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Rare Historical Documents from Israel's Near and Distant Past on Display for First Time

JERUSALEM.- In collaboration with Israel’s State Archives, the Israel Museum presents approximately one hundred original documents from the history of the people and State of Israel, the majority in first-time public display. Organized in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary, Blue and White Pages: Documenting the History of Israel offers a thematic presentation which commemorates the milestone events of Israel’s statehood through historically key documents, highlighting founding institutions, legal principles and central personalities – displayed alongside ancient artifacts and texts from the Israel Museum’s holdings which resonate meaningfully with their counterparts from modern times.

Blue and White Pages is culled from millions of documents housed in the State Archives’ collection, with the goal of exploring major themes related to the founding of Israel and its national identity. Exhibition highlights include: Israel’s original Declaration of Independence, together with related documents; peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan; and also, in its first public display, the diary of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, which miraculously survived the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster in 2003 and underwent meticulous restoration in the Israel Museum’s laboratories. The exhibition is on view from October 10, 2008, through February 7, 2009.

“Blue and White Pages invites visitors to explore key moments in Israel’s sixty year history that have helped to shape and inform its social, cultural, and political identity,” said James S. Snyder, the Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum. “By contextualizing these original modern documents within the broader history of the Land of Israel – through juxtapositions with objects and texts from the Museum’s holdings – the exhibition also stimulates remarkable resonances between ancient times and today.

Historic Moments
As a founding document, the Declaration of Independence embodies crucial decisions and actions from the first moment in the State of Israel's history. Other documents in this category include drafts and final versions of historic laws such as the Law of Return (1950) and the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel (1980); the order to establish the Israel Defense Forces (1948); the Peace Treaty with Egypt (1979); the directive to bring the Jews of Ethiopia to Israel (1991); and the nonbelligerency agreement with Jordan (1994). Other objects and documents relate to seminal historic events, among them: the first Israeli flag raised at the United Nations on the day that Israel was accepted into the UN in 1949, together with the last British flag lowered at the Port of Haifa following the departure of the British from pre-State Palestine; the missive from Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Bulganin to David Ben Gurion regarding Israel's "agression against Egypt" during the 1956 Sinai Campaign; and Adolf Eichmann's personal diary from the time of his 1961 trial.

Emotional Testimony
Another category of documents marks emotional moments in Israel's history and includes such papers as the blood-spattered copy of "A Song to Peace" found in Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's pocket on the night of his assasination and the diary of Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut to travel into space, who died in the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster along with six American crew members in February, 2003. Ramon's personal journal survived inexplicably, and its fragmented pieces were discovered in a field in Texas two months after the crash. Following several years of painstaking reconstruction and restoration by the Museum’s Paper Conservation Laboratory, undertaken at the request of Rona Ramon, the astronaut's widow, two pages of the diary are on view for the first time. These pages include Ramon's description of the experience of life in space and a handwritten copy of the Kiddush, the Jewish blessing over wine, intended for use in live transmission while on board the Columbia spacecraft.

Echoes of the Past
Integrated throughout the exhibition are artifacts from the Israel Museum's holdings commemorating historic events from ancient times. The letters of Lachish (c. 589 BCE) describe the city under seige before it succumbed to the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple. A letter from the 2nd century CE, written by Shimon Bar Kochba, the famed leader of the Second Jewish Revolt against Hadrian’s Roman legions, requests the supply of lulavim (palm branches) and etrogim (citrus fruit) for the rebel forces for use in celebrating the Sukkot holiday. These documents stimulate moving echoes between Israel’s ancient and modern histories, giving all the more meaning to the modern state’s existence today on the site of the ancient Land of Israel.

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