Who Are These Unknown Soldiers?

Nathan Fendrich, a Jewish-American photojournalist, happened to be in Israel when the Yom Kippur War broke out. He grabbed his camera and headed for the front. But who are the soldiers who appear in his photographs? Can you help identify them?

Shortly before Yom Kippur this year the National Library of Israel received a personal collection of photographs belonging to Nathan Fendrich, an 84 year old Jewish resident of Eugene, Oregon. This rich and important collection includes hundreds of touching photos taken by Fendrich 45 years ago, when he coincidentally found himself in the midst of a war

At the age of 39, Nathan Fendrich arrived in Israel in 1973 to photograph an archaeological dig at Tel Qasile, but after only a week in the country the Yom Kippur War suddenly broke out. Armed with his camera and press card, Fendrich began documenting the fighting within 24 hours, on both the northern and southern fronts – in the Golan Heights and in the Sinai desert.

His photos captured the difficult battles, the crossing of the Suez Canal, the air strikes and the ground skirmishes, and the collection even includes some pictures of prisoners of war and casualties. But the most striking elements in the photographs are the soldiers themselves – young and old, active duty and reservists – all allowed themselves to be photographed, during fierce battles as well as in periods of rest, in meetings with the high command and in moments of casual comradery.

These photographs join hundreds of important archives and collections preserved at the National Library, including millions of pictures which document the history and society of the State of Israel and the land of Israel going back over one hundred years.

Nathan Fendrich, like many other artists – writers, academics, poets, composers and photographers – donated his collection on his own initiative, without requesting payment, knowing the photographs would reach millions of viewers in Israel and around the world on the National Library’s website.

“The intense experience of the Yom Kippur War, which I had the privilege of documenting with my camera, influenced the course of my entire life to this very day” says Fendrich from his home in Oregon. “All these years I’ve spoken about the war to various audiences in the United States, but I always hoped that the pictures in which I captured IDF soldiers during battle, and that were sitting in my house here on the west coast, would be preserved in an Israeli institution that could ensure they received public exposure in Israel and around the world using 21st century technologies. The National Library is the most professional and suitable institution for this purpose, and I was therefore very happy to be given the chance to transfer my collection to the library and thus return it to its natural home in Israel, where it will be preserved for generations.”

Nathan Fendrich (right) receives medical treatment during the war

The National Library has begun to upload and allow access to this moving collection on its website, and we now turn to you – the soldiers and relatives of soldiers who appear in these photographs – to help us identify those who are pictured and to tell us about the battles, fronts, events and situations that are captured in these fragments of history.

We have put up an initial handful of these photographs here. Can you spot yourselves in the pictures? Can you identify one of your friends in these photos and offer us some information? Any clue you may have can help! Please write the information in the comment section below this article, or you can also contact our Archives department at [email protected]. Please remember to mention which number photograph you are referring to. You can enlarge any photograph and examine it in greater detail by clicking on it.

If you think you know someone who can help us with relevant information feel free to share this article with them.


The photographs:



Photograph number 1
Photograph number 2
Photograph number 3
Photograph number 4
Photograph number 5
Photograph number 6
Photograph number 7
Photograph number 8
Photograph number 9
Photograph number 10
Photograph number 11
Photograph number 12
Photograph number 13
Photograph number 14
Photograph number 15
Photograph number 16
Photograph number 17
Photograph number 18
Photograph number 19


Banned by the British: Caricatures of the 1929 Palestine Riots

Meet the artist who risked time in prison by drawing the massacre of the Jews in the Land of Israel in 1929.

A human skull, bearing a threatening grimace, crudely drawn, in an almost childish fashion. Next to it rests a bloody knife. Spurts of blood that have fallen from the blade form puddles and stains on a black background, bringing to mind prehistoric cave drawings. It is unclear if this grotesque scene which we have been forced to witness has come to its end or if it is still unfolding before our eyes. “The blood is still fresh…” the viewer likely concludes, like a line from an old cop show.

Click on the image to enlarge

Nachum Gutman’s roaming artist’s hand was not known for its subtlety. Reality was the raw material which this Hebrew painter, known for his depictions of villages, kibbutzim and cities, sought to mold into visual art. With the release of his first book, In the Land of Lobengulu King of Zulu, in 1939, it began to inspire his writing as well.

Sometimes Gutman chose to represent reality directly, with the painting serving as a clear reflection of that which it was intended to portray. Other times, when the events were too chaotic to capture in a single painting, or too brutal to depict directly, Gutman would turn to satire, exaggerating those things which the heart and mind refused to absorb. This was the case with The Palestine Disturbances – News and Telegrams in Illustrations produced and published by Gutman in 1929 along with Nachum Eitan and Saadia Shoshani. The booklet served as a record of the murderous riots which became known in the Jewish Yishuv as the 1929 Massacres.

