The Rise and Fall of Jerusalem’s Rex Cinema

Everyone frequented this Jerusalem movie theater: Jews, Arabs and British soldiers. So why was it destroyed, not once but twice?

Left: Rex Cinema in the early 1940s. Photo: Pikwiki. Right: Rex Cinema in flames, 1937. Photo: The Rudy Goldstein Collection, Bitmuna

Today, Shlomzion Hamalka Street in Jerusalem is the main thoroughfare leading to the Mamilla Avenue mall and its fancy shops. On weekends and holidays, you can find many Israelis strolling along, sitting in the cafes or simply window-shopping down the street. Eighty years ago, this road was one of the main streets of British Mandatory Jerusalem. Arabs and Jews alike, dressed in their best, would enjoy the restaurants and cafes that dotted the area, and afterward catch a movie playing at the Rex Cinema located at the bottom of the street.

‘”How was the movie?’ we often asked. ‘The movie wasn’t anything special, but the fight after it was really fun!'”

This was how Eliyahu Nawi, the well-known Jerusalem storyteller, described his outings to Rex Cinema on Princess Mary Street in Mandatory Jerusalem, as it was known back then.  Nawi recalled how at the end of a film starring the Arab singer Mohamed Abdel Wahab and the Jewish actress Leila Murad, a fight broke out among the Jewish and Arab moviegoers, instigated by the cinematic conflict between the characters in the film.

Poster for a movie playing at Rex Cinema. January 1941. The Poster Collection at the National Library of Israel

Rex Cinema was torn down a long time ago and Princess Mary Street became Shlomzion Hamalka Street (named after the Hasmonean Queen Salome Alexandra), but local historians still remember the daily screenings at the magnificent cinema in Mamilla, of which no trace remains. Although Nawi focused on the brawls after the screenings, the violence did not stop there, and after two attacks (some would call them acts of terrorism) by the Irgun, the magnificent 1,300-seat cinema, was destroyed and abandoned. Eventually a shopping center was built on its ruins by the Israel Brothers company.

Rex Cinema stood out among the movie theaters in Jerusalem during the British Mandate. While other cinemas operating at the time—Zion, Edison and Eden—were Jewish-owned, Rex Cinema was owned by Joseph Pascal Albina, an Arab-Christian businessman. Albina collaborated with many Jews on various projects, often defying the decisions of the Arab Higher Committee. He was also the owner of the film production compamny “Nile Films,” and founded Rex Cinema in order to screen his films there.  Albina hired contractor Yona Friedman, a Jew, to build the cinema, but when the project was completed, Albina found himself short on funds, and instead of paying Friedman, he made him a partner in the cinema. Rex Cinema opened on June 6, 1938, and screened mostly Arab films alongside westerns and popular European movies. The cinema catered mostly to Jerusalem’s Arabs as well as to British soldiers, clerks and officials of the various mandatory institutions, but Jews also numbered among its patrons.

Rex Cinema in the early 1940s. Photo: Pikwiki

The First Attack

In May 1939, less than a year after Rex Cinema opened, the British Mandate Government published its infamous “White Paper”, announcing restrictions on Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel. The move was seen as a direct attack on the Jewish community in the country, and the Irgun quickly responded with a counter-attack. Yaakov “Yashka” Eliav (nicknamed “the velvet-eyed terrorist” by the British), who was the Irgun’s commander of operations and later one of the founders of the Lehi organization, recalls in his memoir that Rex Cinema was chosen because it was “inside the British government zone . . . and because of its location and modern facility it attracted the government’s top brass, as well as the upper echelons of local Arab society. The attack on the cinema was intended to strike at the heads of the British military, civilian and police authorities, as well as members of the audience who were among the leaders of the Arab public and supporters of the violent gangs.”

2 Explosions at Rex Cinema in Jerusalem“, Haboker, May 30, 1939

On May 29, Irgun members slipped into the cinema before the screening of the movie “Tarzan”. They proceeded to booby-trap the theater with explosives concealed within an ordinary-looking coat as well as bombs hidden in boxes of candy. At 8:30 pm, the explosives went off just as the famous MGM lion roared to signal the beginning of the film. The frightened crowd fled the theater only to find that the Irgun had set another trap for them. Members of the Jewish underground waiting nearby in Mamilla’s Muslim cemetery opened fire at the people attempting to flee. Five Arabs were killed, and 18 others were wounded: six British, ten Arabs and two Jews. The cinema suffered heavy damages, and the incident became the talk of the town. Following the attack on the theater, the British military commander in Jerusalem issued an order closing all cinemas in Jerusalem, along with other cultural institutions. The Irgun continued its attacks on various targets in the city, and it seemed as if this was the end of Rex Cinema. However, the outbreak of World War II provided a somewhat surprising revival. With the arrival of more British military personnel in the city came a renewed need for an English-speaking cinema. Rex’s owners moved swiftly to repair the building and reopened the theater at full capacity.


