How a Map Torn From a Newspaper Helped Decide a Critical Battle of the Yom Kippur War

The Yom Kippur War of 1973 was utter chaos. Armored corps soldiers who joined the battle in the Valley of Tears on the Golan Heights were not familiar with the terrain and couldn't find a proper map to guide them, so they improvised…

Amnon Kafkafi during the Yom Kippur War

Sarah, 3:22 pm:

Thank you for contacting us. A librarian will be with you shortly.

Sarah, 3:22 pm:

Hello, my name is Sara. Welcome to the National Library’s live chat. How may I help you?

Amnon, 3:23 pm:

Hello Sarah, I was wondering if you might have a copy of the front page of the Haaretz newspaper, dated October 7th, 1973?

(A chat conversation between Amnon Kafkafi and Sara Yahalomi from the National Library’s Reference Department)


With four more months left to serve in the army, Amnon Kafkafi was on leave and staying at his parents’ house in Ramat Hasharon in central Israel. The year was 1973. Around two o’clock in the afternoon, an alarm broke the silence of Yom Kippur.

A few months earlier, Kafkafi had left his position as a tank commander in the 82nd Battalion of the 7th Armored Brigade, and therefore he was not called back to his unit. Nevertheless, he quickly put on his uniform while reassuring his mother that “it will be alright”. His father drove him down to the nearby highway. He then hitchhiked the rest of the way to the battalion’s base, Natan Camp near Be’er Sheva in Israel’s southern Negev region.

The base was nearly empty when he reached it. Amnon wasn’t aware that the unit’s soldiers had already boarded a flight on the eve of Yom Kippur from the local airfield to Mahanaim, in Israel’s north. He did not know that they had been assigned tanks and gear from the nearby emergency warehouses and sent to fight the Syrians on the frontline in the Golan Heights. The battalion adjutant, the lieutenant on base, ordered him and the other soldiers that arrived to stay on base and assist in various tasks.

They were far away from the critical frontline, where their battalion was deployed. Kafkafi called the Armored Corps Headquarters. The commanding officer asked if there were any tanks at Kafkafi’s base. Kafkafi replied that there was a T-54 tank in front of the battalion commander’s office, loot from the Six-Day War. The officer replied, “I’m sending a transporter vehicle for the tank,” forcing Kafkafi to admit he had only been joking, and that the tank’s frame was merely a monument and completely out of use. The officer told Kafkafi they needed tank operators on the frontline but that he could not spare a vehicle to collect Kafkafi and the others.

Kafkafi told the base adjutant that after two days of hard work, he and his friends wanted to go refresh themselves at Montana Ice Cream, within walking distance of the base. The lieutenant said, “No problem, just don’t forget to bring me back some ice cream too.” The soldiers indeed went out for ice cream, Kafkafi called his mother from a pay phone and told her he was on the base near Be’er Sheva and that there was no need to worry. Then, the seven tank operators crossed the road and began a hitchhiking journey up north, to the frontline.


Damaged Syrian tanks near the anti-tank ditch in the Valley of Tears (IDF Archives)

 Amnon, 3:27 pm

On that date, the day after the Yom Kippur War broke out, a map of the battlefield in the Golan was published. This was the only map I had when I fought in the Valley of Tears. Can I get a copy of this map or of the entire front page?

Sarah, 3:29 pm

We can send you the picture, but if you come here, you can get a copy at a much better price.

Amnon, 3:29 pm

I’m not sure if the map was published on October 7th or 8th, how can I find out before I order the page?

Sarah, 3:30 p.m.

I can check that for you.

Amnon, 3:30 p.m.

I’d be extremely grateful…

(A chat conversation between Amnon Kafkafi and Sara Yahalomi from the Library’s Reference Department)


“I was asked by a historian studying the war to put into writing everything that had happened,” says Kafkafi. “What sets my tank’s story apart in the war, is that because of the chaos of the first few days, the soldiers in my tank and I had to operate in an extremely unconventional manner. No one in the army ever thought people would go to war the way we did. Guys who had returned from leave and were no longer a part of the unit just took the initiative. Guys who had completed their service as tank operators a few months earlier, guys who chose to go to the frontline and hitchhiked all the way there. We took an unequipped tank, that could not shoot but could only be used for running the enemy over and just found the rest of the gear later [when they found abandoned IDF tanks on the Golan Heights]. We found everything we needed except for a map, because it is forbidden to leave maps behind.”


