Banishing the Nazi Darkness: Who Are the Father and Daughter in This 1941 Hanukkah Photo?

Europe was cloaked in darkness during Hanukkah of 1941. With war raging on all fronts, the Jews of British Mandate Palestine did their part in the fight against the Nazis. A picture postcard featuring a Jewish soldier in the British Army and his daughter was meant to warm the hearts of Jewish soldiers serving around the world. But one question remains – who are they?


Postcard of the National Committee for the Jewish Soldier, Hanukkah 1941

The winter of 1941 was a dark one. At the beginning of the previous summer, after completing their conquest of western Europe, the Nazis stormed across eastern Europe to invade the Soviet Union. They were now besieging Leningrad, with fierce battles underway around Moscow. Early December saw another major turning point: the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II.

At the same time as their invasion of the U.S.S.R., the Nazis also began the mass extermination of Europe’s Jews. In Ukraine, Belarus and other countries, Jews were lined up in front of enormous killing pits and executed by the hundreds of thousands. In December, the first extermination camp, Chelmno, was established, and experiments of mass killings using gas vans were carried out. A short time later, the decision would be made to implement the “final solution to the Jewish question“—the total extermination of European Jewry.

Meanwhile, the situation in Mandatory Palestine was also looking bleak. German forces were advancing eastward in North Africa, and there were fears that they would eventually conquer the Land of Israel. In order to fulfill Ben-Gurion’s commitment to “fight the Nazis as if there were no White Paper,” (a reference to Britain’s resistance to Jewish immigration to Palestine) the local Jewish population provided thousands of volunteers who enlisted in the British army. Some of them were captured during fighting in Greece earlier in 1941.

Poster for “Jewish Soldier Day”, 1942, organized by the National Committee for the Jewish Soldier. From the Oded Yarkoni Archive of the History of Petah Tikva
“And what are YOU doing for our soldiers?” Donor Certificate in support of the National Committee for the Jewish Soldier, the National Library of Israel collections, photo: Amit Naor

And so, in the winter of 1941, quite a few young Jews from Mandatory Palestine found themselves on Europe’s frigid soil at the start of the Hanukkah holiday. These were not ideal conditions for celebrating a religious festival, but thanks to the efforts of some hardworking people who devoted themselves to the welfare of the Jewish soldiers scattered around the world, it was made possible. The National Committee for the Jewish Soldier, established at the initiative of Yosef Baratz, worked to meet all the needs of Jewish soldiers serving in the British Army.

The committee contacted the British military authorities to raise awareness of the needs of Jewish soldiers. Its members saw to cultural matters first, sending newspapers in Hebrew, organizing Hebrew theater events, and even arranging Hebrew and English lessons in the various army units. Alongside all this, the committee provided the soldiers with religious items such as bibles, tefillin and prayer books, as well as kiddush cups and candlesticks, so that they could observe the Sabbath. In addition, the committee naturally also sought to provide the soldiers, especially those who had been wounded, with financial assistance.

“For the Soldier”, “For the Soldier’s Family” – A poster listing the various activities and contributions of the National Committee for the Jewish Soldier, the Ephemera Collection at the National Library of Israel

And so it was that during Hanukkah, in December 1941, the National Committee for the Jewish Soldier attempted to lighten the mood and offer encouragement and aid to the Jewish soldiers fighting the Nazis. Heading the effort was a huge gift drive for the soldiers. Dozens of volunteers including WIZO staffers, schoolgirls and members of the Working Mothers Organization, prepared packages that were sent to soldiers stationed in Mandatory Palestine and abroad. The soldiers in Europe received sweaters and warm woolen socks, as well as cigarettes (hey, it was the 1940s!), candy (yum!) and razors (handy!). Along with the packages, they also received letters and drawings from children back home, as well as the “Soldier’s Almanac,” a small booklet containing a yearly calendar, in addition to historical, cultural and geographical information the committee thought the soldiers should have.

