Pritzker Family National Photography Collection Established at National Library of Israel

A gift from the John Pritzker Family Fund will support the digitization and expansion of a world-leading century-old collection of photographs

Photo by Felix Bonfils: The Western Wall circa 1880, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel

The National Library of Israel (NLI) has announced that a generous gift from the John Pritzker Family Fund will establish the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel. The Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, curated over more than a century, is the world’s leading collection of its kind, providing a visual record of Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine and Israeli society and culture from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. The collection includes more than two million items, among them photo albums, individual photos, postcards, personal collections and archives of private photographers and photographic agencies.

Photo by Dan Hadani: Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin following the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, 1979, the Dan Hadani Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection
Photo by Dan Hadani: Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin following the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, 1979. The Dan Hadani Collection, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel

The strength, focus and pride of the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection lie in the exceptional collection of images from the formative years of photography in the mid-nineteenth century through the First World War. The collection of photographs from the British Mandate period, when photography became widespread, provides a visual record of the rapid development that occurred during the 1920s-1940s. More than one million photos in the collection’s Dan Hadani Archive and other collections document Israeli life and momentous events from the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 until today.

Hundreds of thousands of photographs have already been scanned, catalogued, digitally restored and uploaded to the National Library’s website, affording free public access. In addition, NLI experts continue to research, document and acquire photographic collections of professional photographers, families, organizations and national institutions in Israel and relating to its people and history.

Photo by Photo Ross, Israeli Bookmobile, 1963, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel
Photo by Photo Ross: Israeli Bookmobile, 1963, the Pritzker Family National Photography Collection at the National Library of Israel

The generous gift from the John Pritzker Family Fund will support continued digitization of the holdings, future exhibition of its treasures, and expansion and enrichment of the collection for years to come. The gift will also establish a state-of-the-art climate controlled repository to house the collection’s more than two million items in the new National Library of Israel building, now under construction adjacent to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in Jerusalem.

John Pritzker is the Founder and Managing Partner of Geolo Capital, a private equity firm based in San Francisco. Mr. Pritzker has served as Chairman and CEO of several businesses in the hospitality industry. He was also a founding member of Ticketmaster, Inc. (the world’s largest seller of live-entertainment tickets) and formed Mandara Spa (the largest operator of upscale spas for the hospitality and cruise industry). In 1972, John Pritzker joined his father, Jay, founder of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, at the company, and worked his way up to Managing Director and Divisional Vice President of Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. Mr. Pritzker is Chairman of the John Pritzker Family Fund and a past president of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation. He serves on the boards of The Bernard Osher Foundation, which funds higher education and the arts; the Executive Council of University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Health; Tipping Point Community, which fights poverty in the Bay Area; and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. He lives in San Francisco and has three sons.


Hi-resolution photos for download here. All photos are from The Pritzker Family National Photography Collection, The National Library of Israel. Additional credit as indicated in file name.

David Blumberg, Chairman of the Board, National Library of Israel:

“We are grateful to the John Pritzker Family Fund for their exceptional generosity and thrilled that this gift will enable us to further enrich and open digital access to the world’s greatest collection of Israeli photographs.”

John Pritzker, Chairman of the Board, The John Pritzker Family Fund:

“We are excited to support the photography collection at the National Library of Israel. Photography plays a unique role in capturing and conveying human stories, and thereby in deepening understanding and compassion. Our hope is that this gift enables the Library to demonstrate the richness and complexity of Israeli history to an even wider audience.”


English media inquiries

Zack Rothbart, National Library of Israel

Captives in Lebanon: The Story of the “Marine Carp”

How Israel’s declaration of independence shaped the fate of 69 Jews on an American passenger ship


In May 1948, a new regional order took hold in the Middle East. In a single moment, metaphorical walls were erected and routes were cut off. Jerusalem was still under siege and the road to the Negev desert was blocked. International routes that were once used freely by the inhabitants of Mandatory Palestine were now shut down as a result of the war that had broken out. Damascus and Cairo were no longer accessible. In the midst of this new order, just one day after the establishment of the State of Israel, a maritime drama began which would last for a month and a half. This is the story of the American ship, Marine Carp.

This article was written in collaboration with the Toldot Yisrael Collection, dedicated to documenting the testimonies of the State of Israel’s founding generation. This collection is now deposited in the National Library.

