Israeli Products of the Week Vestiges of Bygone Israel

From B&W photos to jewelry made of ancient coins, here are ideas for those who yearn for an Israel that was.

Anat Rosenberg
Anat Rosenberg
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Anat Rosenberg
Anat Rosenberg

Ariel Sharon's passing over the weekend unleashed more than an abundance of tributes, analyses and memories both good and bad about the former leader. It also swept up some Israelis in a wave of nostalgia for a long-gone era, a time when things at least appeared simpler than they are today – when black-and-white photos captured ordinary and extraordinary moments, rotary phones barely existed, let alone mobile phones, and the word “we” was more important than “me.”

Times may have changed radically since then, but that doesn’t mean traces of the olden (or some would say golden) days no longer exist. Those interested in a trip down memory lane can easily get their hands on old-timey keepsakes – ranging from vintage posters to retro coasters – at Israeli flea markets and online. Designers and artists are also increasingly tapping into the wistfulness for days of yore, and are rolling out new products or revamping old ones to fill that need.

For a journey back through Israeli history, look no further than Pri-Or Photo House (more commonly known as the “Zalmania” in Hebrew), a Tel Aviv institution. Established in 1940, the old-school photography shop houses more than one million negatives of images that Rudi Weissenstein photographed from the 1930s to the 1970s. He documented everything in Israeli life and times, from pivotal events such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence to everyday moments like sunbathing at Gordon swimming pool.

After his death in 1992, Weissenstein’s wife, Miriam, continued running the shop and portrait studio with her grandson, Ben, who ushered Pri-Or Photo House into the modern era with a website and online shop. (Side note: Before Miriam passed away in 2011, the duo was also the subject of an award-winning Israeli documentary called “Life in Stills,” which is highly recommended: Miriam was a real character and their relationship was truly touching.)

The shop recently introduced magnets, 20-postcard packs, new posters and T-shirts in addition to the prints they have long been selling. History buffs and anyone looking to add a dash of vintage flair to their home or office are sure to enjoy Weissenstein’s black-and-white images.

Prices vary; see for more information

French-born, Jerusalem-based jewelry designer Eric Abecassis taps into a different element of the past in his creations – namely ancient coins dating to different eras in Israeli, Jewish and Roman history, some of which are 2,000 years old.

His collection of one-of-a-kind “wearable archaeology” includes necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pendants. It also features sterling silver cufflinks, each of which contains an asimon – a round token with a hole in the middle that Israelis used to drop into pay phones to make a call.

The doughnut-shaped coins were phased out around 1990, and Abecassis, who immigrated to Israel in 1986, remembers using them at the kibbutz where he was staying at the time. When he saw some assimonim for sale at a Jerusalem antiquities market, he decided to introduce them into his pieces and, along with other designers who have used them in their works, save them from total obscurity.

$140; available at Abecassis’ online shop

For a real throwback to a time gone by, try taking a break from Candy Crush Saga on your smartphone and Solitaire on the computer, and (gasp!) sit down to play the Memory Game. Remember it? It’s the one where you lay cards with different pictures on them face down and use your cognitive skills to find matching pairs.

Nisha Israeli Gifts, a Jerusalem-based store has created a version of the game featuring images from the country’s rich, albeit young, history and culture. You’ll have to match up pictures of falafel, sabra (prickly pear) plants, brown leather sandals better known in Israel as biblical sandals, the famous image of paratroopers who first made it to the Western Wall in 1967 and other iconic Israeli images and items.

The cards, which feature text in English and Hebrew, come in a nifty little carrying case, so you can reminisce about Israel of yore even when you’re on the go in today’s busy world.

About $25 (89 shekels); available at

From left: Pri-Or Photo House, sterling silver asimon cufflink, National Memory GameCredit: Courtesy

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