The Soldier’s Almanac, 1941–1942. In addition to a calendar, the booklet included chapters on history and geography, a dictionary of English phrases and other useful information, the National Library of Israel collections, photo: Amit Naor
First aid information from The Soldier’s Almanac. Photo: Amit Naor


The Winter Soldier Will Banish the Darkness

In addition, the committee also issued a special holiday postcard which it sold in kiosks and bookstores, featuring an especially poignant image of a father in a British army uniform lighting the Hanukkah candles while his daughter watches, mesmerized by the flames. Underneath the picture is a line from the Hanukkah hymn Maoz Tzur: “The head of the Benjaminite You lifted/ and the enemy, his name You obliterated.” The contemporary context and the hope for a miracle that would brighten the future of the Jewish people would have been plain to all.

The postcard published by the National Committee for the Jewish Soldier. The postcard was found in the private collection of Yirmiyahu Rimon, the Haifa City Museum
The original photograph by Zoltan Kluger. Courtesy of the Israel State Archives

Little is known about this image. This and two other photographs of the candle lighting were taken by Zoltan Kluger, who was then one of the most prominent photographers in the country. Today, these photos are in the Zoltan Kluger collection in the Israel State Archives. You can see all three here, here and here.

Can you help us identify the mysterious soldier and child and discover what became of them? Photo: Zoltan Kluger. Courtesy of the Israel State Archives

Kluger worked for the KKL-Jewish National Fund and other national institutions on numerous occasions. We don’t know who commissioned the photos from him, but it seems that they were taken in the Land of Israel close to the time the postcard was issued. Apart from the postcard published by the Committee for the Jewish Soldier, the photo also appeared in the 1941–1942 calendar published by Keren Hayesod. Beyond that, we haven’t been able to find out any additional information about the photograph or about the soldier-father and his daughter. We do do not know the identity of the soldier or that of the little girl, we do not know where the soldier was stationed, nor whether or not he survived the war. We also do not know whether Keren Hayesod commissioned the photographs.

Which is why we are turning to you, our readers!  Perhaps one of you recognizes the soldier or the little girl? Perhaps you know what became of them? You might even have a copy of the postcard stored away somewhere. Let us know here in the comments!


Our thanks to the Israel State Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this article.

When a Grenade Exploded in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament

No one believed it could happen, and even today it is difficult to comprehend how easy it was. In 1957, a man walked into the Knesset, then located in downtown Jerusalem, with a grenade in his pocket. He proceeded to throw it into the assembly hall. David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir were among those injured. The explosion can be heard in a recording found in the National Library of Israel's Sound Archive…

“Doctor! Doctor!” – came the yells from the assembly hall. “Get the doctors! Move! Ambulance!”, others called out. These exclamations took place right after an explosion shook the Knesset assembly hall, the main chamber of Israel’s parliament. Back then it was located at Frumin House, on King George Street, in downtown Jerusalem. A recording found in the National Library of Israel’s Sound Archive documents these moments in history, a recording which originated in the archives of the Knesset itself.

Hear the moment the grenade was thrown into the Knesset’s assembly hall:

It was October 29, 1957. The young State of Israel was approaching its ten-year anniversary. At the time, the country’s parliament held its meetings in a rather ordinary residential building that housed commercial establishments on its ground floor. The building had been renovated to allow the Knesset to convene in the structure. Unlike the current Knesset location, Frumin House was in the center of the city, on a crowded, busy street. Security was handled by two unarmed guards stationed at the entrance.

On that day, 24-year-old Moshe Dwek, simply walked into the Knesset building and obtained permission to sit in the visitors’ gallery, overlooking the assembly hall. He had a hand-grenade in his possession, that no one had been able to detect. At the time, the Members of the Knesset were discussing matters relating to international and security affairs in the assembly hall. Yitzhak Rafael, from the Mafdal (national religious) party, had been addressing the assembly, shortly after 6:00 pm, Dwek tossed the grenade from the gallery into the assembly hall. The explosion was followed by long moments of chaos and confusion, that we can now hear in the recording.

