(photo credit: Courtesy)
The owners of the online book store The Promised Book Land hope their new photography collection will give another meaning to the term "People of the Book."
Am Hasefer, a phrase commonly referring to the Jewish people, is also the name of the new online collection, which can be found on the book store's Web site. It contains photographs of famous and everyday Jews and Israelis reading or surrounded by books.
According to Dorit Gani, one of the store owners, the collection is a narrative in itself, showing "how people from around the world in different times and different places are all involved in reading books, and while every single picture tells its own storyâ€¦ all of them together are the people of the book."
The collection began with pictures that Gani and co-owner Itamar Levy found in books in their own collection. Since then, they have added pictures contributed by customers from private albums, and soon they will receive pictures from kibbutz archives, Gani said.
"Even if the person... is not famous, it is still a Jewish person and it still can be of importance," she said on Wednesday.
One of her favorite pictures is of Rabbi Yosef Ben-Nayem, who lived in Fez, Morocco. In the photo, Ben-Nayem sits with a book on the floor of his personal library, which meant so much to him that he would not make aliya because he would not leave the books behind.
He eventually agreed to sell his library to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, but it was burned before that could happen. The picture in the collection is the last thing left of Nayem's library, Gani said.
The collection includes pictures of many famous Jews and Israelis - David Ben-Gurion in a book store in New York City, Moshe Dayan and his wife, Ruth, reading outdoors soon after they were married, and Chaim Weizman in his home library in Rehovot.
A picture of former minister Yosef Burg was submitted by his son, former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg. In the picture, the elder Burg is unshaven because it was taken on Tisha B'Av. He is studying the Daf Yomi, which his son said he did every day.
"This is a way to see these people in a very different style than we are used to... They usually tell a story that is also historical," Gani said.
One of the pictures in the collection was taken from a book, but Gani and Levy had no information about the photo, which showed a group of children listening to an adult read aloud.
A customer came across the picture when browsing the collection and recognized her brother in it. She was able to identify some of the other children and name the location - Kibbutz Hulata in the Hula Vally.
"We are hoping that things like this will happen again - people recognizing themselves or family members, or simply adding information," Gani said.
As the collection grows, it will become more organized and more easily searchable, she said. It might be turned into a book later, but for now it will remain online, accessible to everyone for free.
The collection fits well with the mission of the book store, which is to be a resource for information about Jewish and Israeli culture.
"The comments are really enthusiastic. When you tell people about [the collection], sometimes they don't understand what's behind it, but when you see the collection, you really get it," Ganit said.
"It's powerful, especially if you're Jewish or Israeli and a book lover," she added. "When you look through the collection, it does something to you."
Anyone interested may submit pictures by scanning them and sending them by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with applicable background information. The book store can be visited at www.promised-book.com.