The Euphoric Years and a Sudden End

Throughout the 1940s, Rex Cinema served as a meeting place for Arabs, Jews and British in Jerusalem. Contrary to the memoirs of Irgun members, according to which the Jewish population of Jerusalem did not frequent the cinema, it seems that many in fact did. Hebrew newspapers published ads for films playing at the Rex alongside greetings for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  In 1946, a rumor spread that the Jewish partners had quit the cinema but the management immediately came out with a special notice debunking the rumor.

Poster for a film playing at Rex Cinema. May 1940. The Poster Collection at the National Library of Israel

Princess Mary Street was one of Jerusalem’s most modern and cosmopolitan streets during the Mandate era, and the Rex was the only downtown cinema open on Saturdays. On the building’s top floor there was also a small boutique cinema named simply, “Studio.” In an article in Al Hamishmar, Gabriel Stern described the atmosphere in Jerusalem in the 1940s, writing that the war years, ironically, were years of rapprochement and relative peace between the two peoples in Jerusalem. The cinema’s location made it an obvious meeting place for the various populations. In the interim period between the 1939 White Paper and the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1947, Jews felt quite comfortable there, especially on Friday nights and holiday eves. Iconic Israeli singer Yossi Banai nostalgically recalled going to matinees at the cinema with his friends Simon and Moise in one of his most famous songs. The midday screenings were always cheaper than the evening films. The euphoria continued at Rex Cinema until the evening of November 29, 1947.

Yossi Banai: “Me and Simon and Little Moise”

Following the UN declaration and ensuing protest against the Partition Plan, the Arab Higher Committee called for a three-day strike of the Arab population in Mandatory Palestine. The tense atmosphere among Jerusalem’s Arab residents eventually exploded. On the morning of December 2, 1947, an Arab mob attacked the commercial center in Mamilla, and its mostly Jewish shop owners. The British forces that were supposed to protect them focused mainly on pursuing the handful of Haganah defenders, while the rioters, most of them equipped with axes and knives, set fire to the shopping street and attacked the merchants. In retaliation, the Irgun set fire to Rex Cinema. As opposed to their first carefully planned attack, this time, the violence was more spontaneous. The Hebrew newspaper Herut carried a story about the attack, as retold by its commander, Moshe Solomon (“Natan”): We didn’t receive any orders for it, we were a total of five Irgun members […]. We arrived at Rex, broke down the doors and began tearing things apart, just like what we saw was going on across the shopping center. We set fire to the projection booth and the rest of the building […]. After the operation, I informed my superiors in the Irgun and they approved our actions after the fact.”

Rex Cinema in flames. December 1947. The Rudy Goldstein Collection, Bitmuna

The highly flammable nitrite film reels ensured that the cinema would burn to the ground. The clouds of smoke billowing up into the sky were visible throughout the city, and were even caught on camera by some photographers. On that day, Rex Cinema, which had served Arabs, Jews and the British in Jerusalem, closed for good. The building stood in ruins until the 1960s, when the present-day shopping center was built on the site.

Djemal Pasha’s Revenge on the People of Jerusalem

In the midst of WWI, residents of Jerusalem witnessed a horrific spectacle: the hanging of five local citizens by the Ottoman authorities. A photograph of the scene has since become a Jerusalem legend linking Christians, Jews and Muslims.

This photo was likely taken by photographer Khalil Raad, who arrived at the scene before the bodies were taken down. Some say he later sold the picture at his store, while others claim it was passed to a relative of one of the deceased by a former Ottoman official, the Ben Zvi Institute

In June 1916, Ahmad Djemal Pasha, commander of the Ottoman Fourth Army and ruler of Damascus province, found himself facing a difficult problem: many soldiers had deserted from the ranks, and he was suffering a severe manpower shortage. Following the unsuccessful Ottoman attack on the Suez Canal, the defeated, exhausted and hungry soldiers returned to the Land of Israel. Jerusalem, like many other cities in the Ottoman Empire, filled with deserters, who hoped to escape the attention of the authorities.

