From Politics to Ads, Israel Archives Meet YouTube


JERUSALEM — In grainy black-and-white film, David Ben-Gurion, a founding father of modern Israel and its first prime minister, is reading out the new state’s Declaration of Independence for the first time in May 1948. There are crowds in the streets of Tel Aviv and families huddled around their radio sets, hanging on every word.Video: David Ben-Gurion Reads Israel’s Declaration of Independence

Another clip, from December 1961, shows Moshe Landau, the presiding judge in the war-crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann, delivering the verdict: guilty on all counts. Mr. Eichmann can be seen scribbling notes and then reading from them, rejecting the court’s decision. Four days later, he was sentenced to death. Video: Moshe Landau Reads the Adolf Eichmann Verdict

Those handwritten notes are kept in the closely guarded vaults of the Israel State Archives. But in line with its recent policy of giving the public as much access as possible to the historical material, the national archivists, the custodians of the country’s collective memory, have taken to relying on YouTube.

More than 150 videos have been uploaded. Some are old news reels, others documentary movies that include snippets of original film — a sporadic and fragmentary chronicle of the country’s past exploits and those of its leaders.

There are tours of the land and many scenes of Jerusalem, though it is not always clear exactly when the scenes were filmed, or where.

Much of the officially produced material has a militaristic and jingoistic flavor, not surprising for a society that was brought up on wars.

The first monthly news broadcast by the propaganda department after Israel’s swift victory over the Arab armies in the June 1967 war shows the defense minister, Moshe Dayan, and the military chief of staff, Yitzhak Rabin, attending an air show to mark Air Force Day. Mr. Rabin is then seen touring the Sinai Peninsula, which had been captured from Egypt, passing by the burned-out hulks of Egyptian military convoys in long columns by the roadside, all set to rousing marching music. Video: Israel Celebrates Air Force Day

There are movies of military parades, annual Independence Day celebrations and Ariel Sharon, the general and statesman, visiting Bedouin tribesmen in the desert. Video: Israelis Attend First Independence Day Parade

But life in Israel did not only revolve around wars and patriotic events. See this film noir-style 1965 advertisement for the locally produced Elite brand of candy. The parents go out to the theater, leaving their children in the care of a responsible-looking baby sitter. They return to find the baby sitter tied up on the couch and the children happily feasting in another room, their faces covered in melted chocolate. Video: Advertisement Features Elite Chocolate