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.

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

When General Allenby Saved Sukkot

In the midst of World War I, two old Jews, Chaim Weizmann and General Edmund Allenby teamed up to ensure that the holiday could be celebrated properly...

General Edmund Allenby may not have personally participated in the Sukkot celebrations of 1918, but many Jews had reason to thank him that year (Composite image: Allenby, ca. 1917 and a ca. 1900 paper cutout depicting observance of the Sukkot holiday / Public domain)

Chaim Weizmann waited patiently for the one train that could take him to Cairo that day.

As the departure time approached, so too, did two seemingly ancient men. Weizmann estimated that their combined age must have been 180.

The Zionist leader had come to the Land of Israel as head of the Zionist Commission – a delegation of prominent figures tasked with gauging and laying down initial foundations for a Jewish state following the British government’s Balfour Declaration the previous autumn.

The Zionist Commission arriving in British-controlled Palestine in 1918. From the “Palestine at the End of First World War” photo album, National Library of Israel archives. Click image to enlarge

The First World War was still raging and the Commission, which a few iterations later would become the Jewish Agency, faced a host of problems. The heterogenous group was ripe for internal division, with members from different countries and ideological persuasions. Its role and authority rather vague, the local British military command was all but unsupportive despite official backing from London. Poverty and disease were rampant and the internal politics of the small local Jewish community needed to be addressed, as did the concerns and opposition of the local Arab population, which the Commission sought to engage in productive dialogue.

The Zionist Commission visiting a school in Nes Ziona, 1918. From the “Palestine at the End of First World War” photo album, National Library of Israel archives. Click image to enlarge

All of these issues and many more were on Chaim Weizmann’s mind one day in September 1918 as the elderly men approached him.

In his autobiography, Trial and Error, Weizmann recalled how besides the men’s age, the thing that immediately struck him was that he did not recognize either of them:

“By this time I was under the impression that I had met every man, woman and child in the Jewish community of fifty thousand, most of them several times.”

They looked closely at Weizmann and his luggage.

“But you are not really going away? You can’t go yet. There are still some matters of importance to be settled here.”

The brilliant scientist and statesman knew very well that there were in fact many matters of importance that remained to be settled – some of them for decades to come.

Yet, while poverty, disease and conflict may indeed have troubled the men, those were not the issues about which they had come to talk to Weizmann.

“Do you not know that the Feast of Tabernacles [Sukkot] is almost upon us, and we have no myrtles?,” they asked, referring to one of the “Four Species” required to properly observe the holiday in accordance with Jewish law. 

An old Jewish man holding myrtle branches, ca. 1920 (Photo: François Scholten). This photo is part of the Israel Archive Network project and has been made accessible thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Yad Ben Zvi Archive, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Heritage and the National Library of Israel

“Though I was familiar enough with the need for myrtles… it had somehow slipped my mind, and it had not occurred to me to include this particular job among the many chores of the Zionist Commission, operating in the midst of a bloody war,” Weizmann recalled in his memoirs.

Not fazed, he responded, “Surely you can get myrtles from Egypt,” to which the old men looked pained:

“…one must have myrtles of the finest quality. These come from Trieste. In a matter of high religious importance, surely General Allenby will be willing to send instructions to Trieste for the shipment of myrtles.” 

Weizmann explained that the world was at war and that Trieste was located in enemy territory. 

“But this is a purely religious matter,” one of the men responded, “a matter of peace. Myrtles are, indeed, the very symbol of peace…”

As the time for his train’s departure neared, Weizmann, ever the visionary pragmatist, tried persuading the two men that they would simply have to do with inferior Egyptian myrtles. Though seemingly oblivious to the geopolitical realities of a world war, the ancient men in fact did know something about importation restrictions and pointed out to Chaim Weizmann that myrtles could not be brought from Egypt because a quarantine was in place and the British authorities forbade importation of plants from Egypt to Palestine.

Somewhat stumped and soon to miss his train, Weizmann promised the men that he would make every possible effort to secure a myrtle supply in time for Sukkot, yet he had no idea how exactly he might do that.

“I travelled down to Egypt genuinely worried over this question of myrtles and the quarantine; and even more worried by the responsibility for some thousands of people living, like these two old gentlemen, in a world of their own so remote from ours that they seemed as unreal to us as the war did to them. By the time I fell asleep in the train I was no longer sure what was, in fact, real, the war or the Feast of Tabernacles.”

The countless other issues at stake and meetings in Cairo all but drove the myrtle promise from Chaim Weizmann’s mind. Yet then, just before his boat sailed and he took leave of General Allenby, the legendary liberator of Jerusalem (not Trieste) exclaimed:

“By the way, about those myrtles!  You know, it is an important business; it’s all in the Bible; I read it up in the Book of Nehemiah last night. Well, you’ll be glad to hear that we have lifted the quarantine, and a consignment of myrtles will get to Palestine in good time for the Feast of Tabernacles!”

This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to connect with people, institutions and communities across Europe and beyond, through storytelling, knowledge sharing and community engagement.