The USNS Marine Carp was originally built for the purpose of transporting military forces to Europe and back. Following the conclusion of World War II, the vessel was repurposed as a  passenger ship and set on a regular, commercial route. She embarked out of New York, crossed the Atlantic, and docked in Athens, Beirut, Haifa, and Alexandria. At the end of the route, she returned to New York via Italy. During the post-war period, the Marine Carp transported many American Jews to the Land of Israel in order to volunteer on kibbutzim, attend youth gatherings, or simply immigrate to the Land of Israel legally (if they were able to make it past the various obstacles successfully). The ship set out from New York every five weeks. On May 4th, 1948, Marine Carp embarked on its regular route. There were many Jewish travelers aboard, including Jews from the Land of Israel studying or living in the United States who were answering a general enlistment call put out by the Hebrew Yishuv which was already fighting for its life in the War of Independence.

A picture of some of the Marine Carp passengers before embarking on a fateful voyage. From The Jewish Daily Forward Yiddish newspaper. May 22, 1948.
A picture of some of the Marine Carp passengers before embarking on their fateful voyage. From The Jewish Daily Forward Yiddish newspaper. May 22nd, 1948

One of the passengers on the Marine Carp was David Sidorsky, who would later become a professor of philosophy at Columbia University. While a young student in New York, he was in attendance at the UN building during the vote on the partition plan. Following its acceptance, and the ensuing threats of war by the Arab states, the idea of volunteering for combat was planted deeply in his mind. After a brief meeting with Teddy Kollek, then a representative of the Haganah, he received permission to join the division of overseas volunteers and boarded the ship.

But the plans of the volunteers would be halted in their tracks.

David Sidorsky testifies:

When the ship reached Beirut, a stop on its regular route, 400 Lebanese soldiers were waiting for the passengers at port. The Lebanese authorities did not want to allow Jewish men of military age to continue on to Israel. Indeed, 69 passengers, all Jewish men between the ages of 18 and 50, were forcibly removed from the ship. Among the detainees were 41 American citizens, 23 fresh Israeli citizens, 3 Canadians, and 2 others. Some of the Israeli citizens aboard had, in fact, been training in the United States to operate radar systems for the newly formed IDF.

Another passenger on the ship was Muriel Eisenberg, later Muriel Arens when she married future Israeli Defense Minister, Moshe Arens. According to her testimony, the Lebanese forces searched the ship, in which weapons were hidden, and threatened the radio operator not to send any kind of distress signal.

Muriel Arens testifies:

Courtesy of Eliza Arens, Muriel’s daughter, we received pictures taken by Muriel on the deck of the ship, as well as images of the docking at the port of Beirut.

On the ship’s deck. Courtesy of the Arens family


At the port of Beirut. Courtesy of the Arens family

The ship’s crew tried to resist, but their efforts were in vain. Daniel Doron, another passenger (and a great-grandson of Zerah Barnett, co-founder of the city of Petah Tikva). testified:


“Most of the ship’s crew were black. We made friends with them. We would sing with them, drink with them and eat with them. They refused to leave Beirut. They said, ‘We are not leaving, not moving the ship. We are not leaving Beirut without the Israelis.’ It was only when the ambassador convinced them that the incident would be resolved within a week that they agreed to continue on their way.”

The detainees were taken by truck to the city of Baalbek, where they were held in an abandoned French military camp. Daniel Doron reflected on the drive to the camp:

“We drove all night. We departed at 10 o’clock or 12 o’clock at night. That was the most dangerous part because the trucks – Lebanese military trucks – were in bad shape. The brakes did not work very well. They bounced up and down, you know…”


Some of the passengers complained about how the U.S. was handling their detention, and even accused the U.S. consulate in Beirut of anti-Semitism. The United States condemned the refusal of the Lebanese to release the detainees, causing a minor diplomatic incident between the two countries.

While the detainees were transported to Baalbek, the ship continued on to Haifa. Among the passengers on board were the families of the detainees – women and children who were allowed to continue on their journey. It was at this point that a separate drama began to unfold on the ship. Israeli authorities demanded the removal of 25 Lebanese civilians from the ship, hoping to leverage a prisoner exchange. These attempts were apparently unsuccessful, and did not contribute to the efforts to release the detainees in Lebanon. Telegrams sent to the Marine Carp captain on that day are stored in the Israel State Archives.

Letter to the captain of the Marine Carp, asking him to condone the arrest of 25 Lebanese on board. Courtesy of the Israel State Archives


List of the 25 Lebanese passengers aboard the Marine Carp, whom the Israeli authorities requested to detain in response to Lebanese actions. Courtesy of the Israel State Archives

Once the incident in Beirut became public knowledge, it aroused great interest in the new State of Israel. The local press covered the events extensively throughout the episode.

So, what was the catalyst that eventually led to the liberation of the captive Jews? What finally contributed to stepping up U.S. efforts to end the affair? The official answer has never been revealed.

