Jewish National Fund Moledet booklets 1945 – 1949
During the 1940s the Jewish National Fund in Britain annually published a one hundred page booklet named Moledet (Homeland) often incorporating pullout maps, posters and of course came with a Jewish calendar.
Sold for just over a shilling and aimed in the main at Jewish children, Moledet imbued readers with Jewish identity and Zionism through the innovative and creative use of short stories, biographies of Zionist movement movers and shakers, Jewish historical facts and suitable quizzes, eye catching graphics, general advice, the work of the Jewish National Fund and much more.
Even today Moledet makes a good read, some of the advice still applicable, the artwork exceptional, many of the facts given and statements made long forgotten or still hotly disputed. The booklets permeate a sense of naivety of writers and readers many decades ago.
A sense of pride, achievement and collectivism of Israel and Diaspora communities literally pulsates throughout the pages of the 1948-9 edition. The cover depicts a bright red train with two Israeli flags flying from either side of the front bumper. Under the heading of ‘The Train of History Reaches The State of Israel’ and sub-heading; ‘Marvel with it through the pages of Moledet’ one sees sketched figures from Biblical to modern times standing by the rail tracks as the historical train of the State of Israel whizzes by. With his head poking out of the side window of the train of independence, the driver waves greetings to a dressed in khaki youth (with a ‘kova tembel’ on his head) half kneeling on his canvas knapsack under a train signal. One can almost hear them yelling ‘Shalom’ to each other!
Five issues of Moledet published between 1945 and 1949 are part of an extensive collection of in the main pre-State of Israel memorabilia belonging to Israeli Judaica collector Aviram Paz.
“The English language Moledet was published in Britain but was also sent to America as we can see here,” explains Paz pointing to a sticker giving the address of the New York offices of the Jewish National Fund, Keren Kayemet L’Israel, on the edition’s front page; on the back page the address given is that of the Jewish National Fund, 65 Southampton Row, London, WCI and marked price, one shilling and sixpence.
Moledet was also published in Hebrew in Mandatory Palestine and later during 1950s in Israel, but lacked color and contained few illustrations. Paz also has a cardboard box full of the Hebrew language editions throughout the 1940s and 1950s which he says were very popular but it is the overseas editions that he concentrates on explaining and which, unlike their Hebrew cousins, are much sought after by collectors but very rare finds indeed nowadays.
On the inside cover of Moledet circa 1948-9 are the music and words of the national anthem Hatikva, and on the opposite page the four editors address their readers.
With this sixth issue of Moledet, which is the first since the State of Israel has been recognized by the nations of the world, we send you cordial greetings.
This edition is devoted to the independent state – the miraculous creation of our day.
Let us learn whilst reading Moledet to recognize the greatness of the event and to praise those whose vision and efforts contributed to the fulfillment of our prayers and hopes.
Following a table of contents there is a page of prayer with illustrations of robed biblical figures to muscle rippling modern Israeli farmers plowing a field on either side of the text. Next come two pages devoted to Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weizmann with photographs and graphics. Against a black and white photograph of the Western Wall on the next page is the May 4th, 1949 Independence Day speech of David Ben Gurion.
The following pages deal with the Ha’apala – the story of the struggle for immigration into Israel in the twentieth century and the first of a number of pages interspersed throughout the publication encouraging folks to take up the call and become an Israeli sailor, soldier, policeman, postman and kindergarten teacher.
Page after page include stories, letters written describing Seder Pesach in the land and a two page illustrated ‘Affairs of the State’ the setting up of the ministries and other government offices and institutions.
Under a section entitled ‘Each Man to His Standard’ the insignia of the fledgling Israel Defense Forces are mapped out, introduced with the text: ‘The founders of the Israel Army had little difficulty choosing names for their ranks. They turned to the Bible and took aluf – chief, seren – captain, and turai – one who stands in a line, i.e. a private. Segen – deputy, also comes from the Bible and has been chosen as a direct translation of lieutenant, i.e. one who deputizes – in this case for the captain.’
Other pages deal with the physical laborers of Israel, stamps and two pages of intricate diagrams and instructions on how to make a paper model of the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station!
Another two pages of instructions give music, words and step-by-step explanations of how one can learn to dance ‘The Acorn.’ According to the text this is a dance in Yemenite style and costume and, as can be understood from the title, describes a nut garden, hence the dancers hold an acorn between the thumb and first finger of their left hands. The dance commences slowly but gains speed when the ¾ time is reached. The accompaniment is played on a flute and tambourine, and a black and white series of photographs shows how to hold hands and which direction each one should be going.
The pages dealing with ‘The Art of Tramping’ are particularly endearing to me. Being a new immigrant in the 1960s and right through until the late 1980s hitchhiking was one’s normal mode of travel – usually having to compete with dozens of soldiers along the way.
The 1948 ‘Art of Tramping’ encourages visitors to Israel to try their luck and even advises on the correct gesture – forget the waving of the thumb as in Europe – hold fingers to thumb and elbow in the air is illustrated in plain black and white for the overseas traveler to follow easily. The text explains:
‘If, while in Israel, your heart yearns for the open country and you wish to rise to a glorious dawn in the hills of the Galil or enjoy the cool waters of the Kinneret, unhampered by bus schedules or the whims of taxi drivers, then listen to the voice of experience.
‘For the inexperienced who wishes to become proficient in the art of the Israeli ‘tramp’ may suffer many hours of anxiety and despair. Here, then, for your benefit is the concentrated result of varied encounters with Israeli modes of transport.’
Diagrams 1 and 2 of the correct finger/thumb/arm gestures.
‘This action will cause the driver to a least consider you as a prospective passenger. Don’t be too particular in your choice of transportation. The main point is to reach your destination.’
“Children really enjoyed Moledet and they learned a great deal. There were many educational activities set out in a way that was enjoyable to tackle, creative ideas with Jewish or Israeli themes helped imbue a strong Jewish identity, ties with Israel and of course connection to the Jewish National Fund,” said Aviram Paz as he collected up the editions of Moledet, all of which needed repair and showed marks of rust from the metal clips that had once held the pages of Zionism tightly together.
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