Archive of Jerusalem's 1949 Wartime Governor for Sale in U.S

The collection, consisting of 15 notebooks and approximately 350 handwritten pages, is being offered by University Archives, a U.S. firm that specializes in historical documents.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The private archive of Dov Yosef, the military governor of Jerusalem during the War of Independence and a minister in nine Israeli governments, is up for sale for $150,000.

The collection, consisting of 15 notebooks and approximately 350 handwritten pages, is being offered by University Archives, a U.S. firm that specializes in historical documents.

According to the company website the archives cover Israel's 1949 War of Independence, the 1956 Sinai campaign and Israeli-U.S. relations, and include previously unpublished material from closed-door meetings involving David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Levi Eshkol, among other figures. In addition, they relate to the creation and development of the Israel Defense Forces, arms sales and strategic decisions on such issues as nonconventional weapons, preemptive warfare protocols, the draft and recruitment. Also addressed are critical political decisions made during election campaigns, the issue of German reparation payments in the wake of the Holocaust and foreign affairs discussions and the shaping of Israeli foreign policy.

The items are described as being in "fine condition." The pages displayed on the company website appear to be pages from a diary. One can read, for instance, that on March 14, 1949 Yosef - whose name is often given as Joseph - described a cabinet meeting as follows: "Shertok [Moshe Sharett] informed us of his desire to respond to the request of the reconciliation committee and to make an announcement regarding refugees ... Ben-Gurion supports the opinion of D. Yosef and suggests that when there's a peace agreement we will discuss this issue."

A week later Yosef writes, "Ben-Gurion announces negotiations with [Jordan's] King Abdullah about an armistice, and especially about his willingness to withdraw his army from some areas in the triangle near Ramat Hakovesh (Tira, etc. )."

It is not clear how University Archives obtained the collection. Israeli critics frequently lament the fact that archives of famous Israelis often end up in foreign hands. They say the government does not do enough to ensure that materials of historical value remain in Israel for the benefit of researchers and future generations. There was a public outcry, for example, when poet Yehuda Amichai decided to sell his archives to Yale University, a few years before his death in 2000.

Yosef was one of the state's leading figures during its first 20 years. As military governor of Jerusalem during the War of Independence Yosef was in effect the civilian administrator of the city, alongside military commander David Shaltiel. Yosef famously devised methods for storing and distributing food and water during the Arab siege of Jerusalem.

In the first Israeli government, after the establishment of the state, Yosef served as rationing and supply minister and was popularly known as the "austerity minister." In this position he established and supervised the austerity and rationing policies that aimed to assure equitable supplies of food and other necessities for the population.

Yosef went on to serve, variously, as minister of agriculture, transportation, justice, development, health and industry. He was born in Montreal on May 27, 1899, immigrated to Israel in 1918 with the Canadian Jewish Legion and died on January 7, 1980.

Dov Yosef with David Ben-Gurion in 1966.Credit: Daniel Rosenblum

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