Ahmad Djemal Pasah, the Turkish Military Governor in Syria and the Land of Israel. Photo: the Ben Zvi Institute

The military police roamed the city in search of the absentee soldiers, who were called “Farar” (Arabic: فرار). Djemal Pasha, who urgently needed men, sentenced any deserter who would not turn himself in to death, but to no avail. In his cruel rage, he decided to teach the public a lesson. He ordered his men to seize five deserters and execute them in a central location in the city. The unlucky five—two Jews, two Christians and one Muslim—were caught and hanged in an expedited procedure. This is their story.

The Sick Man on the Bosphorus

The Ottoman entry into the First World War led to a severe economic crisis throughout the empire, in the Middle East in particular. Jerusalem was especially hard hit. Local tourism had collapsed and many sources of funding had dried up. A drought severely affected farmers’ crops, and if all of that wasn’t enough, in 1914–1915, the Middle East suffered a devastating locust plague that reached the Holy City as well. Moreover, the forced conscription imposed by the Ottoman regime left many families without a breadwinner, and poverty and hunger were rife. Many of the local men, instead of being sent to combat units, were sent to the “Amaliya,” hard labor battalions in the service of the Ottoman army.

Ottoman soldiers in formation, in the courtyard in front of the Kishla (the police prison) near David’s Citadel, Jerusalem. Photo: the Ben Zvi Institute

The combination of World War I and the economic crisis led to low morale and very high desertion rates among Ottoman soldiers in the Middle East. At the same time, local national movements began to revolt against Ottoman rule and side with the Allied Powers. Cases like the establishment of the Zion Mule Corps that took part in the Battle of Gallipoli and the revolt of Sharif Hussein of Mecca led Djemal Pasha to behave violently toward anything he interpreted as disloyalty or disobedience. Throughout 1915–1916, Ahmad Djemal Pasha committed a series of war crimes and acts, the Armenian Genocide foremost among these, which cemented his status as one of the cruelest figures of the First World War.

The Hanging at the Jaffa Gate

In the middle of 1916, after the hanging and exiling of deserters and “traitors” across the Middle East, Ahmad Djemal Pasha arrived in Jerusalem to deal with the local deserter problem. He announced that he would sentence to death any deserter who did not surrender by the end of June 1916. His promise to pardon all the fugitives if they returned to their units, did not help. In his rage, Djemal Pasha ordered five runaways caught at random to be hung, as an example. The deserters were chosen on the basis of ethnicity—two Jews, two Christian Arabs and one Muslim Arab.

Djemal Pasha sets out for the battle to conquer the Suez Canal, Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem, 1915. Photo: the Ben Zvi Institute

Within a day, five defectors meeting his requirement were captured and hung in Jerusalem’s main square, which at the time was located by the Jaffa Gate. The five were Ibrahim Andelft and Musa Sous, Christian Arabs; Ahmad Alozu, a Muslim; and Moshe Melal and Yosef Amozig, who were Jews. The convicts were granted a final meeting with a cleric, after which they were hanged. Around their necks hung signs stating their alleged crime, and their bodies were left hanging on the gallows until the evening hours, giving Djemal Pasha’s violent message time to sink in.

The news of the hanging of Jews by the Ottomans spread in the city, and the next day it was also reported in the Ha-Herut Hebrew newspaper, including the last requests of those sentenced to death. Amozig, according to the report, sufficed with drinking a little water before being executed; Melal, on the other hand, asked that the money owed him be collected and paid  to his mother and also demanded that the blindfold that had been placed on him be removed, so that he might walk toward his death with his eyes open. The reporter added that unfortunately the blindfold request was refused as it was contrary to Ottoman law.

The Ha-Herut newspaper reports the hanging in Hebrew and names the deceased, June 30, 1916

The execution of Yosef Amozig was particularly tragic, as he was not a deserter at all. Amozig was born in Morocco and immigrated to Jerusalem with his sister and mother, Hanina. Like his father, Amozig became a tailor and set up a workshop together with a local Muslim in the Old City of Jerusalem. Among his clients were wealthy families such as the Nashashibis, and some say he even made clothes for Djemal Pasha and his entourage. Amozig closed his workshop with the start of the Great War before he was drafted into the army and sent to work as a tailor at a base in Beersheba, the only Ottoman-established city in the Land of Israel.

