The National Library of Israel is gathering diaries and personal written accounts from the period of the establishment of the State of Israel, part of its Operation Diary: The Founding Generation for Israel’s 75th.
The project is meant to highlight the personal stories and circumstances documented by famous people, such as poet Hannah Szenes, as well as ordinary folk who were caught up in the extraordinary circumstances of those times.
The Library is inviting the public to search their homes in hopes of discovering additional accounts of those historic times, with the aim of including more personal experiences in documenting social history.
“The response to this project has been nothing short of amazing,” said Matan Barzilai, head of Archives and Special Collections at the National Library. “It’s interesting to note that in many cases, these diaries were discovered by family members only after the person was long dead and gone, and the contents came as a total surprise to them.”
Over the course of several weeks the library has received nearly 50 diaries, with more on the way. The diaries it seeks can be in Hebrew or other languages, written by people in Israel at the time of the founding of the state, or in other countries, as long as they include experiences about that time period.
Barzilai said that a diary can also be deposited with the library conditionally, such as requesting to keep it confidential for several years.
“We understand the sensitivities and sentiments surrounding these diaries,” he said. “We are here to assist, with compassion and care, in the preservation and documentation of history for the benefit of future generations.”
Among the personal accounts that were discovered so far are the diary of Shlomo Doron, a soldier who served in the Hayot Hanegev (“Negev Animals”) Palmach brigade; Avraham Weiss Livnat, who fought on the southern front; the diary of a young girl, Yehudit Entin, detailing her life in Jerusalem from 1935 to 1948 – including her work handling messenger pigeons; and a diary written by Abraham Francesco Cerrone of the Italian-Jewish convert community of San Nicandro, which emigrated to the new State of Israel.
The project also features diaries collected by Toldot Yisrael, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit dedicated to recording and sharing the firsthand testimonies of the State of Israel’s founding generation, and deposited with the National Library.