Special Night Squads, 1962, from the Bitmuna Collection


The word “Israel” conveys a rich and multifaceted complex of culture, history, society and creativity. The contemporary Israeli experience is the product of a long road marked by upheavals and historical landmarks—from the first biblical mention of the name Israel given to Jacob, through the ancient kingdom of Israel whose inhabitants were exiled in 722 BCE, to the name’s later designation of both the Holy Land and the Jewish people throughout 2,000 years of exile, until the awakening of Zionism, the establishment of the State of Israel and the development of Israeli society.

"We hereby declare"

In the 19th century, Jewish intellectuals in the Diaspora began to express the first flowering of Zionist consciousness in their works. They called for the strengthening of national-Jewish identity, encouraged settlement in the Land of Israel, developed the worlds of Jewish culture and spirit, and revived the Hebrew language. Zionist thought was the platform for turning the ancient dream of returning to Zion into a practical movement that succeeded in bringing Jews from all over the world to the Land of Israel and even establishing an independent state. The rise of the Zionist movement and the founding of the state are considered an unprecedented breakthrough, the most dramatic in Jewish history

The culmination of the Zionist enterprise was reflected in the key words at the time of the declaration of the state in May 1948: “[We] hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.” The pillars of the new state were the national-Zionist movement, the Hebrew language, Hebrew culture, the changing and diverse Israeli society and the Land of Israel and its inhabitants and cultures throughout history.

Israeli Society

The new Jewish society in the Land of Israel, which later formed into Israeli society, developed with the start of mass immigration at the end of the 19th century. The establishment of the state ushered in a new era that put an end to the historical pattern of Jewish life as a foreign and persecuted minority in the Diaspora. Against the background of the sense of security afforded by the sovereign state, the young Israeli society prospered and became a multifaceted mosaic consisting of groups of Jews born in the country as well as immigrants from the Diaspora and groups of non-Jews. The Arab population in Israel comprises the majority of the non-Jewish minority. The achievements of Israeli society are prominent in all areas of life, including technology and science, high-tech and innovation, medicine and economics, higher education and the defense industry.

Israeli culture has developed in tandem with the crystallization of Israeli society. From the 19th century to the present day, a rich Hebrew and Israeli culture flourishes, which combines an affinity with the ancient Jewish culture as well as with the other diverse cultures that make up Israeli society. The many faces of Israeli creativity are expressed in all branches of culture, including literature and poetry, music and dance, theater and cinema, design and architecture.

The Israel Collection in the National Library is the national collection of the State of Israel, and its purpose is to collect and preserve the state’s cultural and intellectual treasures. The collection serves as the “national memory” of the State of Israel and the Land of Israel, and the items preserved in it document the development of Israeli society and the new Israeli culture from its birth in the 19th century to the present day. A look at the huge collection reveals a wealth of material from all sectors of society, including almost all the written works created in Israel as well as musical works, photographs, newspapers, periodicals, maps, films, posters and countless other fascinating items.