“We climbed up the hill and arrived at dawn on Monday, October 8th, at Camp Philon [on the Golan Heights]. The operations office did not know the exact location of our unit, but they said that the 7th Brigade was assigned the northern front and that the 82nd Battalion no longer existed. I figured this ‘news’ must be false, because after all we were dealing with a long day of battle. We all had in mind the commanders’ promise that anyone who hit an enemy tank would win a bottle of champagne.”

Amnon Kafkafi in a tank during the Yom Kippur War

“At Camp Philon we reunited with the four guys who traveled with us from Montana Ice Cream and together we decided we should go eat breakfast. We found the mess hall and asked the NCO in charge to give us food or at least some bread and cheese. He refused and said we were not assigned to his base and therefore were not entitled to food. We left there empty-handed. I found a newspaper from the previous day with small maps of “The Battlefields in the South and North.” I cut out the map of the Golan Heights, its size was approximately 5×9 centimeters, with a drawing of the Sea of ​​Galilee and to the right an arched line marking the border… I buried it in the pocket of my jumpsuit; it served us from that point on.”

(From the Hebrew book Ashnav 3 [“Window 3: My Yom Kippur War – The Story of a Tank Squad”] by Amnon Kafkafi)


Sarah, 3:30 p.m.

You saw the newspaper, and took it with you to war?

Amnon, 3:31 pm

I saw the newspaper and cut out the small map and kept it in my pocket. When I arrived at the emergency storage unit to be assigned a tank, there were no maps left, and so I navigated according to the newspaper clipping…

Sarah, 3:32 pm

Unbelievable …

Amnon, 3:32 pm


Sarah, 3:32 pm

This was before every six-year-old had a navigation tool on their phone.

Amnon, 3:32 pm

I am now writing a memoir and would love to attach that fully schematic map to it.

Amnon, 3:33 pm

In 1973 there were no cellphones…

(A chat conversation between Amnon Kafkafi and Sara Yahalomi from the Library’s Reference Department)

Amnon Kafkafi in the Valley of Tears, at the site where his tank was hit


“I knew I wouldn’t find the map in our digital collection of historical Jewish press and that I would have to search the microfilm collection,” says Yahalomi. “I knew he needed help here. He thought the map was published in the Haaretz newspaper and I searched and found a map on microfilm from October 8th, two days after the war broke out. I was sure it was the map from the war and sent it to him.”


2017-01-01 18:02 GMT + 02: 00 Sara Yahalomi:

Hello Amnon,

We spoke last Wednesday about the Golan Heights map you were searching for in the Haaretz newspaper.

I am happy to inform you that it was found on the second page of the newspaper printed on October 8th, 1973 (I hope this is indeed the right map).

It is attached to this email in two formats – pdf and jpg.

I must admit I was deeply touched by your story and it was an honor for me to find the map that served you in battle.

(I just wanted to clarify, so as not to create false expectations in the future, that this is not a standard service provided by the Library.)


Sarah Yahalomi | Librarian

The Reference Department, Public Services Branch


Hello Sarah,

It is very pleasant to meet (even if only on chat) someone who keeps their word, someone who is willing to go out of their way; someone who is simply moved by a simple story that took place 43 years ago.

Thank you so much for your help.


Did you check the Haaretz newspaper dated October 7th, 1973? I think there was an even less-detailed map published there, that did not specify the location of the Syrian attack. I’m not sure this is indeed the map I had back then. Maybe I was wrong altogether and the map in question was published in Yedioth Ahronoth or Maariv. Anyway, I think it was published on the front page on October 7th.


I have no doubt, Sarah, that what you have done for me is exceptional and not a standard library service, and for that I am truly grateful.