One day, Amozig’s commander sent him back to Jerusalem to sew some uniforms for him. He had just reopened his workshop and started on the commission when he was spotted by Ottoman army informants who mistook him for a deserter. He was apprehended by the military police and imprisoned. Amozig was beset by difficulties to explain his presence in the city: he was unable to contact his commander in order to clarify his mission, and his military transit permit had disappeared. Amozig’s mother tried desperately to find the permit, but could not. After his arrest, Amozig was placed in “The Kishla”, the local prison near the Tower of David. The permit was not found, and he was forced to meet his end at the gallows.

The Legacy

Esther Harrush, Amozig’s niece, who later married Akiva Azulay, a deputy mayor of Jerusalem, was one of the few who remembered the story, which was known in a few, slightly different versions. Over the years, the Sephardic Jews of Jerusalem retold the story of the hanging of Amozig and Melal until it became a well-known Jerusalem urban legend. One of the details that emerged years after the execution was that the executioner was a Jew named Mordechai Sassoon, who carried out the Ottoman orders with a heavy heart and accompanied the Jewish victims to the last.

Djemal Pasha’s decision to hang five people by religious affiliation was unusual, even compared to the rest of his brutal actions during the war. The randomness of the choice, the expedited sentencing of the victims and the impact on the various communities in the city made the incident a landmark in the history of Jerusalem. Amozig and Melal, martyrs hanged because of their Jewish faith, take their place alongside Naaman Belkind and Yosef Lishansky, members of the Nili organization, who were executed on account of espionage in the same period. To some extent, this story is yet another symbol of Jerusalem’s sacred status to the three monotheistic religions, a place where their believers meet, live and die together.


Further Reading:

Year of the Locust : A Soldier’s Diary and the Erasure of Palestine’s Ottoman Past / Salim Tamari

A Dragon From the Land of Israel?

Stories about dragons usually lead us to dark caves in Europe, but one classic dragon-tale may have its ancient roots right here, in the Land of Israel


Illustration from Musaeum hermeticum reformatum et amplificatum, 1749, the Edelstein Collection, the National Library of Israel

Did you know that at least one dragon can be linked to the ancient Land of Israel? Usually, the mention of dragons evokes scenes of knights in armor and towering castles; in short: European folktales set in European landscapes. The tales generally feature a maiden in distress, a dragon threatening the locals, and a brave knight who comes to the rescue, slays the dragon and saves the maiden as well as the town and its grateful residents. Occasionally, the knight is also rewarded with a great treasure along the way. While there are many such stories in world folklore, one of the most famous in Christian mythology and Western culture is associated with the Land of Israel. Or more precisely, with the city of Lod (Lydda).

There are many versions of the story of Saint George and the Dragon, a classic dragon tale, with some even contradicting each other. It begins with a man named Geórgios (George), born to a Christian family of Greek descent. His father was from the Cappadocia region of modern-day Turkey, and his mother was born in Lod in the Land of Israel, then known as the Roman province of Syria Palaestina. George’s father died when his son was still in his teens, and so the youth and his mother returned to Lod, where he grew up, until he joined the Roman army. Saint George met his end, as did many Christian saints, when he was beheaded by the Romans, who persecuted him for his Christian faith.

Saint George Slaying the Dragon, Raphael, c. 1506

The legend of Saint George and the Dragon first appeared much later, in the 11th century. Various versions of the story situate the battle with the dragon in Libya or Turkey. But we don’t mind believing the version that places the events in Lod, which is traditionally Saint George’s final resting place. According to the tale, a fearsome dragon terrorizing the region demanded gifts and offerings from the locals as appeasement. According to some accounts, the dragon lived in a lake or swamp, and had the power to poison the water sources. Its hunger was insatiable, and every day the villagers provided it with two sheep. When they had exhausted the supply of farm animals, they turned to human offerings. This continued until one day, the beloved local princess was chosen as the dragon’s next victim. Although her father the king offered all his riches and gold, no one agreed to take her place, quite understandably.

Here is where our hero George enters the story, passing by on his white horse by chance, and armed with his trusty lance which he named “Ascalon”, after the city known as Ashkelon in modern-day Israel. The doomed princess tried to persuade him to flee, but George vowed to stay by her side. When the dragon appeared, he stabbed it with the lance, mortally wounding the great beast. George asked the princess for her sash, which he then used to loop around the dragon’s neck. The dragon was tamed as soon as the sash touched its scales. The princess and the gallant knight then proceeded to march it through the city streets.