Moshe Dwek is brought to trial. Photograph: Eddie Hirschbein. Courtesy of Nadav Mann, Bitmuna. Collection: Tamar Levy. The Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, the National Library of Israel

The grenade thrown by Dwek landed between the dais and the cabinet table. The explosion injured the Minister of Transportation, Moshe Carmel, and the Minister of Religion, Haim-Moshe Shapira (who, in fact, adopted the name Haim, which means “life” in Hebrew, after he recovered from his severe injury). Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Foreign Minister Golda Meir were both lightly injured by shrapnel.

The United States Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson, visits Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion at the Hadassah Hospital. November 4, 1957. Photograph: David Gurfinkel, GPO

Dwek was immediately seized by those that were seated next to him, who had seen him throw the grenade. During his initial interrogation, he sounded confused and scared, and immediately expressed remorse for his actions. It was subsequently revealed that Dwek had sued the Jewish Agency for alleged damages he had suffered, and that his claim was rejected. His response was to threaten the President of the Supreme Court of Israel, and as a result he was sent to a mental hospital. This was apparently his motive for the assassination attempt.

Moshe Dwek in the courthouse. Photograph: Eddie Hirschbein. Courtesy of Nadav Mann, Bitmuna. Collection: Tamar Levy. The Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, the National Library of Israel

Shortly before 9:00 pm that same day, the Knesset again convened in the assembly hall. Yosef Sprinzak, who was the first Speaker of the Knesset, apprised the assembly of the event. His address to the Knesset can also be heard in the recording from the Sound Archive: “At 6:35, a grenade was thrown into this hall, injuring the Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, Minister Moshe Shapira, Foreign Minister Golda Meir, Transportation Minister Moshe Carmel. The Prime Minister is in good condition, his injuries are superficial, caused by shrapnel which hit both of his arms as well as his left leg. He is being treated for these wounds.”

Regarding the man detained by the authorities, Sprinzak stated: “The police arrested the man, his name is Moshe Hacohen Dwek, and the police have reason to believe that he was the one that threw the grenade. The man is under investigation and the police are investigating the motives of the crime” These comments appear in the protocol proceedings from the session at the Knesset.

Moshe Dwek on the defendant’s bench. Photograph: Eddie Hirschbein. Courtesy of Nadav Mann, Bitmuna. Collection: Tamar Levy. The Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, the National Library of Israel

All those injured eventually recovered. The Prime Minister’s hospitalization resulted in its own tragic story, with a not-so-happy ending. Even though he was claimed by some to be mentally unstable, Dwek was found fit to stand trial and he received a 15-year prison sentence. In 1988, he returned to the public arena for a brief period and founded the Tarshish political party, which ran in the elections that year. The party assumed the Hebrew letters זעמ (meaning “rage” in Hebrew), and demanded equal rights for immigrants from the Arab countries, however it did not reach the minimal electoral threshold when the votes were cast.

The event triggered many changes in the day-to-day functioning of the Knesset. In the visitors’ gallery, secure partitions were installed that separated the gallery and the assembly hall, while security guards were required to meticulously inspect those entering the building and the items they brought with them. In addition, the incident led to the formation of the Knesset Guard in 1958, which to this day is responsible for the protection of the Knesset building and its members.

A Cinderella Story: The First Winner of the International Bible Contest

Overnight, Amos Hakham, winner of the first International Bible Contest, became an Israeli celebrity. From that point on, the Israeli public just couldn’t get enough of him…

Amos Hakham, winner of the first International Bible Contest, the Eddie Hirschbein Collection, the National Library of Israel

“Some people spend their free time reading novels or crime fiction. I read the Bible,” said the first winner of the International Bible Contest. His name was Amos Hakham, he had cerebral palsy and suffered from a speech impediment. Yet, Hakham proved himself an extremely knowledgeable young man, despite not receiving any formal education – he did not attend elementary or high school and did not study at any institution of higher learning. He was 37 years old when he won the coveted title, suddenly becoming famous and receiving widespread admiration from the Israeli public.