The Story of Israel Told Through Rosh Hashanah Greeting Cards

There was a time when Israeli greeting cards designed to celebrate the Jewish New Year were the most common mail item in the country. These charming postcards expressed the sentiments of their time in every Jewish home in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world

A Rosh Hashanah greeting card from 1958

The custom of sending greeting cards before the Jewish New Year began in Germany in the late Middle Ages and gradually spread to Eastern Europe and the United States. The early twentieth century was the “golden age” of postcards, and among Jews, the Rosh Hashanah greeting card was easily the star of this particular show. With the rise of electronic communications, the custom has naturally faded, and today it is likely that most of the New Year greetings we receive arrive via other mediums: text message, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Tiktok, email, the list goes on. But we wanted to look back for a moment, to those distant days when sending a Rosh Hashanah greeting required more than just a click.

The holiday postcards usually carried Jewish-related motifs, such as traditional and ideological symbols, or illustrations of major Jewish current events. With the formation and rise of the Zionist movement, Rosh Hashanah greeting cards became platforms for conveying ideological and Zionist messages related to prominent public events.

This Jewish New Year greeting shows what the opening of the Second Zionist Congress in the city of Basel looked like in the last week of August 1898. Encouraged by the first Congress that had convened there the year before, hopeful representatives of Jewish communities from all over the world gathered together again to plan the future of Zionism. In the center of the photo we can see Theodor Herzl addressing the crowd.


In the spring of 1901 a meeting between Herzl and the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid stirred hopes in the Jewish world. At the meeting, Herzl asked the Sultan to sell the Land of Israel to the Jewish people, and offered a large sum of money to the Ottoman Empire and an equally large sum to the Sultan himself in exchange for a charter for the land, but the Sultan declined the request. This special greeting card was published on Rosh Hashanah 1901 to mark the historic meeting that had taken place a few months earlier.


The same New Year’s postcard series with the photographs of Herzl and the Sultan also included postcards of other heroes of the Jewish national awakening in Europe at the turn of the 20th century, such as Nordau, Emile Zola and one of Alfred Dreyfus, shown here below.


During the first three decades of the State of Israel, New Year greeting cards were the most common mail item in the country. These cards expressed the spirit of the New Year in every Jewish home in Israel. In the last few weeks of each Hebrew year, the post office would switch into high gear to meet the challenge posed by the countless postcards that flooded the postal system. The diverse images on the postcards expressed the hopes of Israeli citizens at the beginning of the New Year. Together they form a collective picture of Israeli society in its own eyes.


“At Basel, I founded the Jewish State”

(Theodor Herzl, Basel, 1897)


“It is with a sense of honor and awe that I rise to open the Constituent Assembly of the State of Israel, the first Jewish assembly of our day, in Jerusalem, the eternal city.”

(Prof. Chaim Weizmann, President of the Provisional State Council and the first President of the State of Israel at the opening ceremony of the Knesset, then called the “Constituent Assembly,” 1949)

This card from 1949, recalls two important events in the life of the nation: the First Zionist Congress in Basel (note the wrong year written on the card – 1896 instead of 1897) where Herzl laid the cornerstone of the future homeland of the Jewish people and the opening session of the first Knesset.


Shana Tova from 1930s Tel Aviv! A greeting card depicting Dizengoff Square, named for Zina Dizengoff, the first lady of the first Hebrew city.


Years before the Western Wall was in Israeli hands, the Jewish people prayed for “the liberation of our holy places.”


Happy New Year from the “Egged” Public Transportation Company:


1967 was an exciting year. After days of anxious waiting and uncertainty, Israel quickly defeated its neighbors in the Six-Day War. One of the symbols of this victory was the liberation of Jerusalem’s Old City after nineteen years of Jordanian rule and two thousand years of Jewish longing for the city. The postcard shows an armored vehicle entering the Old City through the Lion’s Gate. Blasts of mortar fire can be seen through the gate and outside it. Written on the postcard is the Hebrew text: “Like lions, the warriors of Israel prevailed,” along with “Peace and security”, appearing twice:


“Shana Tova from the banks of the Suez Canal – to the victorious IDF.”


Even the Hora was commemorated in Rosh Hashanah greeting cards. Originating in the Balkans, the Hora was brought to Israel by immigrants from Eastern Europe and has since been identified with the Land of Israel and Zionism. The Hora is a circle dance in 4/4 time which allows equality among the dancers and a sense of togetherness. These features of the dance suited the pioneering spirit that prevailed in the country in the early decades following Israeli independence and was nostalgically commemorated years later, as in this card, which likely dates to the 1970s.  The Hebrew inscription reads “An abundance of blessings for the New Year”.


“Today, through my visit to you, I ask you why don’t we stretch out our hands with faith and sincerity so that together we might destroy this barrier?… Why don’t we stand together with the courage of men and the boldness of heroes who dedicated themselves to a sublime aim? Why don’t we stand together with the same courage and daring to erect a huge edifice of peace? An edifice that builds and does not destroy. An edifice that serves as a beacon for generations to come with the human message for construction, development, and the dignity of man.”

On November 20, 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat delivered these words during his historic visit to the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem. A month later, in December 1977, the historic first El Al flight took off from Ben-Gurion International Airport to Cairo. To mark the occasion, a Rosh Hashanah greeting was issued with an illustration of an El Al airplane decorated with Israeli and Egyptian flags and the words Peace in Hebrew and Arabic.

An El Al plane with the flags of Israel and Egypt to mark the historic flight from Ben-Gurion Airport to Cairo


Postcards from the Heddy Or Israeliana Collection and the National Library of Israel’s Ephemera Collection.