or above historical buildings. The towers were built in local stone and each in a different design.
Six clock towers are have been identified in Eretz Israel. Five of these are depicted on the stamps (Safed, Acre, Haifa, Jerusalem and Jaffa). The sixth clock tower is in Nablus. A seventh tower is found in Nazareth, above the "Saraya", the Ottoman government palace, but it is doubtful that this is a clock tower.
The clock tower was erected above the "Saraya", which was built in the 1880's, south of the Old City. It is a heavy limestone structure with an inner courtyard. The Clock Tower has four stories: four clocks are on the third floor and a large bell is on the fourth. In the past there was a roof in the shape of a pyramid. In 2002, the Safed Municipality and the "Association for the Development of Safed" installed new electric clocks in the tower. The original bell still rings every half-hour. Today, the "Saraya" building houses a cultural center, local tourist office, and the Braslev Hassidic Center.
The clock tower was built above the entrance to the luxurious Khan El-Umdan. The Khan (inn) was apparently built in 1784 by El-Jazar, the Governor of Acre and it is famous for its granite columns. 'The clock tower has five stories and it is built in kurkar stone (sandstone). The fourth story is taller and more decorated than the others. There are four clocks and above each clock is the Ottoman symbol: crescent and star. In 2001, new clocks were installed in the tower: one with Hebrew letters, one with Arabic numerals, the third with Roman numerals and the fourth with regular numerals. UNESCO recently added the Old City of Acre to the list of World Heritage sites.
The clock tower in Haifa is at the front of the El-Jarina Mosque which is situated in downtown Haifa. This was the main Mosque for the Arabs of Haifa until the War of Independence. The Mosque consists of buildings that surround a square-shaped courtyard. The "Saraya" was built next to the Mosque, by the Galilee leader, Daher EI-Omar, in the 18th Century, but it was destroyed during the 1948 War. The ornamented tower has six stories and is made of kurkar stone. Today, the Muslim crescent symbol appears on the dome, which is at the top of the tower. There were four clocks on the fourth story but today only remnants of one clock (and not of the original) remain.
The clock tower in Jerusalem was built in 1907 - later than the other clock towers that were built in Eretz Israel. A splendid four-story tower made of limestone was built above the Jaffa Gate in the Old City. Four clocks were placed on the third story and on the fourth story, which was particularly ornamented, was the bell. At the top of the tower was a decorated metal pole with the Ottoman symbol. The British, who captured Jerusalem in 1917, felt that the tower did not fit in with the style of the Old City Wall and therefore it was demolished in 1922.
The clock tower was built in the center of the market square near the Mahmudiye Mosque; the Kishleh (prison), today a police station; and the "Saraya" palace (1897). This is an attractive three-story tower, built of kurkar stone with an elegant copper roof, that contains two clocks and a bell. Its shape is reminiscent of a German church tower. The tower gave the popular name for the square - the Clock Square. The clock tower has been renovated over the years - the last time being in 2001.
Based on the book " For Whom The Clock Tolls? " by Yehuda Levanony, published in Hebrew with an English summary in 2003.