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The Israeliana Portal - Background

This project is established in honor of Israel's 75th Independence Day (2023).

We thank everyone who contributed to its realization.

Objectives of the Project

• Establishing a growing, dynamic, comprehensive and friendly-user Israeliana portal, which documents and makes accessible online information on Israeli daily culture throughout its generations (with an emphasis on tangible and popular culture). The materials - photos and information notes/articles - are collected from a wide variety of sources: collectors, photographers, archives, museums, galleries, Antique/ Vintage/ Second-hand shops and more. Unlike most socio-historical databases, the Israeliana portal does not satisfied with raw data, but rather presents thematic exhibitions that tell a broader and more structured story. For example, the Carmel Center for Druze Heritage - that narrates the heroic story of the museum's founder; A toy Convalescent Home - which illustrates how a vintage corner grows into a mobile educational project, or labels for Suitcases - a seemingly esoteric collection that recounts a broad story about the history of hotels in Israel.

Note: Most archives and museums are in possession of photos and documents that focus on a particular topic or place. Our portal enables the creation of joint national digital exhibitions around central themes (for example Israeli food culture).

• At this stage, Israeliana is available only in Hebrew, but we strive to make it accessible in other languages as well, especially in Arabic (for the benefit of the Israeli Arabic speakers and our neighboring countries) and English (for the benefit of Jews around the world and anyone across the globe interested in Israeli history and culture).

• Across the Internet, there are organizations and individuals that provide information on issues related to Israeliana. However, this is partial and dispersed information that is often made available on limited and outdated platforms. The portal we created consolidates the existing data and adds new information to it.

• The portal allows owners of historical objects to digitally share their treasures and assets with the public (sometimes even anonymously, and without the need for physical display spaces, storage warehouses, transportation and insurance). Broad online exposure of the people and bodies engaged in the preservation, accessibility and distribution of Israeli native materials (including private individuals who own historical memorabilia and family collections) - encourages and cherishes their work, and enables the public to enjoy the precious objects they have accumulated.

Note: There are considerable difficulties in locating the people involved in the field of Israeliana and collectibles and in convincing them to share the information within their possession. Our initiative enables the accumulation of knowledge, experience and reputation which facilitate obtaining the photographs and information (for example, information on the collector and his/ her collection) and sharing them.

The portal saves Israeli cultural assets from extinction and oblivion and, in effect, becomes a virtual museum of Popular Culture in Israel.

• The rich, bounteous portal promotes the research and study of Popular Culture in Israel – an academic field that is still in its infancy.

The portal will enable the general public to share information and update it at the image, text and exhibition level: feedback; comments; discussions; real-time public discourse on images/ photos /exhibitions /articles; a more advanced search mechanism (images and text); a mechanism that allows external users to add images and create exhibitions and information note to the portal. This will enable users to be active partners in the research, collection, documentation, preservation and accessibility of items related to the assets of Israeli culture.

• The photo galleries and information notes on the Israeliana portal provide users with an enriching and exciting nostalgic experience (viewing the common objects that surrounded them as youngsters), which strengthens solidarity, national consciousness and a distinct Israeli-generational identity.

• For many years, groups and subcultures were excluded from the institutional historical pantheon of the State of Israel, as a result of discrimination, distance from centers of power and lack of awareness. The Israeliana portal contributes to rectifying this situation by publishing heritage items of those who once belonged and of those who still belong to the cultural periphery. For example, Jews originating from Muslim countries, immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, Druze, Arabs, ultra-orthodox or national-religious. The information in the portal is an effective tool not only for preserving and making their culture and heritage accessible to the general public, but also for conveying the moral message: Israeli culture consists of a rich and diverse mosaic of memories, customs, habits and identities. In this manner, we can contribute to the development of social sensitivity to others (tolerance, acquaintance and knowledge of your neighbors, including their memories) and to a sense of mission and commitment to the Israeli society.

• In the global age cultures are becoming similar to each other due to the increased exposure to common international stimuli. The Israeliana portal assists in the branding of the unique cultural DNA of the State of Israel and provides a comprehensive answer to the question: What does it mean to be an Israeli today.