According to testimony from Daniel Doron, a family member was able to speak to then-US President Harry Truman about the issue. Truman was, apparently, able to find a solution to the crisis over the course of the two weeks that followed the meeting.

“Truman said, ‘What?!’ Then he told him the story. Truman fumed and went to the red phone. He picked it up, and the head of covert services was on the other end. He said, ‘Listen, my friend, either you free these people within two weeks or you can look for another job.’”

The American detainees refused to accept the release that had been arranged for them without their Israeli counterparts. Lebanese attempts to separate the populations had failed. Finally, on June 30th, almost a month and a half after the incident, the Lebanese agreed to release all of the detainees. They were sent back to New York, but many of them were unable to obtain a visa and were forced to stay on Ellis Island. From there, they again departed with the Marine Carp. Some of the passengers, anxious to return to Israel, had not waited to arrive on American shores. They chose to hop off the ship at other ports and found creative ways to get back to Israel. One of the liberated detainees who fled the ship in Italy was Shabtai Teveth, who later became the biographer of David Ben-Gurion. Another well-known passenger was Oded Burla who, over the years, became one of Israel’s most well-known and beloved children’s poets.

The National Library’s Toldot Yisrael Collection contains interviews with four passengers who were on the Marine Carp. Do you know other people who were aboard the ship during that fateful voyage? If so, please let us know.


A Late Expressionist-Literary Critic-Literary Scholar

The Estate of Rudolf Kayser

Rudolf Kayser, who died on February 5, 1964, is not necessarily known today, even among experts on literary history. This is despite the fact that Kayser was one of the most influential figures in literary circles in the Weimar Republic prior to his emigration in 1933. He was the chief editor of the literary journal Die Neue Rundschau, in publication to this day by S. Fischer Publishers in Germany. In addition to his role as an editor, Kayser authored literary compisitionsworks, including treatises on the history of literature and philosophy.

Rudolf Kayser was born on November 28, 1889 in Parchim, a small city northwest of Berlin. He passed his matriculation exams successfully in 1910. During the four years that followed, he studied German literature, literary history, philosophy and art history in Berlin, Munich and Würzburg, where he completed his studies in 1914 with a doctorate in philosophy.

Kayser married Ilse Einstein, one of the step-daughters of Albert Einstein. The marriage brought Kayser close to Einstein himself, a relationship that was intensive and far exceeded the closeness within the family. The relationship between the two also continued after Ilse’s death in France in 1934, after ten years of marriage. Kayser wrote a biography of Einstein, which was published under the pseudonym Anton Reiser, and only in an English edition.

Already as a student, Kayser composed literary texts. One of the important works of the young author was the novel Moses Tod (“The Death of Moses”), published in 1921 in the expressionist book series, “The Last Day” (Der jüngste Tag) under the auspices of the well know publisher Kurt Wolff. Kayser’s works as an editor are considered more significant – for example, the anthology of expressionist poetry, “The Tiding” (Verkündigung) (1921). His books on the history of philosophy, such as his biography of Barukh Spinoza, as well as his contributions as a literary critic – including in the journal Die Neue Rundschau – received much attention.


פרו של קייזר, מות משה, שיצא לאור ב-1921 ככרך האחרון בסדרה האקספרסיוניסטית "היום האחרון" אצל המו"ל קורט וולף
Kayser’s book, Moses Tod, published in 1921 as the last volume in the expressionist series Der jüngste Tag published by Kurt Wolff

In his role as chief editor of the journal, Kayser occupied a key position in the world of German literature, which is manifested in his intensive correspondence with authors of his day. His estate includes many letters from Gerhart Hauptmann, Herman Hesse, Oskar Loerke Heinrich and Thomas Mann, and Stefan Zweig. In many cases the relationship with these authors continued after Kayser left the editorial board of the journal in 1932.

As the brother-in-law of Albert Einstein, who was hated by the Nazis, as a Jew and as a liberal literary critic, Kayser had not choice but to emigrate from Germany after the Nazi rise to power in 1933. Initially, his path took him to Holland, but following the death of his first wife Ilse, Kayser resumed his flight, arriving in the Untied States. There, he was married for the second time, and was employed as a lecturer in literature in various colleges, ultimately securing a professorship at Brandeis Universeity. In the early 1960s, Kayser visited Israel and wrote about his visit. The text was distributed among his acquaintances and friends. In February 1964, Kayser died of a heart ailment in his apartment in New York.

