April 23, 2008

"To Return to the Land…”

Kibbutz Ramat Yohanan, 1943

As we approached the 60th anniversary of Israel’s statehood, the Museum staff thought about how to mark this important anniversary. We could think of no better way to honor the birth of the State of Israel than by showing the powerful images of its struggle and its triumphs. "To Return to the Land…” Paul Goldman’s Photographs of the Birth of Israel does just that through Goldman’s beautifully composed and intimate work. The New York Sun called the exhibition “not-to-be-missed.”

Hungarian-born photojournalist Paul Goldman fled to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1940, where he chronicled the events leading up to the foundation of the State of Israel. Goldman’s photos of life before statehood, during the War of Independence, and the ingathering of dispersed Jews are complemented by rich memories of individuals who lived through those same events. Images and words together tell stories of the birth of Israel through the lenses of photographic and human memory. From Tel Aviv streetscapes to the bombing of the King David Hotel, from street vendors to Prime Ministers; both the extraordinary and every-day document this monumental story.

Goldman, born in 1900, fled Budapest in 1940 to escape the spreading threat of Nazism. He worked as a freelance photographer for local newspapers and international news services during the 1940s and 1950s. His role as a member of the British Army, and later as a confidant to important Israeli leaders, provided him with privileged access and a front-row view to Israel’s growing pains. Unfortunately, Goldman’s eyesight failed him in the early 1960s — he died penniless at the age of 86 in Israel. Sadly, he never was able to see Israel’s physical beauty beyond her adolescence.

Jewish State, Haifa, October 1947

The exhibition includes more than 40 images culled from a collection of negatives that lived in a shoebox until they were rediscovered in recent years. While Goldman was one of only a few photojournalists working in the British Mandate of Palestine in the 1940s, he remains largely unknown, mostly because of the practice at the time of not including photo credits in newspapers. The photos are on loan to the Museum from the collection of Spencer M. Partrich. After its run at the Museum (it closes on May 19th), "To Return to the Land..." will travel to the Oregon Jewish Museum in June.

(Photos by Paul Goldman. From the collection of Spencer M. Partrich/Photo Art Israel)

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