A London-based collector has donated to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem a huge trove of some 130,000 postcards sent from the Holy Land, providing a rare window into the thoughts and impressions of thousands of visitors and pilgrims dating back to the 19th Century.
David Pearlman donated his collection, painstakingly built up over 60 years, to the university’s Folklore Research Center at the Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies, the university announced Thursday.
The university said the collection is the largest of its kind and serves “as an invaluable window into the modern history of the Land of Israel, covering virtually every area of life: religious, architectural, fashion, social mores, historical events, art, politics and travel.”
The “Postcards of Palestine” collection documents Israel’s history, from the Ottoman Period and British Mandate to the early pioneers, from the Six Day War through the early 21st Century, the university said.
“I began collecting stamps as a young boy and graduated to postcards when I realized that instead of collecting dull postage stamps I could collect these beautiful cards,” Pearlman, an accountant, recalled. “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.”
Among the postcards are ones that depict historic events like the founding of Tel Aviv, General Edmund Allenby’s visit to Jerusalem in 1917 and the creation of the State of Israel.
Others depict an abundance of artwork by leading 20th-century Israeli artists, such as Meir Ben Gur Aryeh, Ephraim Lilllien and Zeev Raban, as well as photography by “Karimeh Abbud – Lady Photographer,” one of the first female photographers in the Arab World.
However, most of the postcards were sent by Christian pilgrims with typical messages like: “Yesterday we were in Bethlehem. Today we’re in Jerusalem. Tomorrow we’re going to Nazareth. It’s so hot here!”
Many others were postcards sent home by British soldiers who fought there in World War I.
Hebrew University President Asher Cohen hailed the donation, saying that “it’s entirely appropriate that Israel’s leading center of advanced learning and research is now the home and custodian of such a remarkable trove, which joins our other notable collections — Albert Einstein’s personal and academic papers and the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive.”