A High-tech Camera Perspective for Israel’s Declaration of Independence

The same technology that documented the Dead Sea Scrolls will enable the production of copies identical in color, shape and even texture.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Moshe Sharett signing the Declaration of Independence.
Moshe Sharett signing the Declaration of Independence.Credit: Frank Scherschel / GPO
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The original copy of the Declaration of Independence has been removed from a safe and taken to the Israel Museum to be photographed with the same camera that snapped the Dead Sea Scrolls.

An Israel Antiquities Authority lab operates at the museum — its flagship achievement in recent years has been the documentation of the scrolls at a high-tech studio.

The very-high-resolution photography captured tens of thousands of scroll fragments taken at different wavelengths. This gives researchers and conservationists the best possible take on an artifact’s degree of preservation.

The photographing of the scrolls at different wavelengths revealed letters that had been effaced or covered. This process, for example, provides information on the ink with which a document was written. It also enables the production of copies that will be identical in color, shape and even texture.

The camera will also reveal what the Declaration of Independence looked like on the day it was signed, before being eroded by the passage of time.

The bill, intended as a Basic Law, would create a nation-state not envisaged in the Declaration of Independence, which promised equality for all of Israel's citizens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The document is currently under specific lighting and temperature conditions in a guarded facility at the State Archives,” said deputy state archivist Ruth Avramovitz, adding that there were plans to display it at Independence Hall on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard.

“Until a decision is made on how it will be presented to the public, we will continue to take steps to document it, expose it and preserve it for future generations,” Avramovitz said.

“Today’s picture-taking is one step in the process, following another one taken last year in which the archive, assisted by a program for bolstering our national-heritage infrastructure, took digital photos of the document in collaboration with Google.”

According to Pnina Shor, head of the Judean Desert Scrolls project at the Antiquities Authority,

“It’s moving and symbolic to document the Declaration of Independence, a foundation stone of this country, with technology that was developed to study the Dead Sea Scrolls. These are the oldest Hebrew manuscripts, dating back 2,000 years, which were discovered just as Israel was being established.”

Another key development on the history of the Declaration of Independence is Mordechai Naor’s new book “The Friday that Changed Destiny,” available in both English and Hebrew. It delves into the day that independence was declared — May 14, 1948 — and events that took place behind the scenes of the ceremony at the nondescript yet famous building on Rothschild Boulevard.

The book notes how 12 of the Declaration’s signatories were not present at the ceremony because they were trapped in Jerusalem, which was under siege by Arab forces. Their signatures were added later, inserted into blank spaces that had been left empty at the bottom of the document.

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