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.

Less than 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.

“The 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).

The 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.

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