The portal is an international model for the preservation, accessibility and learning of the daily national cultural heritage through digital means.

Note: We estimate that this project can be used as a pilot as well as a model for other countries. This can also contribute to Israel's international prestige.

The portal contributes to the Israeli tourism industry (domestic and foreign) in several respects: (1) It creates and offers a virtual "Israeli experience" Which is a substitute or alternative to the physical visit to the place. In fact, in many cases, the virtual visit encourages the visit to a physical place (such as museums). (2) It provides a long and comprehensive list of sites off the beaten tracks, allowing local and foreign tourist educational tours to a variety of unique places which are not yet on the popular tourist map (shops, museums, galleries).

• The portal documents not only the initiatives to make Israel's tangible history accessible, but also the diverse ideas and activities tools (many of them innovative) used by the museums. By sharing this information, we hope to contribute to improving the learning experience of the Israeli heritage.

• The portal is an anchor for building a growing pool of diverse learning activities for high schools and academic institutions, as well as for the general public - including fun activities (Edutainment) as well as thinking and creativity games.

The Israeliana Portal - Structure and Contents

The Israeliana portal already includes hundreds of photo exhibitions and information notes. It grows and is updated on a daily basis and serves a variety of consumers: teachers, students, scientists, media people, social activists, artists and the general public. Each exhibition deals with a specific topic related to the daily life of Israel during the Yishuv (British mandate) and the early years of the state. The exhibitions are classified according to 24 thematic categories for the convenience of users: Museums & Galleries; Markets & Shops; Collectors & Collectibles; Archives; Food and Drink; Family & Education; Music; Media; Fashion & Clothing; Post & Telephone; Transportation & Mobility; Politics & Leadership; Security; Arts, Leisure & Entertainment; Medicine; Flora & Fauna; Sports; Books; Housing; Religion, Ethnicity & Nationality; Kibbutz & Moshav (cooperative community); Buying & Saving; Tourism; Industry & Crafts.

An introductory button is pinned to each exhibition and includes one of two options: a link to an internet' information source or a link to an information page or article prepared specifically for the exhibition in the portal.

A tab of articles incorporates the information notes that accompany the photo exhibitions as well as short articles or extensive reviews of traditions and conventions in various fields that touch on the Israeli society as a whole or that are unique to groups and sectors within it: Arabs, Druze, Circassians, Ultra-Orthodox, National Religious, Immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopian immigrants and more.

Two additional tabs link to a comprehensive review of the field of Israeliana and to an introduction to Israeli collecting.

The portal was created and built by Tamar Almog and Oz Almog on the WIX platform - due to the user-friendliness of the system, the extensive storage space and the efficient guidance that the company provides to subscribers in real-time. All materials on the site have been processed and uploaded, in the meantime, by us only and on a fully voluntary basis (without any external assistance). We are grateful to collectors, museum and archive curators and directors, store owners and photographers who have gladly and generously donated photos and information to the portal.

Why Now?

The importance and necessity of the Israeliana portal must be understood in the broad sociological context. The digitization revolution is progressing at an accelerated pace and gradually changing every aspect of our daily lives. The way we consume and store information has changed beyond recognition and all indications are that the culture of education is also facing a turn.

The following are the changes that have taken place and come to mature in recent years - which make it easier to build and operate this project:

Activity on social media. The extensive activity on social networks (which generates interest and hobby groups around various topics, including esoteric ones) makes it infinitely easier to locate organizations and people who hold Israeliana treasures (especially collectors) and to contact them.

Note: Some of these cultural treasures are possessed by people who do not live in Israel. For example, the largest "Herzl" and "El Al" collections in the world are owned by Canadian and American collectors. Moreover, many collectors around the world own collections that also include items from Israeli history. Today they are easier to locate thanks to social media.

Everyone is taking photos all the time. Taking photos, mainly through smartphones, is an act made accessible - almost spontaneously - which allows anyone (even those who are not professional photographers) to produce high-quality images (including through image processing software, which is also more accessible and easy to operate). Photo sharing, displaying and viewing have also been made available due to the variety of functional apps. In short, if in the past a venture like ours required the purchase of heavy and expensive scanners in addition to professional training, today anyone can be a potential "worker" in the Israeli digital museum assembly line and see their contribution quite immediately.

