As Israel turned 75 years old, the National Library of Israel wanted to celebrate with a new and exciting project. Thus, Curate & Create was born, a poster competition for children from all over the world, complete with educational resources and primary sources. With over 600 participants, read about how this NLI project came to be so successful!
In 1984 a competition was inaugurated in Israel for children worldwide to design a postage stamp for the upcoming Jewish New Year. At the same time, a little girl named Shuvi Hoffman was living in New York, and was excitedly looking forward to her sixth birthday. For her birthday party, Shuvi decided to invite her friends to join her and design a stamp to submit for the competition. The children congregated around the posterboard and spent the afternoon making a stamp which represented their connection to Israel, not knowing that this art activity would leave a lasting impression on the little girl.
Nearly 40 years later, Shuvi, now an adult, sat around the meeting table with her colleagues at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, brows furrowed together as they brainstormed ideas. This year, the National Library had a big task: Israel was turning 75 years old the NLI wanted to celebrate Israel’s significant birthday with a new and exciting project.
After throwing around many ideas, Shuvi thought back to her sixth birthday party and how excited she had been to take part in an art competition which connected her to Israel, and a metaphorical light bulb flicked on over her head: Before long she was suggesting that the NLI host its very own competition. The idea would be to challenge kids all over the world to make a poster, much like the ones in our own archives, and send them in from around the globe for judgment, and the chance to win a trip to Israel. The team knew a great idea when they heard one and got to work almost immediately.
It was early in the summer of 2022 at this point, so they had almost a year to pull off the competition. The idea was complex but manageable: they would collate 75 archives from the National Library collections – mainly posters but a few photographs and adverts too – and upload them to a specially-made website. Next, they would formulate 6 unique lesson plans which educators could utilize to teach their students about Israel. Finally, a special portal was to be set up for students to submit their posters to the NLI, and within a few months the project would be ready to go live!
And soon enough the entrees started pouring in. As the competition went on, the whole National Library watched on with awe as a whopping 153 submissions came in. They had managed to reach 12 countries with a total of 5 languages, 28 schools and a massive 644 participants! Far and wide, the competition had taken root in the hearts of students and educators from Columbia and Estonia, Argentina and Canada, and so many other far-flung places.
As the posters were uploaded, an interesting trend could be seen: the posters were not just works of art but also commentaries on the society that they had come from, and how that specific student viewed Israel.
These elements considered, the winning posters were eventually chosen for their beautiful meaning, the tremendous efforts put in by the children, and their aesthetic and artistic quality. The winners, spanning four countries, each chose to focus on a unique part of Israel’s identity. From a love for Jerusalem, to Israel’s famous landmarks, the diverse and vast range of people who live in this special country, to the symbols and elements that make Israel spiritually elevated, these winning posters show how varied each student’s connections to Israel really are. It’s truly remarkable to see how different students relate to the State with different lenses – something which is worth diving deeper into.
Something that can be immediately noted is whether students related to Israel on a cultural, political or spiritual level.
Romanian 11th grader, and budding artist Rață Ionuț, drew an impressive poster of Einstein and David Ben-Gurion alongside other political leaders of Israel, explaining how Israel “champions democracy and freedom of expression. By showcasing these figures conversing with reporters, the poster suggests that Israel values open dialogue and transparency and strives to uphold these principles in its governance and society.” Alternatively, 6th grader Abraham Murciano Cohen-Henriquez from Panama who made a poster about Israeli dates, or Maya, a German 5th grader’s poster about Bissli, an Israeli snack, “convey the message that [Israeli food] turns you into a superhero.” Finally, Margie Pol, a 6th grader from Panama, showed that she relates to Israel via Judaism, as expressed with her poster of the Jewish holiday of Passover: “I chose Pesach for my poster to show why this Holiday is important for Israel.”
Whether it is the awesome food, the divine spirituality, the political discourse, or something else entirely, everyone has something that they can love about Israel or at the very least use to connect to Israel on some level. These students have proven this theory with their posters – some youngsters connect to the cultural elements of Israel, some the religious aspects, some the culinary, and some connect to elements not even shown here! But no matter what stands out for you, Israel is at the epicenter of it. In the original 75 primary sources, all of these elements are depicted via the various posters and images. Some educators taught their students from a more religious standpoint as is evident in their student’s posters, while one teacher had her entire class dedicate their posters to Israeli food! But ultimately all of these aspects were similarly used as vehicles to open discussion, teaching, and closeness to Israel.
The whole point of the poster competition was to meet educators where they were at and help them open the discourse on Israel. To encourage them to build connections between their students and our amazing country. To help them understand that Israel is a global project – one that we can all relate to, care about, have opinions about, and love. It is so evident that this goal has been achieved: just look at the gallery of posters and see how over 600 young people across the globe have found unique and beautiful ways to give meaning to this country which may even be thousands of miles away from them. Now that, is truly something remarkable.