Please send my regards to your tank-operator nephew and wish him well.


Amnon Kafkafi


Yahalomi continued to search for the map in the computerized archive of Yedioth Ahronoth, to which the National Library system is linked; she found a map that fit the description and sent it to Amnon Kafkafi.

The maps published in Yedioth Ahronoth on October 7TH, 1973


2017-01-12 18:15 GMT + 02: 00 Sara Yahalomi:

Hello Amnon,

I’ve attached a photo of a map published in Yedioth Ahronoth on October 7th, 1973.


Sara Yahalomi, librarian

The Reference Department, Public Services Branch


Hello Sara,

You are the best!

This is the map just as I had remembered it. Granted, it is not in Haaretz nor is it on the front page – after so many years, memory can be deceptive. In any case, this is without a doubt the only map I had and with which we navigated our tank the whole time we were in the Golan, until our tank was hit and destroyed in the last holding action in the Valley of Tears.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your efforts.


Amnon Kafkafi.


And Sara Yahalomi adds: “It was an especially moving request. Can you picture the situation? Four guys in a tank with no map! Today, we use Waze for every little thing. They fought with a map they found in a newspaper! It was so surreal and unusual that I decided I wanted to help. Finding the map was exciting as was getting Amnon’s confirmation that it was indeed the map he was looking for.

“I have a nephew who is a tank operator, so the story touched me on a more personal level,” says Yahalomi. “The work of the Reference Department is oftentimes technical, but what’s exciting is that behind the technical searches are people to whom the information we find means a great deal. Amnon contacted us via chat but each of us here responds to about 800 chats every year; yet there was something special about this request.”


Kafkafi and the other tank operators barely knew the terrain of the Golan Heights. They were trained in the deserts of the Sinai Peninsula. Before he joined the army, Kafkafi spent a few years in Washington D.C. where his parents worked at the Israeli embassy.  He was therefore not familiar with the Golan, which had been conquered by Israel only a short while earlier.

“The size of the map I clipped from the newspaper (which you were so wonderful in helping me find) was a few centimeters; it was totally schematic,” says Kafkafi. “It outlined and marked the Sea of Galilee and the border. It was almost worthless, but still it was the only map available. So, I cut it out and put it in my pocket.”

“Aside from the nostalgia – for 43 years I remembered that map we carried around with us – it is an indication of how unready and disorganized we were. Heading out with a tank that wasn’t intact, with ex-tank operators who took the liberty and initiative to go out to war, reached the frontline and took part in the most significant and critical battles of the Yom Kippur War in the Golan Heights. The fighting in the Golan Heights was literally a battle for the borders of the country. The Syrians reached almost as far as the Sea of ​​Galilee.”


“The Battlefields in the North” – The map torn from the newspaper

Kafkafi in an interview with Israel Hayom from September 12th, 2013, on reconnecting with Shmulik Zemel, who was with him in the tank during that same battle: “We had a very brief but intense experience together. We didn’t know each other before the war and spent only two days together, but we were there in the most difficult battles of the war. At the end of the last holding action in the Valley of Tears, our tank was hit. One of our tank-mates was killed and a fourth tank operator was killed shortly after, while on his way to a memorial ceremony in memory of his brother who was killed in action. Zemel and I were injured. At one point, I knew two of my squad mates were killed and I did not know what happened to the third; was he dead or alive? And if he was alive – what had happened to him since? And so it was important to me to find him and recall our experiences.”


The late Shalom Burstein, who served in Amnon Kafkafi’s tank. Burstein was killed in the battle in the Valley of Tears.


An email from Shmuel Zemel to Kafkafi:

“We were a small cog in the machine but as they say on Hanukkah: ‘Each one of us is a small light. But together we are a mighty light.’ 

Indeed, that morning in the Valley of Tears can be seen as a tiebreaker, in which the side that did not break won, because in the end it still had a bit of strength left, and we were (like each of the other fighters) that ‘extra little bit’ needed to prevail!

Send my warm regards to Mickey and take care of yourself.