Note: In many cases, there is no need to ask the museum or collector to take photos for the portal, because the photos already exist in their possession (for example, collectors who photograph their collections for the purposes of sale or information exchange). This reality greatly simplifies the process of collecting photographs and preparing exhibitions.

The advantage of the visual medium. Digital exhibitions are today the name of the game in the world of art and documentaries, in part because people have become addicted to watching images and videos and everyone is exchanging audio-visual messages in everyday life. Furthermore, photos are not only fun to watch (creating the "wow" effect) but also allow for a quick and concise media dialogue. It does not necessarily have to come at the expense of textual messages (this is why the site also includes textual information).

Note: "Digital Natives" especially prefer the visual medium over the textual one (elaborated in our book Generation Y: Generation Snowflake, 2019) and such a portal can attract them to socio-historical issues.

Young people connect to the nostalgic sentiment. Until recently, Israeli nostalgia was mainly of particular interest to the older generation (for the reasons to this phenomenon, see the "Introduction to Israeliana" review on the portal). But today, Generation Y and even Generation Z are beginning to take an interest in this field for a number of reasons: They, too, are already beginning to fondly reminisce about how things were and no longer are (e.g. the "Pogs" - Milk Caps game, phone-cards collections and computer consoles); Many seek a unique (niche) identity in a globalized world; In a frenetic and disposable era, young people find in vintage a kind of stability and expression of sustainability; Young people today are emotionally attached to childhood objects due to their emerging adulthood. Many have discovered - mainly in the wake of the coronavirus crisis - the economic potential of the exchange of vintage objects.

The growing interest in vintage and collectibles. Collectibles have always been a source of vibrant economic exchange, but a number of factors have dramatically leveraged this market in recent years: (1) The revolution in leisure and shopping – which has spawned, among other things, masses of shops, markets and festivals of vintage and second hand. (2) The rise in the standard of living and the development of aesthetic sensitivity, have led to a growing demand for unique accessories, knickknacks and decorative oldies - both in the design of private apartments and commercial space - shops, restaurants and more. (3) The media revolution has vastly increased the coverage of everyday life in all channels (the popular generate ratings). (4) The Internet has changed trading patterns and spawned new tools that allow people from all over the world to sell and buy anything, of every sort, in real-time. The most noticeable examples are the auction online-sites, which are gaining immense popularity. Millions of people participate in the "Bargain Hunter" which triggers an adrenaline rush. The Covid-19 crisis (and especially the isolations that entailed) leveraged the use of these sites (and online sites in general) both as an entertainment tool and as a livelihood channel.

Note: Auction online-sites are a plentiful source for photos of collectible artifacts, which can be gleaned for historical-educational exhibitions.

About the Entrepreneurs

We are both veteran faculty members (1993- ) at the University of Haifa and a former (2007-2016) senior researchers at the Shmuel Ne'eman Institute for Public Policy at the Technion. Prof. Oz Almog is a historian and sociologist at the Department of Israel Studies; Dr. Tamar Almog is an expert in young culture and alternative teaching at the Department of Learning and Instructional Sciences.

We come to the Israeliana project with a vast and rich experience that includes the publication of dozens of articles and books on Popular Culture in Israel, hundreds of lectures and classes related to the field (at the university and outside).

In 2008, we established the information portal "People Israel - The Guide to the Israeli Society" which was forward-thinking and ahead of its time (technologically and content-wise) and served thousands of surfers (50,000 entries per month). The portal, built by RED-ID, was operated under the auspices of the Shmuel Ne'eman Institute for Public Policy at the Technion and the UNESCO International Chair in Internet Culture Research and Study Programs via the Internet (we both headed the Chair).

In 2012, we established the "Israeli Spirit Gallery" in the northern foyer of the University of Haifa (8 giant screens that create digital displays in rotation). As part of the gallery, we curated 10 exhibitions

that dealt with various phenomena in Israeli society - with an emphasis on nostalgia and Israeliana.

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