He was warned not to do it, that the British overlords would not be fond of the idea and that they would like the final product even less. He was told the drawings would speak for themselves if he would only agree to remove their English captions. His friends warned him that the long arm of the censor would reach him as well.

Gutman actually had some previous experience in preserving the dignity of authority figures. When he was only fifteen he painted a large portrait of Djemal Pasha at the urging of Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor Tel Aviv, to honor the visit of the Ottoman ruler of Greater Syria (a region which at the time included the Land of Israel).

When the riots began more than a decade later Gutman was already married and in his early thirties. Four years earlier he had returned from a period in Europe to settle in Tel Aviv with his wife Dora Yafeh.

Dorah and Nachum Gutman. Photograph from the book “The Hunter of Colors”, by Leah Naor, Yad Ben Zvi Publishing

The five years he had spent abroad (mainly in Vienna, Berlin and Paris) left their mark. The once shy youth, who had previously been popular mainly among associates of his father, the writer S. Ben-Zion, had now matured and developed his abilities and talents, becoming a well-known artist in his own right.

The first of the hostilities began in mid-August 1929, with an assault by an Arab mob on the Western Wall plaza following incitement by the Supreme Muslim Council. Jewish worshippers were expelled from the site and their Torah scrolls were set on fire. In the days that followed the floodgates of hatred and violence were opened. By the end of the week of riots, 67 Jews lay dead in Hebron and dozens of others had been killed in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Safed, Hulda and Be’er Tuvia.

The prevailing feeling among members of the young and vulnerable Jewish Yishuv was that the British government, which the Jews had been told to respect and protect, had not responded in kind. The Jews felt that that the British, for all their strength and might, had barely raised a finger to stop the riots – even after Jewish blood had begun to flow in the streets.

Without being asked to do so, Nachum Gutman began to formulate a response befitting his strong feelings about the events. In simple black ink he drew the riots – those that he saw and those that he read about, in rage and desperation, in the British Mandate press.

Click on the image to enlarge

He drew the acts of wild incitement that took place without interference.

Click on the image to enlarge

He drew the murders that were committed, with no justice for the perpetrators (the British judges were usually portrayed as turning a blind eye and in a few cases even expressing support for the crimes).

Click on the image to enlarge


Click on the image to enlarge

He drew the Arab police reporting to their British officers: “All quiet, Sir!”

Click on the image to enlarge

He drew the hypocrisy contained in official British statements, among them a leaflet with a proclamation issued in Hebrew, English and Arabic by the High Commissioner John Chancellor that was dropped from Royal Air Force planes.

Click on the image to enlarge
Click on the image to enlarge

When Gutman had finished the eighteen drawings that made up the booklet, he showed them to his wife Dora who looked at them doubtfully.

“You will never find a publisher who will agree to print these drawings. They’ll offend the Brits!” she told him.

Gutman knew this. “No Hebrew newspaper will dare to print a caricature offending the British authorities. They’ll shut down the paper immediately!”

Gutman knew that as well. He explained to his wife that ordinarily, he would prefer to paint beautiful, serene pictures of the Land of Israel, but not now. “Look what they’ve forced me to draw!” he told her.

Gutman gathered up the drawings and took them to Herzl Street in Tel Aviv. He laid them out on the sidewalk and waited. A crowd of emotional, stunned onlookers soon formed around them. The first to offer a response was the writer Avigdor Hameiri. He was hypnotized by a drawing depicting the looting of the city of Safed. All he was able to say was: “And in the paper they wrote: The Jews of Safed are in security in Government house. The city is quiet”.

Gutman quickly wrote the sentence down just below the drawing.

Click on the image to enlarge

Before long, Avraham Shlonsky and Uri Zvi Greenberg, both of them well-known poets in the Jewish Yishuv, also appeared on Herzl Street. Together with Gutman, they wrote provocative captions for each of the drawings, most of them based on real news items taken, almost without editing, from the press.

Only one drawing was added to the collection following the impromptu street exhibition. It received the caption: “The saviors of England’s honor.” This was also the only drawing not to include any hint of irony. Gutman had drawn a group of Oxfordian students who were in the country during the time of the riots and who had come to the defense of the Jewish victims.

Click on the image to enlarge

Emerging from the crowd that had gathered around the caricatures, Nachum Eitan approached Gutman and asked him a question which had not yet received an answer: “Where will you print the drawings?”

Eitan offered himself up as a publisher and his friend Saadia Shoshani as a printer (“I know him well. He’s brave. He’ll agree, surely.”). After two days of hard work the booklet was published – about half of the time it took for the British police to ban it. Before long though, an order was issued prohibiting any selling or viewing of the booklet.