I wish you good health and may you take great joy in your grandchildren.


Your friend,



“We went out [to war] scared for the fate of the State,” Kafkafi concludes, “and ‘Raful’ [division commander Brigadier General Rafael Eitan, later Chief of Staff] truly said of the fighters on the northern front: ‘You are the ones who saved the State.’ Today they call it ‘engaging in combat’ or ‘initiating contact’ – we were guys who understood the significance of the events and did what had to be done in order to help out. And in the end, we succeeded. And we did it without a real map.”


This article was originally published in Hebrew in 2017.

We thank Amnon Kafkafi for allowing us to publish the correspondence.

If you are looking for of historical information that has special meaning to you, we recommend browsing through the Historical Jewish Press website, JPress. You may very well be able to find it there.

We invite you to contact our Reference services via chat or WhatsApp.

When David Ben-Gurion Met the Chazon Ish

A summary of the ideological debate between Zionism and ultra-Orthodox Judaism can be found in one meeting held in Bnei Brak way back in October of 1952

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion at the entrance to the home of the Chazon Ish in Bnei Brak. Press photographers were not allowed to enter the meeting room.

This morning I went to Bnei Brak for a meeting with the Chazon Ish. The press thought it to be a sensational visit, and I encountered crowds along the way and around his house. A group of his followers waited outside and in the nearby rooms. Yitzhak Navon was the only one who came in with me. I asked him the question to which I have yet to receive a sufficient answer from my observant friends. We are divided in different ways; in the matter at hand we are divided by our views of religious tradition. There are Jews like you and like me, how do we live together? How will we become a unit?

(From the diaries of David Ben-Gurion, October 20th, 1952)

There are some battles that seem to last for an eternity. Such was the meeting between two of the most prominent figures of the Jewish people in their generation. The encounter took place on October 20th, 1952, between Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and one of the leaders and shapers of ultra-Orthodox Judaism in Israel, Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz (commonly known as the Chazon Ish).

On that fateful evening in the rabbi’s humble and austere Bnei Brak apartment, the prime minister, his assistant (and future Israeli president) Yitzhak Navon and the leader of the tiny ultra-Orthodox community in Israel crowded into the living room and sat down for a discussion. The prime minister opened with the ever so pertinent question: “How will we, religious and non-religious Jews, live (together) without exploding from within? We have different views. How do we live together?”

Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, the Abraham Schwadron Collection at the National Library of Israel

It seemed the answer given by the Chazon Ish was prepared ahead of time. He referred to a well-known Talmudic parable about two camels travelling down a narrow path, one carrying a large burden and the other carrying nothing. According to Halacha, Jewish law, the rabbi explained, the unburdened camel was to make way for the one carrying the burden. The Chazon Ish left no room for interpretation and explained the parable himself: We, the ultra-Orthodox community, bear the burden of the Torah and its commandments. Therefore, the non-religious Zionists must defer to us and move out of our way. Ben-Gurion, not exactly the leader to cower in front of anybody, promptly replied: “And what of the absorption of immigrants? What of security? What of establishing the State? Are these not burdens?”

It soon became clear that the two men held completely different views. Though Ben-Gurion acknowledged the grave importance of studying the Bible, he wanted the ultra-Orthodox community to contribute to and become integrated with the state in the making. The Chazon Ish was appalled at what he saw as the desecration of the Sabbath and the Zionist rejection of the yoke of the commandments – the burden of the practicing religious Jew. He believed that recreating the world of the Torah that was destroyed in the Holocaust was the only thing that could save the Jewish people.

At the end of that meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office issued the following press statement:

PM D. Ben-Gurion met privately with Rabbi A. Y. Karelitz (“The Chazon Ish”) in Bnei Brak yesterday. The purpose of the visit was to exchange general views regarding the following issue: How can observant and non-observant (Jews) live together harmoniously in the State of Israel? The question of recruiting women (to the army) was not discussed and the visit had no relation to current political matters.

