Tag Archives: Israel

Free resources on Hebrew language and Israeli elections

In preparation for the elections in Israel, to be held next week on March 17, I’d like to highlight two new freely available resources.

The first, created by the National Library of Israel, relates directly to the upcoming elections.  The NLI has created an online portal to the “Election Chronicles,” an online exhibit and information page documenting elections in Israeli history up to the present.  The website includes basic information about Israeli elections and politics, as well as historic materials (archives, media, political cartoons, and more) from past elections.

Another resource recently made freely available in Israel is Ma’agarim: The Online Database of the Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language.  Formerly a subscription database, this project, created by the Academy of Hebrew Language, is now accessible to the public.  The dictionary cites the first existence of words in the Hebrew language, from the Bible through the Gaonic period, and in Hebrew literature from the 18th century through 1948.  This is a powerful resource for the study of Hebrew language.

(Cross-posted on the Global Studies Blog)

New Acquisitions: Travels of Moise Vita Cafsuto

In 1733, a man from Firenze, in Italy, named Moise (Moses) Vita (Hayyim) Cafsuto (Cassuto) set off on a journey to the Holy Land.  He kept a diary of his travels throughout the Middle East, where he noted interesting sites (specifically Jewish ones, like graves and synagogues) and scenes along his journey.   We recently acquired a copy of this manuscript, in Italian with Hebrew blurbs for sites of Jewish interest.  It is an interesting journey of travels in general, but also specifically for Jewish "Biblical tours."  In one instance, for example, the author describes how he and his fellow travelers found "Har Ha-har," the site of the Biblical Aaron's burial.  He describes the site as containing a "cave, where there are writings said to be in Arabic on a great stone of marble, and there is an everlasting candle…"

Digitized Newspaper: Herut

The Jewish Historical Press has just posted a new newspaper to their freely available website of full-text newspapers:

"Herut", the daily newspaper of the main opposition party during the first years of the State of Israel. The newspaper was published in Tel-Aviv between 1948 and 1965. The JPRESS website now offers the issues between 1949 and September 1954.

According to the site:

"Ḥerut was the daily newspaper that served the Herut movement, a political party founded on 15 May 1948, the day after the establishment of the State of Israel. As the political successor to the underground paramilitary organisation ha-Irgun ha-Tsvaʾi ha-Leʾumi (‘the National Military Organisation’, known as ETSeL, or the Irgun), the name of the paper signaled a likewise continuation of ETSeL’s mouthpiece, Ḥerut, which had appeared for six years, from March 1942 through May 1948, when the ETSeL was disbanded and the Ḥerut political party was established. The inaugural issue of this daily appeared on 3 October 1948, and its publication was one of a series of steps taken to consolidate the party and its support base in the Israeli population well ahead of the first parliamentary elections that were to take place in the nascent state: at the end of January 1949. The primary reason for Ḥerut’s publication was the desire of Menaḥem Begin (1913–1992), the leader of the party, to create an organ for his movement that would express its unique spirit. An additional reason was the need of a public form that could serve Herut's hitherto largely anonymous members who had lived underground for many years. Beneath the masthead of the newspaper appeared four slogans that expressed the chief stated principles of the movement: ‘for the territorial integrity of the homeland, for the ingathering of exiles, for social justice, for freedom of man’." 

This newspaper is a valuable resource for people studying the early politics of the State during its first years of existence.

Online Resource: JDC Archives online

The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has been helping Jews around the world since its inception at the onset of World War I in 1914.  Its archives have long been a resource for scholars researching Jewish immigration, anti-semitism, Jewish aid, geneology, and many other topics.

Now, for the first time, the JDC Archives from 1914-1932 are available online here.

According to the website, "The vast digital collection contains searchable text collections from 1914-1932, a detailed interactive timeline, historically-themed exhibitions, over 45,000 photographs, findings aids, educational resources, relevant archives news and more. The JDC Archives houses one of the most significant collections in the world for the study of modern Jewish history and attests to JDC's relief, rescue and rehabilitation activities from its inception in 1914 to the present."

The archive includes a text-searchable document database, photographs from over 70 countries, and a timeline of Jewish (and JDC) history by decade.