Hakham was born in Jerusalem in 1921 without any disability, but before his first birthday, he suffered a traumatic head injury that left him with cerebral palsy and a speech disability. His father, Dr. Noah Hakham (after whom Amos’ son would eventually be named), decided to home school the boy, fearing that the neighborhood children would bully him. Amos Hakham thus never attended a “regular” school. At the age of 29, after both of his parents had passed away, he found a low-paying job as a clerk at the School for the Blind. While his employer greatly appreciated his dedication, day after day Amos would wait impatiently for his shift to end, so that he could go home to his small, modest room, where his only possessions were his books. There, he would pore over the Bible—his most favorite book of all.

In 1958, thanks to an initiative spearheaded by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Hakham was given an opportunity that changed his life. Even before the establishment of the state, Ben-Gurion had worked to renew and strengthen the Jewish people’s ancient affinity to the Bible. In accordance with his belief that “the Bible is the secret of the Jewish people’s existence and eternalness,” with the establishment of the state, Ben-Gurion supported various initiatives to consolidate a new Jewish-Zionist tradition. Some of the initiatives were complete and utter failures, such as the “Independence Haggadah.” A few were resounding successes— the International Bible Contest was the most significant of these.

The International Bible Contest we know today is a quiz for Jewish youth, broadcast live every year on Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day. But the contest was originally a Bible quiz for adults, launched during the state’s celebrations of its first decade of existence. Back then, the contestants were not only Jews, but people from all over the world.

The announcement of the upcoming Bible contest took Hakham by complete surprise. He didn’t see himself as a possible contestant, but his neighbors, well aware of the depth of his knowledge of the Bible, pushed him to enter. He successfully passed the first screening round which was conducted in writing, and was invited to the next stage—the national quiz. What troubled Hakham however was not his biblical knowledge but his financial situation, namely how was he going to afford a decent suit for the stately event. In the end a neighbor offered to loan him one.

The National Bible Quiz for Adults took place on August 4, 1958 and aroused enormous excitement among the Israeli public. From the start, Hakham demonstrated an impressive proficiency, easily and precisely answering every question. After handily winning the national quiz, he advanced to the next stage—the International Bible Contest held later that month. Again, he won first place, outsmarting his competitors who had come from all over the world. An excited Prime Minister Ben-Gurion awarded Hakham the first prize and immediately after, invited him to his office where they talked, of course, about the Bible.

The first International Bible Contest, held on August 19, 1958 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Givat Ram Campus. Photo from the Bitmuna Collection, Eddie Hirschbein Collection, the National Library of Israel

With his win, Hakham’s life changed completely. He began academic studies for the first time and eventually became an important Bible scholar. He wrote commentaries for several books of the Bible as part of the Da’at Mikra series, which are known for their clarity and thoroughness. About two years after winning, Hakham married Devora Atas, and the couple had a son, Noah Hakham.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. With his win, Hakham quickly became known as a world expert on the Bible and he began receiving inquiries, from everyone from fourth graders to major corporations, research institutes and universities. He was even asked to suggest Bible verses suitable for decorating the halls of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament building. Even after many decades, his fame as the winner of the first International Bible Contest did not wane and he continued to receive letters and requests.

“Please give a helping hand in decorating the halls of our legislature with biblical verses and sayings of the sages…” – a request from 1977

One interesting request came from the commander of a new secret Israeli army intelligence unit, who asked Hakham to propose an animal from the Bible that would be a fitting symbol for the unit’s spirit and goals. Would the eagle be a good choice or was there another animal that might be more suited?

“My intelligence unit, which handles hostage interrogations and psychological warfare, has tasked me with coming up with a symbol and flag design for the unit… In what context is the eagle mentioned in the Bible?” – a letter from a member of an IDF intelligence unit

From time to time, Hakham was called in to settle a family dispute, such as a dramatic debate over the name “Nimrod”. Was this a suitable Hebrew name? Or the name of an evil idolator?

“We gave our son the name Nimrod and were later told that this name is unacceptable in Judaism and the child’s grandfather now shuns us…” – a letter from a disgruntled family

Hakham was even asked to contribute his biblical knowledge in legal matters. In the next letter, the issue at hand is whether a child of divorced parents can have her last name legally changed to that of her new stepfather.