“Ben-Gurion Meets With the ‘Chazon Ish'” – A report in Maariv on the momentous meeting, published on October 20th, 1952

Contrary to the report, the meeting was much more than a “general exchange of views.” The prime minister made a gesture towards the ultra-Orthodox community by agreeing to continue the exemption of a limited number of Torah scholars from military service. As early as February 1948, before the State of Israel had even been formally established, a limited number of young ultra-Orthodox men were exempted from being drafted into the armed forces, which were already fighting in what would come to be known as Israel’s War of Independence. On January 9th, 1951, the prime minister ordered the Israeli army’s chief of staff to exempt yeshiva students from regular service. Ben-Gurion’s meeting with the Chazon Ish did not set the ground for the current ultra-Orthdox exemption from military service, but it did give the controversial early arrangement a substantial political boost, and equally significant – symbolic support.

When Jews From the Land of Israel Vacationed in Lebanon

There was a time when Lebanon's coastal cities and snowy peaks were leading tourist destinations for the Jewish residents of Mandatory Palestine

From the Ephemera Collection at the National Library of Israel

As a result of the famous Sykes-Picot agreement, a line was drawn in the Middle East, separating Israel, Transjordan and Iraq, which were given to the British, and Syria and Lebanon, which were given to the French. This border wasn’t as inflexible as the modern boundaries we know today. Though tensions certainly existed, these were mainly felt between the various ethnic and religious groups of the region, Arabs and Jews among them. When it came to relations between the respective governments that ruled Mandatory Palestine and Lebanon (and Syria), ties were in fact quite cordial: merchandise was sent from one place to the other, the railways laid down by the Ottomans connected distant lands, and most importantly – people traveled freely across the region.

As a result, just as Jewish merchants moved between Jerusalem, Damascus, Halab, and Beirut during the days of the Ottoman Empire, citizens of Mandatory Palestine – both Jews and Arabs – continued to visit their northern neighbors while living under British rule. The local tourist industry in particular, flourished during this period. Lebanon was considered a fascinating and attractive destination: its southern shores, the vibrant metropolis of Beirut and the beautiful snow-capped mountains – a rare sight in the Middle East. The Hebrew press and bulletin boards were filled with advertisements appealing to the Jewish readers to come and relax in Lebanon.


From the Ephemera Collection at the National Library of Israel

Hundreds of enticing illustrations and advertisements were frequently published in the papers. Ads promoting the country’s many hotels emphasized the cool, almost European weather and the cedar trees viewable from one’s window. These tourist establishments were often given French names to increase their prestige in the eyes of the holiday goers. Just like ads common to this day, they emphasized the short distance from the hub of Beirut, and promised lavish accommodations at affordable prices.


“Gather strength and health in Lebanon – Gaiety and comfort at low cost”, from Do’ar Hayom, June 14th, 1935


An ad promoting the Grand Hotel Casino at Ain Sofar, promising the latest modern appliances – an elevator, central heating, kosher European cuisine, 5 o’ clock tea – all supervised by “Viennese management”, for just 55 francs per day. From Do’ar Hayom, July 29th, 1934

What else attracted potential Hebrew tourists? Ski! In the arid Land of Israel, there weren’t many snowy places to engage in this popular European hobby, but in Lebanon, winter sports flourished, even in springtime. Ski instructors were brought in from Europe, and the promise of enjoying snow so close to home attracted many.

An ad promoting ski trips to Sofar, Lebanon, with two Swiss ski instructors, from Do’ar Hayom, March 5th, 1935


The snowy peak of Jabal Al Barouk in the Chouf Mountains, Lebanon, 1929. From the archives of the Hebrew Reali School of Haifa, the Bitmuna Collection

So let’s say you decided to spend your summer vacation in Lebanon. How would you get there? You could take the train of course, but why settle for that? Tourists were invited to board one of the ships departing from the port of Haifa and stopping at various ports en route to Beirut, and beyond. You could also choose to travel by bus – these departed from the central bus station in Tel Aviv. The Egged Museum still holds travel tickets to these exotic destinations. And for several hundred Palestine pounds (liras), you could even take a taxi from Haifa.