A dragon biting its tail, from Musaeum hermeticum reformatum et amplificatum, 1749, the Edelstein Collection, the National Library of Israel
Fire-breathing dragon from Elementa Chemiae, by Johannis Conradi Barchusen, the Edelstein Collection, the National Library of Israel

At this point in the story, the various versions cast George’s character in slightly different lights. According to one version he agreed to kill the dragon on condition that the city’s inhabitants convert to Christianity, which they did. Another tells that he killed the dragon, and then distributed the money he received from the king to the poor. The stunned peasants converted to Christianity. In any case, the miraculous story, alongside George’s military career, made him a very popular figure in Christendom as well as a patron saint of soldiers, archers and cavalry, and an ideal exemplar of the myth of the Christian knight.

He is also the patron saint of England (whose flag bears “The Cross of Saint George”), Georgia, Ethiopia, Lithuania, Greece, the Palestinian Authority, the provinces of Catalonia and Aragon in Spain, the cities of Moscow and Istanbul and many other places. The city of Lod has also commemorated his name, naturally. According to tradition, George’s decapitated head was brought to the city, where it is buried in the Church of St. George the Dragon Slayer. Every year on November 16 (according to the Gregorian calendar), a feast is held in the city of Lod to commemorate the transfer and burial of his head there.

Detail from a round World Map, 1543. Dragons roam the coast of Libya. Libya was one of the possible locations of the story of Saint George and the Dragon. From La mer des hystoires, the Eran Laor Cartographic Collection, the National Library of Israel]
A sea dragon swims off the coast of the Land of Israel. Map dated 1536, the Eran Laor Cartographic Collection, the National Library of Israel

And if, on your next visit to Lod, you fail to find any dragons, do not despair! You can find some here at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem. We have included a few different specimens from the Library’s holdings throughout this article: dragons that appear on antique maps, dragons in old scientific texts, in illustrated manuscripts and even a three-headed dragon from a book of alchemical secrets. And this is just a small sampling of the many dragons hiding here among the stacks and shelves. Browse through the National Library catalog to find more!

Illustration of “The Three Heads of the Dragon,” symbolizing three metals which when fused together, according to one alchemical theory, create the Philosopher’s Stone. From “The Crowning of Nature”, a 17th century English manuscript by Johann Conrad Barchusen, the Edelstein Collection at the National Library of Israel

When Ice Cream Was Forbidden in the Land of Israel

Why were the residents of Mandatory Palestine banned from eating ice cream for three whole years?


Yardena Herzberger enjoys some ice cream. Photo by Hanan Herzberger, the Bitmuna Collection, the National Library of Israel

In the spring of 1942, headlines in all the English, Hebrew and Arabic daily newspapers in Mandatory Palestine announced the local banning of all production, sale and distribution of ice cream beginning on May 1. Residents would no longer be able to enjoy an ice cream cone by the beach or a scoop next to a warm piece of chocolate cake in the local café. They would have to make do with the various “inferior” products – fruit popsicles and sorbets. No more chocolate, vanilla and pistachio. From now on there was to be only lemon, grape and pineapple.

The reasons for this harsh decree were related to World War II, then at its height, with the fighting fast approaching the borders of the Land of Israel. German forces under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox,” were rushing across the sands of North Africa, threatening to occupy Egypt, where British forces were stationed. In Mandatory Palestine, preparations were underway for the possibility of a Nazi invasion. In the event of such a disaster, the Jewish community even planned to hold a last stand defense on Mount Carmel.

But what does all of this have to do with a frozen dessert? Hadn’t the Jewish people suffered enough? Why did the Nazi threat prevent people in the Land of Israel from enjoying a bit of ice cream? The answer lies in the global shortage of raw materials. In fact, behind the ban was the British Mandate supply department. The large quantities of milk and sugar needed to make ice cream had more basic and pressing uses—at least in the eyes of the authorities. The ban on ice cream production was to remain in place until the end of the war. Bear in mind, in mid-1942 no one knew how long the war would last.

