The National Library of Israel announced that it was releasing a trove of old photographs documenting the lives of Israel Defense Forces soldiers throughout the history of the state – and is inviting people to tag the servicemen and women they can identify in the rare, historic image collection on Facebook.
The joint initiative by Facebook and the National Library is part of massive digitization project undertaken by the latter in recent years, bringing back to life old photographs with yellowing negatives being converted into high-resolution images.
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In many cases, the National Library said, there is a lack of information as to the identities of the soldiers in the photographs, and the public’s help is much needed.
The National Library uploaded a series of albums to its Facebook page featuring thousands of images of IDF soldiers taken during Israel’s various wars throughout its history, and was inviting the public “to identify and tag their loved ones, family members and friends who served in these wars.”
“In this way, their names will be commemorated in the history pages of the State of Israel, their memories preserved for the benefit of future generations alongside other Israeli cultural treasures at the National Library,” it added.
The National Library said its collection includes more than 2.5 million photographs documenting the history of the land and State of Israel, the world’s largest such collection spanning a period of over 150 years.
The most notable group of photographs among the collection is the Dan Hadani Collection, the Library said, an archive of more than a million photographs documenting almost every event in Israel’s history.
“For decades, Dan Hadani and his team of press photographers documented political and cultural events, as well as wars and periods of national mourning. The photographers accompanied IDF soldiers during the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem in the Six Day War, during the battles in Sinai and the Golan Heights in the Yom Kippur War, and during Operation Peace for Galilee in Lebanon. Wherever soldiers were sent to fight and defend the State, these photographers would follow,” the National Library said.
Hadani donated the collection to the National Library but the accompanying information was often incomplete – sometimes just a location and date were included (i.e “1982, Peace for Galilee”).
The project comes on the eve of Israeli Memorial Day when the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks are remembered in a series of somber events and ceremonies. A one-minute siren will sound on Tuesday night at 8:00 pm when a national ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem will begin. On Wednesday, a two-minute siren will ring at 11:00 am, signaling the start of daytime commemoration events when families and friends visit the graves of the fallen. On Wednesday night, Memorial Day will end with a national torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, and the celebrations for Israel’s 71st Independence Day will start.
The National Library said the initiative is a long-term project and the information it received from the public will be preserved in the Library’s catalogue.
Yaron Deutscher, head of the National Library’s Digital Access Division, said in a statement that the Library was “happy to share with the Israeli public the important task of preserving the culture and heritage of the State of Israel.
“We are confident that through this cooperation with Facebook, which enables us to extract these cultural treasures from the archives of the Library and make them accessible to large audiences, a great deal of information will be gathered, enabling students, researchers and the general public to know more about what has happened here since the establishment of the state,” he said.
Facebook Israel’s General Manager Adi Soffer-Teeni said: “A state’s past is one of the greatest assets it has and it outlines what it is and what it will be. This treasure trove of images tells the story of the State throughout its various stages and connects us to the people who were there and thanks to whom we are now celebrating our 71st Independence Day.
“I am very excited about this and I hope that we will be able to connect names to faces in these exceptionally rare photographs,” she added.