From the Ephemera Collection at the National Library of Israel


On the way to Baalbek, 1929. Photo: Jenka Ratner, the Bitmuna Collection

Of course, you could choose to spend your vacation on an organized trip. The travel company would take care of everything. That way, you could be sure not to miss any significant destination or attraction. Where did these tourists visit? It was unheard of to complete a trip to Lebanon without a tour of the coastal cities, driving up to the Lebanese mountains, and last but not least, visiting the ancient ruins of Baalbek.

An ad promoting a 10-day organized trip to “Lebanon, the Alawite State and Syria”, including stops in Beirut, Tripoli, Aleppo and Damascus. From the Ephemera Collection at the National Library of Israel

Without doubt, Lebanon was considered an attractive, intriguing destination for many. In the 1930s, competition was so fierce, that hotels even enticed Jewish holidaymakers with the promise of kosher food. Hebrew newspapers published advertisements for acquisitions or partnerships in these hotels, and lectures on the geography of Syria and Lebanon were often given by senior lecturers, educators, and geographers of the Hebrew community in Mandatory Palestine.

An ad listing Lebanese hotels offering kosher meals, from Ha’aretz, July 1st, 1935


Apparently, the practice was so widespread, that summer trips to Lebanon were still being promoted during the early days of the 1936–1939 Arab revolt.  However, it seems as though during this period, some of the hotels went bankrupt. A hotel in Metula at the northern tip of the Land of Israel named itself “The Snows of Lebanon” (Sheleg-HaLevanon) and invited the local holiday-goers to its premises, instead of spending money abroad, in such times of hardship.

The Snows of Lebanon Hotel in Metula, the Bitmuna Collection

Adverts about trips to Lebanon were advertised even during World War II, although after the Germans conquered France, enemy soldiers were stationed in Syria and Lebanon. However, after Lebanon gained independence in 1943, travel resumed, although to a lesser extent, due to the escalation of the Jewish-Arab conflict in what was still Mandatory Palestine.

An ad from 1945 advertising an organized week-long trip to Syria and Lebanon. From the Ephemera Collection at the National Library of Israel

Of course, the War of Independence and the establishment of the State of Israel brought an end to this popular practice. And until we can resume skiing down the slopes of the Chouf Mountains, or sunbathing on Beirut’s beaches, we invite those of you who may recall a family trip to Lebanon, to tell us about it here in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter.

The National Day of Mourning… and Fundraising?

In the early 20th century, Zionists rallied around Tisha B’Av

Both Jewish Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed on the same date, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, or “Tisha B’Av“. Besides destroying the national religious and spiritual center – the very home of the divine presence on Earth, according to Jewish tradition – each destruction was accompanied by mass carnage, unspeakable violence and forced expulsion still mourned thousands of years later.

The Destruction of the Temple, as depicted in an early 18th century Dutch prayer book. From Seder Hamisha Taaniot, printed in Amsterdam by Abraham Attias, ca. 1727. Click image to enlarge

The Biblical “Sin of the Spies” over three millennia ago; the disastrous end of the Bar Kokhva Revolt in the year 135 CE; the beginning of the First Crusade and its murderous destruction of Jewish communities across Europe; the Medieval expulsions of Jews from England, France and Spain; and the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994 are just a few of the events that have also occurred on or around Tisha B’Av over the centuries.

To this day, Tisha B’Av is a day for mourning these national tragedies. Traditionally observant Jews mark it by fasting and refraining from worldly pleasures. Somber poetry, written across the generations, is read while community members sit on the floor, morning the destruction of the Temples and the other national calamities associated with the day.

Yet, in the early 20th century, there was a major effort to turn this day of grief and sadness into one of hope, renewal and redemption.  In fact, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) made Tisha B’Av into a major fundraising day, soliciting contributions from around the world to support the renewal of Jewish life in the Land of Israel.

An early 20th century Jewish National Fund postcard showing founder Theodor Herzl, Zionist pioneers and the Old City of Jerusalem. Publisher: “Lebanon” publishing company, Warsaw; From the Postcard Collection, National Library of Israel archives.

