Israel’s elections have always provided a window into the current national
psyche: With each political stump speech taking on heightened importance ahead
of elections, the political ads, photos and news analyses create a snapshot of
the Israeli mentality.
Through the prism of elections, we can learn what
domestic issues were important, what world events impacted the country, and
which national heroes made blunders and lost public support.
three weeks before Israel heads to the polls on January 22, the National Library
in Jerusalem has launched a digital archive comprised of election material
dating back to the first Knesset elections in 1949, available at the Israel
National Library website.
Want to see the original article announcing the
22 parties that ran in the first Knesset? How about decades worth of political
cartoons lampooning the economic situation (which according to the National
Library, only became a major subject starting with the 1973 election)? Or see
how various campaigns dealt with terrorism, or women’s issues? “Most of the
cultural record of election campaigns is not evident in higher culture such as
literature or art, but in propaganda material that attests to its status a
mainstream historical event,” said Dr.
Hezi Amiur, Curator of the
National Library’s Israel Collection. “These publications accurately reflect the
spirit of the time – the controversial topics, the intensity of popular
feelings, developing vehicles of expression and even slang.
materials that have been uploaded to the site rekindle the spirit of the times
and elicit nostalgia in the heart of older Israelis and curiosity in the minds
of the young. The posters and photographs displayed attest to the fact that many
current issues are merely new versions of ones that have been in evidence since
the establishment of Israel.”
The website also features pamphlets and
propaganda from material from parties that no longer exist, including the
Yemenite Party, the Progressive Party, the Religious Women’s List, the Sephardic
Parties, the Fighters’ Party, the Housewives Party, and the parties of Abie
Nathan, Samuel Plato-Sharon, Uri Avneri and Ariel Sharon (Shlomzion).
archive also contains materials in Yiddish, Hungarian and other languages, which
date from early election campaigns when many voters did not speak Hebrew. The
National Library is in the process of uploading copious amounts of digital
information from election campaigns over the past decade.