Ahead of the January 22 elections the National Library of Israel launched a website featuring election campaigns, propaganda and media coverage from all the previous elections, dating back to the founding of the state in 1948.
On the site (Hebrew) one can find photographs of politicians alongside the party platforms, advertisements and slogans that dominated Israel’s billboards and news stations over the years. According to a Sunday press release, digital archives of online media used in the 2006 and 2009 elections would soon be available to the public.
Cross-referencing the historical campaigns, viewers of the site can choose to examine each election as a single unit, or analyze the information by one of four topics: social and ethnic struggles, the Arab-Israeli conflict, religion and state, and economic issues.
Besides looking for trends in topics like ultra-Orthodox conscription, or understanding the shifts certain parties underwent over the years, visitors to the site can also revisit items long removed from the public focus, like the Yemenite Party and the Housewives Party.
Election rally speeches and caricatures are available, as are pamphlets in a number of languages — such as Yiddish and Hungarian — which were widely circulated in the early years of the state.
The project “represents a major undertaking by the National Library,” the press release said. “It is a valuable contribution to the documentation of Israeli society.”
“Most of the cultural record of election campaigns is not evident n higher culture such as literature or art, but in propaganda material that attests to its status as a mainstream historical event,” Dr. Hezi Amir, the curator of the new collection, said.
The items “accurately reflect the spirit of the time,” Amir explained. The speeches, pictures and statements “rekindle the spirit of the times and elicit nostalgia in the heart of older Israelis and curiosity in the minds of the young.”
“The posters and photographs displayed attest to the fact that many current issues are merely new versions of ones that have been in evidence since the establishment of Israel,” the curator added.