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Israeliana: The Israeli Heritage Portal - an Introduction

General Goal

Numerous individuals and both public and private organizations actively engage (indirectly or directly) in the documentation, preservation, research, and promotion of Israeli heritage, whether as a profession or a passionate pursuit.

This platform was established to commemorate Israel's 75th Independence Day in April 2023. Its primary objective is to create a user-friendly and cost-free repository of extensive information, both visual and textual, pertaining to these individuals, organizations, and the valuable materials they possess.

Furthermore, this documentary and educational portal serves as a virtual museum chronicling the Israeli experience across generations, with a specific focus on tangible and popular culture. The materials featured on this platform are sourced from a diverse array of outlets, including libraries, databases, archives, museums, galleries, antique, vintage, and second-hand stores, auction houses, collectors, photographers, tour guides, artists, designers, as well as enthusiasts of vintage, nostalgia, and Israeli culture among the general public.

Objectives of the Project

  • The portal unveils the narratives of countless heritage projects, many of which have remained uncharted and hidden until now.

  • In contrast to the majority of visual archives related to Israeli society, this platform goes beyond mere provision of raw materials, such as image files. It also offers informative documents, articles, thematic exhibitions, and comprehensive bibliographic compilations, including previously untapped sources of information.

  • The portal places a significant emphasis on the intricacies of Israeli phenomena at the micro level, shedding light on aspects that have long eluded documentation or received minimal research scrutiny.

  • One of the primary aims of this portal is to underscore the significance of visual materials within the historiography of Israeli society.

  • While most archives and museums tend to hold images and documents focused on specific subjects or places, this portal facilitates the creation of collaborative digital exhibitions centered around integrative themes. For instance, restaurant culture in Israel, toys in Israel, public transportation in Israel, uniforms in the IDF, and more.

  • Currently, this portal is available exclusively in Hebrew. However, our ongoing commitment is to expand its accessibility to other languages, with a primary focus on Arabic (to serve Arabic-speaking citizens of Israel and neighboring countries) and English (to cater to a global audience, especially the Jewish community and all those with an interest in Israeli history and culture).

  • While the internet is replete with organizations and individuals offering information about Israeliana, this information is often fragmented and dispersed across numerous, sometimes outdated platforms. Our portal, on the other hand, consolidates existing information while continuously enriching it with new and relevant content.

  • The portal offers a unique platform for owners of historical artifacts to digitally share their treasures with the public, without the need for physical exhibition spaces, storage facilities, transportation, and insurance costs. Farther more, broad online exposure (thorough this portal) to 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: Identifying individuals actively involved in collecting Israeliana and persuading them to share their collections pose common challenges. Nevertheless, our initiative, built upon our extensive knowledge, experience, and professional reputation, significantly enhances the feasibility of these endeavors.

  • One of the primary mission of this portal is to safeguard thousands of Israeli cultural assets from the perils of destruction and obscurity through their comprehensive photographic documentation.

  • This portal is purposefully designed to foster the advancement of research and scholarship in the realm of Israeli popular culture—an academic discipline that is still in its formative stages. Our aspiration is that, in the not-so-distant future, the portal will empower the broader public to actively engage by providing feedback, as well as adding and updating information at the image, text, and exhibition levels. This collaborative approach will transform visitors into active partners in the realms of research, collection, documentation, preservation, and accessibility of materials related to Israeli cultural assets.

  • The photo galleries with their textual introductions offer visitors a captivating and evocative journey down memory lane, where they can reconnect with the everyday items that were part of their childhood. This experience not only fosters a sense of nostalgia and togetherness but also nurtures collective identity.

  • For many years, certain groups and subcultures were marginalized from the mainstream historical narrative of the State of Israel, primarily as a result of discrimination, geographical distance from centers of influence, limited access to resources and lack of awareness. The Israeliana portal will play a contractive role in rectifying this historical imbalance by showcasing the heritage materials of those who were previously excluded, and in some cases, continue to be at the cultural periphery of Israel. These include Jews originating from Muslim countries, immigrants from the former USSR and Ethiopia, the Druze community, Arab citizens, as well as the ultra-Orthodox and national-religious sectors. This multicultural information is an effective tool not only for the preservation and accessibility of their culture and heritage, but also for conveying the profound message Israeli culture is a vibrant and multifaceted tapestry of memories, traditions, and identities. In doing so, we aim to foster greater social empathy towards others, promoting values like tolerance, a deeper understanding of diverse experiences, and a sense of duty and commitment to society.

  • In this globalized age, cultures often tend to converge, influenced by shared international experiences (stimuli). The Israeliana portal is positioned to play a constrictive role in emphasizing and preserving the distinctive "cultural DNA" of the State of Israel, offering a comprehensive response to the essential question: What does it truly mean to be an Israeli today?