According to Dr. Hezi Amiur, curator of the Israel Collection at the National Library of Israel, “Tisha B’Av is considered a national day of mourning and the JNF would often utilize ‘national days’ such as Hannukah and Tu B’Shvat for fundraising purposes. These were called ‘Ribbon Days’, and they presented a major source of income for the young Zionist movement.”

While fundraising is not generally associated with this most somber day, JNF would use it to raise serious funds from thousands of communities across the globe. In fact, from the organization’s founding in 1901 by Theodor Herzl, Tisha B’Av was commemorated by asking Jews across the world for money to help rebuild the common ancestral homeland.

Within just a few decades, the calls for support declared that there was no more free land left to accommodate the burgeoning Zionist enterprise. Contributions were needed to buy more land in Palestine, and to continue building infrastructure to support the courageous halutzim (pioneers).

One call to action published in 1926 under the banner “Remember Jewish National Fund on Tisha B’Av” asked “every true Jew to donate on the Ninth of Av, the day of national mourning, a piece of land in Palestine for the Jewish people.”

All were implored to be generous according to their means, with everyone asked to give at least enough to purchase 1/4 of a dunam (roughly 1/16 of an acre, or 250 square meters) of land. After all, continued the cry, “Fellow Jews! The sacrifice we ask of you is insignificantly small in comparison with the sacrifices of our brave Halutzim who are giving their all for the restoration of the homeland.”

Excerpt from an article urging international contributions to JNF on Tisha B’Av, published in The B’Nai B’Rith Messenger on July 16, 1926. Click for the full article

A mixture of Jewish guilt and Biblical inspiration was employed to encourage donors to open their wallets:

“Consult your own conscience, your Jewish heart, your racial pride and do your duty to your People. Claim no exception, attempt not to evade your own sense of duty, bring your brick towards the great structure, help redeem Erez Israel! From the grief over the Desolation, onward to the joy of Restoration!”

While different years had slightly different styles and themes, often relating to current events, it was generally the same call to action: Brave Jews in the Land of Israel need your support!

In 1924, donors were enticed with commemorative illustrated receipt booklets, a visual reminder of their help rebuilding the Land. Three years later, Tisha B’Av came just a few weeks after a devastating earthquake rattled the Levant. Jews were forbidden from praying at the Western Wall, after the authorities forbade it as a precaution following massive damage caused to many of Jerusalem’s structures. Nonetheless, instead of lamenting this additional point of sadness on the national day of mourning, the JNF encouraged donors around the globe to “shake to the core the indifference… of the many who could aid mightily in the speedy up-building of a Jewish Palestine”, and turn the day into “a splendid beginning… by swelling the coffers of the Jewish National Fund this Tisha B’Ab.”

Jerusalem following the 1927 earthquake. From the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel. Click image to enlarge

In 1939, Biblical verses and powerful imagery were used to gather contributions and rally opposition to the recently published White Paper, which severely limited Jewish immigration to British Mandatory Palestine. Less than a decade later, the State of Israel was born, largely thanks to decades of financial and political support from Jews across the world.

“If I forget you Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning.” This image, published in The Sentinel on July 20, 1939, appeared as part of JNF efforts to raise funds and opposition to the White Paper. Click for the full article

It may seem strange or even inappropriate to use the saddest day on the Jewish calendar – one commemorating destruction, slaughter and expulsion – to fundraise. Yet, in a way, turning mourning into hope and action is a reflection of the resilient Jewish spirit over the centuries, and even more so of the Zionist dream to rebuild and resettle the very land from which the Jewish people were exiled millennia ago.

This article has been published as part of Gesher L’Europa, the National Library of Israel’s initiative to share stories and connect with people, institutions and communities in Europe and beyond.

If you liked this article, try these:

Rare Images: When the Land of Israel Shook in 1927

The Beautiful Postcards Theodor Herzl Sent to His Daughter

The Epidemic That Brought Jews Back to Jerusalem