“This question has great legal ramifications” – a lawyer’s urgent question

Before the Google age, Hakham was also called upon as a human search engine for verses from the Bible. For example, the poetry translator Yehoshua Kochav maintained an extensive correspondence with Hakham who helped him in his translations of biblically inspired poets such as William Blake and John Milton.

A question “regarding a specific literary work” – a poetry translator’s query

Hakham’s love (one could also say private obsession) for the Bible was what made him so sought after. And along with requests for help, many wanted to reward him for his knowledge with various and sometimes unusual perks. At Ben-Gurion’s order, Hakham received state-funded treatments from Dr. Moshe Pinchas Feldenkrais, whose method of physical exercise and movement was said to improve a person’s quality of life. The Egged Public Transportation Company awarded him a lifetime of free bus travel. In Hakham’s archives, you can even find a letter from politician Pinchas Lavon asking where he preferred the location of the apartment that the Histadrut (the national labor union) had decided to purchase for him. These were only a very small part of the rewards showered on Hakham.

How did the once anonymous Amos Hakham deal with his unexpected celebrity? In a conversation with us, Amos’ son, Prof. Noah Hakham, recalled that his father reacted mainly with humor. His father would say, “It’s just easier for someone to call me instead of looking for the biblical verse in question using a Bible concordance.” Although Noah was born five years after his father’s success, he remembers the many phone calls Amos received at all hours of the day, usually from a stranger with a burning biblical question. “From someone who wouldn’t be given a second glance or even a first glance on the street, he became the most famous man in the country,” said the son of his father’s transformation.

Hakham meeting with Ben-Gurion after his win (you can guess what the topic of conversation was). The Eddie Hirschbein Collection, the National Library of Israel

Amos Hakham passed away in 2012, at the age of 91, 54 years after the achievement that changed his life. Hakham’s archive was deposited at the National Library of Israel, in which are preserved, among other items, the letters presented in the article.

We conclude the article about this fascinating man with Hakham’s own words, words that largely defined his life, and which he wrote immediately after winning the contest in 1958: “There are facts that even the most resounding applause of all the citizens of the country will not change. Being disabled is one such fact. And every disabled person can follow one of two paths: one is isolation, escaping from active life and depending on others. This path seems at first to be the easiest way out, but it ends in depression and decay. This had been my path from the day I was able to decide things for myself. Although, in my heart I always felt that this is not the right path, that there is another way, a path of complete integration into life, while developing qualities and talents that lie hidden in every person,  and that can serve as a kind of substitute for what was lost and cannot be recovered.”

This article was prepared with the help of Arik Kitsis of the Archives Department at the National Library of Israel

The Happy Mistake That Gave Us the “Soup Almond”

How did a bureaucratic mix-up during Israel’s 1950s austerity period lead to one of Israel's most unique culinary innovations? How did an Ashkenazi Jewish Passover recipe end up on the holiday table of every Jewish Israeli, and where does the distinctive yellow color of the soup almond come from? In short, here is the story of Israel’s prized "shkedei marak"


Boys enjoying a bowl of soup in a HaNoar Haoved summer camp. Photo: Benno Rothenberg, the Meitar Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, the National Library of Israel

Nothing fills us with more pride than the list of exclusive Israeli inventions, right? Every year during the Independence Day ceremony, we are reminded of how we invented drip irrigation, the cherry tomato and the disk-on-key. But there is one Israeli invention that is a special source of national pride and that no holiday table dares be without—the “soup almond”. Yes, we are referring to those crunchy, yellow, crouton-like additions to soup, which miraculously appear just about everywhere during holiday season in Israel. “Soup almond” is a literal translation of the Hebrew term shkedei marak, which is sometimes used even by English speakers (you know who you are), though others prefer “soup mandels”, “soup nuts” or the Yiddish mandlakh. We set out on a mission to discover out how this unparalleled genius invention came about.