  • The Israeliana portal has the potential to serve as a global exemplar for digitally preserving of local history, and studying the cultural heritage of any nation. Such an achievement would not only enhance international recognition for Israel but also showcase a valuable model for the world to follow.

  • This portal plays a constructive role in bolstering the Israeli tourism industry, both domestically and internationally, in several key ways: (1) It offers a unique "Israeli experience" in the virtual realm, allowing individuals to connect with Israel's rich culture and heritage from anywhere in the world. While it doesn't replace the physical visit to Israel's diverse locations, it serves as a convenient and enticing alternative. In fact, the virtual experience often serves as a catalyst, inspiring physical visits to the actual sites. (2) It compiles a comprehensive directory of Israeli destinations that typically don't find a place on the mainstream tourist maps. This includes a wide array of establishments, such as shops, museums, and galleries, offering travelers the opportunity to explore lesser-known yet culturally rich facets of Israel.

  • This portal not only captures the efforts dedicated to enhancing the accessibility of Israel's tangible history but also chronicles the wide spectrum of innovative ideas and activities implemented by museums and heritage centers across the nation. Through this collaborative approach, we aim to make meaningful contributions to the enhancement of the Israeli heritage learning experience.

The portal is an anchor for building a growing pool of diverse digital educational activities for schools and academic institutions, as well as for the general public - including educational entertainment sessions (edutainment) and thinking and creative games.

Note: In 2022, the Israeliana project was among the winners of the Ministry of Education's call for proposals (among dozens of proposals) for the development of an educational product in the research and development incubator track in the applied development unit of the Experiments and Initiatives R&D Division.

The Israeliana Portal - Structure and Contents

The choice to construct the portal on the WIX platform was primarily influenced by the company's excellent reputation, the user-friendly nature of the system, the ample storage capacity it offers, and the valuable real-time support provided to subscribers. It's worth noting that all the materials featured on the site were meticulously curated and uploaded solely by Professor Oz Almog, entirely as a voluntary endeavor, without any external assistance.

We extends our heartfelt gratitude to the collectors, museum and archive administrators, shop and auction house proprietors, as well as the photographers who have generously and willingly contributed photographs and information to support this project.

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 delves into specific topics, shedding light on daily life in Israel during the period of settlement and state establishment. For easy navigation, the exhibitions are thoughtfully categorized into 21 thematic categories , ensuring user convenience: Museums & Galleries; Markets & Shops; Eclectic Collections; Food & Drink; Family & Education; Music; Media; Fashion & Clothing; Post & Telephone; Transportation & Mobility; Politics & Leadership; Science & Medicine; Security; Arts Leisure & Entertainment; Flora & Fauna; Sports; Books Photos & Maps; Housing; Religion Ethnicity & Nationality; Buying & Saving; Tourism; Industry & Crafts.

An introductory button is pinned to each exhibition and includes one of two options: either a link to an existing, relevant online textual information source or a link to a an information page or article created specifically for the exhibition within the portal.

The "Articles" section serves as a repository for information pages that complement the photography exhibitions. It also hosts concise articles and comprehensive reviews that delve into various traditions and customs relevant to Israeli society as a whole or unique to specific groups and sectors.

Under the "Israeliana Guide" tab, visitors can access a comprehensive, all-encompassing overview of Israeli heritage (Israeliana). This comprehensive review, which includes chapters that are still under preparation, has been meticulously authored by Prof. Oz Almog.

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.

The Project Team

Prof. Oz Almog is the founder, main writer, editor and manager of the portal.

Dr. Tamar Almog is the pedagogical director of the project.

Oz is a historian and sociologist; Tamar is an expert in young culture and alternative teaching.

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.

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.

We are grateful to all the good people who have contributed so far to the realization of the vision of this portal, and especially to the museum directors and archivists; to more than 100 owners of Israeli auction houses (in the Bidspirit portal) and to hundreds of collectors who were kind enough to share with us photos of their collections. We owe a special thanks to the Council for the Preservation of Heritage Sites, to the devoted Israeliana collector Hadi Or and to the photographers Israel Preker and Zvi Henry Cohen.

Copyright Notice

This website has been established solely for educational and scientific purposes, with the primary intention of benefiting the public. It is operated entirely by volunteers.

We hold copyright in high regard and are dedicated to diligently identifying the rights holders of the photographs and texts that come into our possession. However, due to the extensive effort involved in gathering, organizing, and uploading this information to the website, and considering our limited resources and personnel, there may be instances where an image or text that has not been approved for publication, or where the attribution of the photographer, author, or other rights holders may have been inadvertently omitted.

If you recognize an image or text on our site for which you hold the rights, we invite you to contact us to request an update of the details or removal from the website. Your request will be promptly attended to and fulfilled. Your cooperation in this matter is greatly appreciated.


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