The Canadian Jeiwsh News

Thursday, October 8, 2015

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Through the lens, through the years

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There is no shortage of photographs of Israel online. Just go to, enter a keyword or two and you will be overwhelmed with a couple million results. []

But life is short. So I’d like to introduce you to a handful of websites that curate each photo of Israel before it is included. On these sites, you are given a remarkable tour of Palestine – then Israel – from the late 19th century to the present.

Start at the U.S. Library of Congress, custodian of the priceless American Colony in Jerusalem Collection. The American Colony was a non-denominational utopian Christian community of American expatriates living in Ottoman Palestine starting in the late 19th century. Through manuscripts, letters, postcards, telegrams, journals and photographs, the website presents a unique picture of the land and its inhabitants, including:

• A striking photo of worshippers at the Kotel in the mid-1930s.

• An aerial view of Tel Aviv casino and beach, 1932

• The Graf Zeppelin flying over Jerusalem’s David’s Tower, 1931 [] 

Many of these pictures are high quality, as well as copyright free. For example, the Kotel photo is 20.7 megabytes. That’s enough for you to download, print professionally and frame. Here’s the best page to use to search through the thousands of pictures. []

Head over to the State of Israel’s National Photo Collection that has digitized thousands of photos dating back to the 1940s. There are some hidden jewels here like:

• Hanna Senesh at Kibbutz Sdot Yam

• British soldiers guarding a barbed wire barrier on the Jaffa border during the curfew imposed on Tel Aviv

• Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on his daily walk at Kibbutz Sde Boker accompanied by Shimon Peres 

The search function on this site is not perfect, but keep with it and you’re bound to come across a gem. []

You may be familiar with the work of the acclaimed photojournalist David Rubinger. Picture three Israel Defence Forces paratroopers – the middle one with his helmet cradled in his hands – gazing upward, dwarfed by the Western Wall. TimePHOTOS presents a photogallery of other shots by Rubinger:

• Face of War: During the War of Independence, a woman receives basic training in grenade throwing.

• Drinking with the Enemy: A Jordanian soldier hands a cup of tea to an Israeli paratrooper, at the dividing Green Line in Jerusalem, 1956.

• History Men: Prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat meet in Aswan, 1980. [] and ChamelonsEye [] are two commercial sites that post recent press photos for purchase by newspapers and other media. The material ranges from the Gilad Schalit deal (he was held captive by Hamas for five years) and the Carmel forest fire to actor Jason Alexander touring Israel. You’ll notice that all the shots include “watermarks” to prevent unauthorized use by the media, but they’re still fun to browse through.

Finally, back to where we started at the Library of Congress’ Jerusalem photo collection. combs through the photo collection and picks the best shots, and includes great photo essays. Bookmark this site – and even better still, subscribe to the newsletter to get a regular fix of Israel of old. []

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