Advertisement for Osem soup almonds. Designer: Otte Wallish, from the Eri Wallish Collection, the Ephemera Collection, the National Library of Israel

After all, what’s the point of soup if it doesn’t have a little something extra—chopped vegetables, dumplings, noodles, croutons or whatever strikes one’s fancy. This is how soup becomes a satisfying and heart-warming dish, and this was also the thinking of the Osem company’s food engineers.

Having soup in the Pardes Hana immigrant camp. What extras did they have for soup in those days? Photo: Benno Rothenberg. From the Meitar Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, the National Library of Israel

It was the early 1950s, the days of tzena— Israel’s national austerity plan. Two years earlier, Osem had come up with another brilliant invention to deal with the rice shortage. They called it petitim, tiny toasted pasta balls sometimes referred to as “Ben-Gurion rice” (or “Israeli couscous” in later years). The company was now facing another rationing crisis. According to the story on the Osem website, each manufacturing plant received a monthly allowance of flour. It’s not clear whether human error or some other unfortunate accident was to blame, but one month the Osem plant did not receive its flour allowance.

Boys enjoying a bowl of soup in a HaNoar Haoved summer camp. Photo: Benno Rothenberg, the Meitar Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, the National Library of Israel

Everyone is familiar with the saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. In this case, the lemons were 300 kilograms of oil gifted to the Osem company to compensate for the missing flour. Lemonade was going to be a long shot, but during a time of severe shortage, Osem wasn’t about to pass on the offer. But what to do with so much oil? According to company’s website, they decided to use the oil to fry flour. And lo and behold—a miracle: this is how the soup almond as we know it was born. The color of fried flour may not be very appealing, so a bit of turmeric extract turned them a bright yellow.

Advertisements for Osem soup almonds and “egg almonds”. Designer: Otte Wallish, from the Eri Wallish Collection, the Ephemera Collection, the National Library of Israel
An advertisement for Osem egg almonds. Designer: Otte Wallish, from the Eri Wallish Collection, the Ephemera Collection, the National Library of Israel
Advertisements for Osem soup almonds and egg almonds in Hebrew, German, Hungarian and Yiddish. Designer: Otte Wallish, from the Eri Wallish Collection, the Ephemera Collection, National Library of Israel

Osem’s soup almonds didn’t appear out of thin air, of course. First there were zup mandlen, “soup almonds” in Yiddish, which were added to the soup that Ashkenazi Jews ate during Passover. They were made from matzah meal and egg and were apparently much larger, perhaps more similar to the matzah balls (kneidlach) that many know today. But, unlike the matzah ball which is boiled, the homemade soup almonds were either baked or fried, just like today’s soup almonds.


Passover advertisement for zup mandeln, from the Yiddish Newspaper Forverts, April 4, 1943

Like any product created by accident or under improvised circumstances, the initial appearance of the Osem soup almonds did not resemble what they look like today, and there were also variations in name and use. In the beginning, Israeli soup almonds were made in two forms: one was diamond-shaped and flatter (but larger than today’s version), and the other was oval like an egg and was called an “egg almond”. The home-made Ashkenazi soup almonds may have been the inspiration, but the company believed that the fried flour morsels might also have other uses. Early newspaper ads and posters preserved in the Ephemera Collection at the National Library of Israel recommend adding the egg almonds to cold or hot drinks, and even to a glass of beer. Feel free to try this at home and let us know what you think.


Ad for Osem soup almonds. Designer: Otte Wallish, from the Eri Wallish Collection, Ephemera Collection, National Library

The product evolved over time. It was adapted to the local market and was given new and sophisticated packaging. The soup almond finally settled on its square and puffy shape, unique yellow color, salty taste, becoming a must-have product on every holiday table, because how can you eat soup without it? Today you can buy shkedei marak in a resealable bag or in a plastic container. And companies besides Osem make them as well.  Some even eat them by the handful as a snack—hold the soup! Who are we to judge?

Chag sameach!

Advertisement for Osem soup almonds. Designer: Otte Wallish, from the Eri Wallish Collection, the Ephemera Collection, the National Library of Israel