Bezalel - 19.3.12
A piece of memorabilia to be auctioned off at an exhibition in Jerusalem on March 22, 2012.
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A small notebook, leather bound, prepared for the participants in a students' ball in Vienna in 1883 is one of more than 600 historical Jewish memorabilia that will be auctioned on Thursday in Jerusalem.

The names of different dances were printed in the notebook. On a line under each dance name, the student signed his name when he danced with the notebook owner. The owner of this particular notebook danced the quadrille - a 17th century dance for four pairs - with Theodore Herzl, who signed his full name under the dance's name and added a few words in pencil.

"In German-speaking countries there was a tradition that the notebook owner documented the dances, and the gentlemen who danced with her signed his name. If he was interested in staying in touch, he would add a few words, and that's what happened in Herzl's case. He was probably interested," says Meron Eren, co-owner of Kedem Auctions, who is in charge of Jewish and Israeli history and culture auctions.

The descendants of the young lady who danced with Herzl offered the notebook to Kedem Auctions. It's opening price is $4,000.

One of the most interesting collections to be auctioned Thursday is a set of dozens of photographs from the War of Independence and the first days of the IDF, taken by an unidentified photographer. Apart from the photographs themselves, the man who owned the collection is of particular interest: Lieutenant Colonel Israel Ber (1912-1966 ), who was sentenced to 15 years after being found guilty of espionage for the Soviet Union. The dedication reads: "As a souvenir for joint work in the Operations Directorate."

"The items were received from a wide range of sources," Eren says, "starting with people who found the treasure in an old suitcase in the attic, through second-hand merchants who found a similar suitcase in a home whose tenants died, and on to antique dealers, second-hand stores and collectors who decided to get rid of their collections, libraries and archives."

The cheapest item for sale is an autographed poster of Israeli-American basketball legend Tal Brody, opening for $120. "This item excites me no less than the notebook containing Herzl's handwriting," Eren says. "I believe it's important to document everything that happened here in the last few decades."

The most expensive item, opening for $25,000 is an embroidered tapestry by one of Jerusalem Art School Bezalel's first teachers, depicting the Passover story of "Had Gadya." Several old Passover Haggadot are for sale, including some that were used by soldiers of the British army's Jewish Brigade in World War II.

Another document of historical interest is a letter sent by a family from Motza during the 1929 riots to the Refugees Aid Committee in Jerusalem: "We ... refugees from Motza ... our houses were burned and robbed ... we have nothing left. And now we are naked and without food ... we need your immediate assistance and ask for nothing more than bread to eat and clothes to wear."

The auction also includes dozens of documents signed by historical figures such as Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Henry Kissinger, Menachem Begin, Nahum Goldmann, Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Charlie Chaplin, Sophia Loren and Marlene Dietrich.

Still, Eren is aware that most of the items will make their way overseas: "Sadly and symbolically, most of the purchasers in these auctions aren't Israeli. The reasons are both financial and because of a lack of preservation consciousness here," he says.