Online Resources: Finding Archives

It is true that the business of doing history in today’s internet age has become much easier, but there are still a tremendous amount of resources that are only available physically.  One example of this is archives, or collections of papers (personal or institutional).  Archives can range from the very small (one or two folders) to the very large (hundreds of boxes).  The latter form is very rarely digitized due to its great size and the tremendous effort involved with digitization and cataloging. 

There are some archival collections that have been digitized, however, such as the Confidential Print: Middle East papers, the Nuremberg Trials Project, or, recently, the Milstein Family Jewish Communal Archives Project. Not all digitized archives are available everywhere, like the Hannah Arendt papers at the Library of Congress, which are available only on-site at LC, at The New School (here in NYC), and at the Hannah Arendt Center at the University of Oldenburg, Germany.

Many archives, however, are not easily found through a simple Google search.  Below are some resources that can help:

1) ArchiveGrid: According to their own description, "Thousands of libraries, museums, and archives have contributed nearly a million collection descriptions to ArchiveGrid."  These descriptions are text-searchable, and so it is easy to search by name or topic to find papers relating to an individual.  A recent search for famous Columbia professor Salo Baron, for example, revealed content in nearly 90 institutions, including, of course, his personal papers at Stanford University.

2) ArchiveFinder, formerly known as ArchivesUSA is a "current directory which describes over 220,000 collections of primary source material housed in thousands of repositories across the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland."

3) Worldcat, the catalog of catalogs, now includes archives as well.  It is not as comprehensive as the first two, as it does not include items that have not been entered into the instution’s online catalog, but it often includes the smaller collections, which may not have their own comprehensive finding aids due to their size.

For more information about archival collections, including a description of some of the major archives around the world, see the RBML’s excellent Archives and Manuscripts Guide.

New Resource: Confidential Print, Middle East (1839-1969)

We are proud to announce a new database containing primary sources relating to the history of Israel and the Middle East:

The Confidential Print collection includes documents relating to Middle Eastern history from the years 1839-1969. 

The series originated out of a need for the British Government to preserve all of the most important papers generated by the Foreign and Colonial Offices. Some of these were one page letters or telegrams — others were large volumes or texts of treaties. All items marked ‘Confidential Print’ were circulated to leading officials in the Foreign Office, to the Cabinet, and to heads of British missions abroad.

Countries included are: Afghanistan, Egypt, Sudan, Persia, Suez Canal, Turkey, Jordan, Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Syria.  All documents are fully text-searchable.

Below is the description of the portion on Israel:

FO 492/1-11 Israel/Palestine focuses on the eventful period of Israel’s first decade as a nation state, from 1947 to 1957. The foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, noted in a statement to the House of Commons in February 1947 that “For the Jews [of Palestine], the essential point of principle is the creation of a sovereign Jewish State. For the Arabs, the essential point of principle is to resist to the last the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in any part of Palestine. The discussions of the last month have shown that there is no prospect of resolving this conflict by any settlement negotiated between the parties” (FO 492/1). There follows, over the next few years, discussion of the role in Palestine of the United Nations; the activities of pro-Israeli Jewish activists in the USA and British fears of a deterioration of the Anglo-American relationship over the Palestine question (1948-1950); and the end of the British mandate in May 1948 and the near-simultaneous declaration of the State of Israel. The problems caused by Arab refugees from Palestine and huge Jewish immigration to the new state (1949-1953), the perceived concentration of political power in the hands of the first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, as well as Israeli relations with Jordan and their bearing on British treaty relations with Jordan and Egypt all feature prominently. Many other subjects, including the growth of the cooperative kibbutz movement and the wider development of the Israeli economy, the progress of Israeli parliamentary democracy, relations between Israel and West Germany in the light of potential Jewish claims to reparations for the Holocaust, the death of President Chaim Weizmann (1952), border skirmishes with Jordan and disputes over the waters of the River Jordan (1953), the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union (1953), the opposition of Orthodox Jews to the extension of compulsory military service to women, a survey of Israel’s armed strength and military thinking (1956) and Israeli access to the Gulf of Aqaba, are well covered.

You can access the collection here: http://www.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/cul/resolve?clio8658869