‘I was touching history’: Collector gives 130,000 postcards to Hebrew University
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

‘I was touching history’: Collector gives 130,000 postcards to Hebrew University

David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land written over two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university

  • David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university
    David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university
  • David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university
    David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university
  • David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university
    David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university
  • David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university
    David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university
  • David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university
    David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university
  • David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university
    David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university

More than a hundred years ago and 2,000 miles from home, young British soldiers stationed in Palestine were left in awe by their surroundings in the Holy Land – and eagerly wrote postcards to loved ones back home telling them of exotic springs, luscious lakes and ancient Biblical sites they had visited that very day.

“I can say mafish, which means ‘enough’ [in Arabic]…and I hope the war will soon [end] so I can go home again,” wrote one British Tommy.

“I came through here…between Mt Ebal and Mt Grizim…It is of course the Shechem where Jacob fed his flocks and Jacob’s well is here.There are many springs and consequently gardens where I saw the first green I’d seen for months,” wrote another.

One young officer marvelled at a land steeped in ancient times. Choosing a postcard depicting the Sea of Galilee for his parents, he wrote: “This is the shot I should like to see more than anyone in Palestine, but don’t expect to have the opportunity to do so.

David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university

“The man in the next bed was up there with the cavalry says it’s very fine, the water being beautifully clean and there are several nice streams running into it.

“While there, they were able to get fresh fish which was a nice change from the ‘bully [beef]’…The lake which saw so much of His life on earth and which to my mind holds such fascination.”

These are just a handful of the 130,000-strong collection of postcards dating back to 1883 and amassed by collector David Pearlman, which offer an invaluable insight into Israel’s history over the past two centuries.

For more than 60 years, Pearlman – an accountant from north London by day and collector by night – scoured auction houses, private collections and estate sales to piece together his incredible Postcards of Palestine collection.

David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university

Now he has donated them all – weighing no less than a tonne-and-a-half altogether – to the Folklore Research Center at Hebrew University’s Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies, where researchers are busily examining how Israel has captured the imagination of visitors through the decades.

Thought to be the largest collection of its kind in the world, the postcards document everything from the Ottoman period and General Allenby’s visit to Jerusalem in 1919, to the beginnings of the British Mandate and creation of the state of Israel, the early pioneers, the Six-Day War and the emergence of modern cities, such as Tel Aviv.

Many of the postcards show an abundance of artwork by leading 20th century Bezalel artists, such as Meir Ben Gur Aryeh, Ephraim Lilien, Ze’ev Raban, as well as pictures taken by Karimeh Abbud – who was known as the Lady Photographer – one of the first female photographers in the Arab world.

David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university

A sizeable portion catered to Christian pilgrims, who made their way from Egypt to Jerusalem and on to Damascus, visiting holy sites along the way and sending postcards that depicted camels, palm trees, Bedouins, Chasids and an overflowing Dead Sea.

For Pearlman, the fascination of collecting postcards was for him as much about the pictures on the front as it was the carefully inscribed notes on the back.

“It gave me a great thrill to feel I was touching a little piece of history,” he says. “I began collecting stamps as a young boy and graduated to postcards when I realised that, instead of collecting dull postage stamps, I could collect these beautiful cards.

David Pearlman amassed an incredible collection of old postcards from the Holy Land spanning two centuries – and has now donated them all to the Jerusalem-based university

“I kept them in shoeboxes in my garage all these years. At a certain point, the collection grew so large that I began to park my car on the street to make room for more shoeboxes.”

Having been admired and looked after by Pearlman for so many years, these postcards – once sent thousands of miles by land, sea and, later, air – have now made their way back to their origin.

“He wanted these postcards to return to Zion,” muses Dr Dani Schrire, director of HU’s Folklore Research Center.

“This collection is immense and now we are in a good position to begin research into understanding the imagination of the Holy Land.”

For more about David Pearlman’s collection, visit www.bfhu.org

 

read more:
comments