Already within a year of Rudolf Kayser’s death, , Kurt David Wahrman, then Director of the National and University Library, contacted Kayser’s widow and arranged the transfer of the estate to the library in Jerusalem. The material reached the library only after the decease of Eva Kayser in 2000. Of late, all of the material has been arranged and catalogued, and is now available to scholars.


Rudolf Kayser in the 1920s
Rudolf Kayser with his first wife, Ilse Einstein, c. 1921
ספרו של קייזר, מות משה, שיצא לאור ב-1921 ככרך האחרון בסדרה האקספרסיוניסטית "היום האחרון" אצל המו"ל קורט וולף
Kayser’s book, Moses Tod, published in 1921 as the last volume in the expressionist series Der jüngste Tag published by Kurt Wolff
האנתולוגיה "הבשורה" של שירה אקספרסיוניסטית שנערכה על ידי קייזר, 1921
Kayser’s personal dedication in his book about the philosopher Immanuel Kant to Eva, who wold later become his first wife, 1936
הביוגרפיה של ברוך שפינוזה מאת רודולף קייזר, 1932
Frontispiece of Kayser’s book about Immanuel Kant, 1935
זכרונות על אשתו הראשונה אילזה (אינשטיין), 1936
Biography of Baruch Spinoza by Rudolf Kayser, 1932
עמוד השער של ספרו של קייזר על עמנואל קנט, 1935
Biography of Baruch Spinoza by Rudolf Kayser, 1932
הקדשה אישית של קייזר בספרו על הפילוסוף עמנואל קנט לאווה, לימים אשתו השנייה, 1936
Memories of his first wife, Ilse (Einstein), 1936


Four Israeli Premieres, Some VR and a Little Iraq N’Roll at the Library

Fifth Docu.Text film fest kicks off August 18-22 at the National Library of Israel

A screening at the Docu.Text festival. Photo: Yoni Kelberman

By Zack Rothbart

Four acclaimed documentary films will have their Israeli big-screen premieres at the fifth annual Docu.Text Documentary Film Festival at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, August 18-22, 2019. Two of the premiered films will be virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR) experiences offered to festival goers for the first time. Docu.Text will feature dozens of indoor and outdoor screenings, special tours, conversations with filmmakers and experts, as well as a concert on the National Library Plaza featuring Israeli rocker Dudu Tassa exploring his grandfather’s Iraqi musical roots.

An immersive portrait of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the ground-breaking intellectual, policy specialist, ambassador and long-serving New York senator

The four premieres are: “Moynihan“, an immersive portrait of intellectual, diplomat and legendary New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan; “Zikr: A Sufi Revival“, which takes participants on an interactive VR journey into the world of ecstatic ritual, dance and music in Tunisia; “East of the Rockies“, an AR experience about the forced displacement of Japanese-Canadians during World War II; and “Paul Auster – What If“, offering 70 years of American history through the renowned author’s eyes.

“Paul Auster – What if?”: A look at 70 years of American history through the eyes of one if its great authors

Besides film screenings and the VR/AR area, the festival program includes a number of special events. Following the screening of “Moynihan”, the film’s director Toby Perl Freilich will talk with Mike Herzog, retired IDF brigadier general and current Milton Fine International Fellow of The Washington Institute, whose father Chaim worked closely with Moynihan when the two were ambassadors to the UN at the time of the infamous “Zionism is Racism” decision in 1975.

The American creators of the VR experience “Zikr: A Sufi Revival” will also be at the festival, where they will talk about experiential storytelling.

“Zikr – A Sufi Revival”: An interactive virtual reality journey into the world of ecstatic ritual, dance and music in Tunisia

The “Truth be Told” one-day seminar  will focus on the issues of cultural responsibility and creative copyright, examining the place of the Library, which is charged with preservation of knowledge in an era where it seems that truth is more relative than ever. The seminar will be held in cooperation with the Forum of Documentary Filmmakers.

Docu.Text 5 will close with “Iraq N’ Roll”, the story of popular Israeli rocker Dudu Tassa’s personal journey to reconnect with the musical legacy of his grandfather, Daud al-Kuwaity, who along with his brother Saleh was one of the most celebrated musicians in the Arab world of the 1930s and all but forgotten in 1950s Israel.  The film will be followed by a concert by Dudu Tassa and the Kuwaitis, who recently toured with Radiohead, as they celebrate this journey in music live on stage.

Israeli rocker Dudu Tassa explores his Iraqi roots through music

Docu.Text is a collaboration with Docaviv, and is made possible with support from Carole and Saul Zabar, Bader Philanthropies and an anonymous donor.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit:

International Members of the National Library of Israel get a discount to the festival and other benefits throughout the year.

The Times of Israel is the proud media partner for Docu.Text 5.