Only the intervention of Mayor Dizengoff and other dignitaries of the Yishuv saved Gutman and his partners from facing prosecution. Shoshani’s printing press, which was shut down after the publishing of the pamphlet, reopened after he explicitly promised not to print it again. Shoshani passed the printing clichés on to Eliezer Levin-Epstein, the owner of a famous Warsaw-based printing press, where they were also translated into Yiddish. Thanks to the translation, the booklet achieved great success throughout the Jewish world. The drawings themselves were also printed separately in the international Jewish press.

Nachum Gutman’s free hand forced us to take a long hard look directly at the riots, which later historians, as well as those who experienced them, labeled as “the opening shot of the Arab-Jewish conflict”, a struggle we are still living with today.

This article is based on Leah Naor’s wonderful biography of Nachum Gutman, “The Hunter of Colors”, published in 2012 by Yad Yitzhak Ben Zvi Publishing.

Pictures courtesy of the Nachum Gutman Museum of Art.

How Israel Advertized Aliyah in 1948

In 1948, Israel sought to encourage Aliyah to Israel by promoting a strong work ethic, Jewish identity, and showcasing that the newcomers would not be alone.

Tenacity and determination were always part of the story of Aliyah but once the State of Israel was established, the narrative had to change as well. No longer was it about fighting against the British who quashed Aliyah. It quickly became about the pioneering Olim who would become part of the Israeli collective.

In 1948, the newly minted State of Israel was recovering from war while absorbing an influx of refugees from Europe and working to make sure every citizen was provided with what they needed on a day to day basis.

During this time, the fledgling state began encouraging immigration to Israel from English speaking countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. Previously, immigration to the Land of Israel had been about circumventing the British Mandate’s cap on Jewish immigration while escaping the horrors of Europe after the Holocaust all before the creation of the State of Israel.  Now it was about drawing in a different demographic that would keep the Jewish State going.  In order to accomplish their goals, they published an informational pamphlet with the goal of inspiring people to make the move.

Cover of the Pamphlet

The pamphlet titled, “Aliyah Olim” (Immigration Immigrants) boasted that “In 1948 we had 125,000. In 1949 we shall have 250,000,” referring to their goal number of new immigrants.

The pamphlet contained various and sundry propaganda images and slogans, telling the new Olim that the Jewish State needs hard working hands to help build a country and boasted that every third Jewish citizen in Israel is a newcomer.

Images From the Pamphlet

Have things changed all that much since 1948 when it comes to advertising Aliyah?

“Burn them, as my world and everything I loved burned in Auschwitz’s crematorium”

Yehiel De-Nur felt that "Yehiel Feiner" was destroyed in the Holocaust, and so he wished to destroy the book he published before the Holocaust

Author Yehiel Feiner, born in 1909, is known as one of the greatest authors to write about the Holocaust and its aftermath. Feiner renamed himself Yehiel De-nur and later chose a pen name imbued with meaning: Ka-Tsetnik 135633, taken from KZ – the short form the Nazis used for “Konzentrationslager,” German for concentration camp. The name therefore literally meant – “Concentration camp prisoner number 135633”

Before the Holocaust, in 1931, Yehiel Feiner published a book of Yiddish poetry titled “Twenty-Two” (צווייאונצוואנציק in Yiddish). After the war, any time he heard there was a copy of the book available at the National Library of Israel, Ka-Tsetnik would come to the Library, borrow out the book, and destroy it. Ka-Tsetnik did this three times between 1953 and 1993.

Ka-Tsetnik’s letter to Shlomo Goldberg, 1993

In 1953 and 1964 he burned the available copies of his book. In 1993, he wrote a letter to Shlomo Goldberg, the manager of the library stacks at the time, about the third and last time he destroyed the book. He shredded the publication and sent the remains of the book together with the letter in an envelope to Goldberg.

Pieces of the copy shredded by Ka-Tsetnik

“I have another request: I placed here the remains of the ‘book.’ Please, burn them as my world and everything I loved burned in Auschwitz’s crematorium.”

It seems that Yehiel De-Nur felt that Yehiel Feiner had been destroyed in the Holocaust, along with everything dear to him. Moreover, De-Nur viewed everything Feiner created before the Holocaust as meaningless. As far as he was concerned, the Holocaust had utterly destroyed the world that existed before. Ka-Tsetnik, writing after the Holocaust, had nothing to do with Feiner and the work he created and published.

Ka-Tsetnik collapses during Adolf Eichmann’s trial, 1961. Photo credit: GPO

During Eichmann’s trial where De-Nur was a witness, Ka-Tsetnik called Auschwitz “another planet”. For Ka-Tsetnik there were three distinct worlds, before the Holocaust, during the Holocaust, and after the Holocaust and everything that he had created before the Holocaust could not be tolerated.

Yehiel De-Nur passed away on July 17, 2001. The Library still holds an intact copy of the book De-Nur tried so hard to destroy.