The Palestine Post, April 22nd, 1942

What about the public? It did not take easily to this ban. Despite the media’s attempts to convince citizens that non-dairy substitutes were just as tasty, not everyone agreed. It is true that other food products were also rationed, their production restricted and supervised during the war years, but the ban on ice cream may have just been the final straw. The restriction even caused a stir among the country’s foreign correspondents and journalists who reported on it to their readers back home. One of the reporters wrote of the disaster: “This is one of the worst adversities that the Holy Land has yet to experience.”

An ad for Nifla [“Wonderful”] ice mix. The Hebrew text describes the product as “ice cream powder”, available in vanilla, lemon, pineapple, mocha, chocolate and strawberry flavors. The Poster Collection at the National Library of Israel

Others understood the need for belt-tightening in such difficult times. The Yiddish writer Zusman Segalowitch published a column in the newspaper Haboker the morning the ban went into effect. He wrote: “As of today it is forbidden to produce and eat ice cream.  This is an order. A law that we must obey, and especially at a time when such a struggle is being waged in the world. This is not a disaster, one can make do temporarily without ice cream . . . I am personally not a big fan even though I do not shy away from a sweet treat now and then. But in theory I think that ice cream is a very necessary thing, a good, sweet and useful thing, it is also an international thing, the only internationale [a play on The Internationale, the left wing anthem, as the ban took effect on May 1, International Worker’s Day], that has sweetness and peace.” Zusman continued with reminiscences about a café he had known in Poland that served fine ice cream, and about how people happily gather around a serving of ice cream. He tried to end his column on a hopeful note:

It is not a disaster that ice cream has been banned for now. It is just temporary. It is only because of the war, and the war is being waged precisely so that people can eat ice cream peacefully. The war will end and then people will once again find for themselves things that are comfortable and useful, and isn’t that the logic of life? People will have to find the true path of life, each person for himself, the way to beauty and the way to even tastier ice cream.

The earth’s bounty is full of goodness, fruits good to eat and beautiful to behold. Apples, pears, cherries, plums, bananas, grapes, almonds, apricots, and oranges. After all, the best and finest ice cream can be made from all these. And chocolate and cocoa, milk and cream—plenty of delicious ingredients for ice cream. And the wise will finally have to acknowledge, that the good things in the world belong to all, and with good will everything can be shared honestly. Everything for everyone!

The miser will wither like a dry stalk atop the pile of gold he has accumulated. But trees will bloom and blossom, the earth will provide food, the sun warmth. And people will once more taste ice cream… all will be good again.

Contemporary caricature: A family on its way to a café must bring its own sugar. Haaretz, July 24th, 1942

The ice cream shortage evoked not only philosophical reflections but also more practical matters. April 30th, 1942, the last day before the ice cream ban went into effect was a very busy one in cafés and ice cream parlors. “Unusual traffic in cafés,” the newspaper Hamashkif reported, referring to the “lickers” who took advantage of the last chance to bid farewell to ice cream.

“Last Day for Eating Ice Cream” the headlines shouted. Haaretz, April 30th, 1942

Naturally, a measure such as this required a period of adjustment. Various merchants attempted to continue producing ice cream with the meager means at their disposal, in addition to the fruit sorbets, whose production continued as usual. Others apparently engaged in unlawfully profiting from the raw materials used to make ice cream, and some were tried for it in court. Added to these complexities was the fact that the British Army and the other armies that fought alongside were still allowed a constant supply of all types of ice cream.

The Palestine Post, May 6th, 1942

It is worth noting that the prohibition justified itself. According to reports, the authorities predicted that already in the first week of the ban, 400 tons of sugar and about 600 tons of milk would be saved. The amount of sugar was approximately equal to the amount supplied to all of Tel Aviv for five full months.

A woman licking an ice cream cone on Allenby Street, 1950. Photo: Boris Carmi, from the Meitar Collection, the National Library of Israel

Eventually, as everyone knows, World War II came to an end with the Allied victory over the Nazis and their accomplices. The final stages of the war saw the lifting of the draconian ban on the production and sale of ice cream in Mandatory Palestine. Contrary to what one might expect, the return of ice cream was not met with spontaneous dancing in the streets. As early as February 1945, newspaper editors made do with brief reports, consisting of 2 or 3 lines of text, to notify their readers that ice cream could again be consumed in the Land of Israel. A few months later, when Nazi Germany was finally defeated, the Kfar Saba municipal council decided on a fitting celebration, distributing 1,000 free ice creams to local schoolchildren. With peace restored, people could enjoy the taste of real ice cream once more.

Nati Gabbay took part in the preparation of this article.