In First, Woman Nominated to Head Israel's State Archives

Ofer Aderet
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Ofer Aderet

For the first time, a woman, Ruti Abramovitch, has been nominated as the head of the State Archives by the council of archives, Haaretz has learned.

The council is expected to submit Abramovitch's name to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose approval is required because the archives reports directly to the authority of Prime Minister's Office.

Abramovitch, who has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in archival studies – both from Hebrew University of Jerusalem – has been acting director since the head of the archives, Yaakov Lazovik, resigned in September. She is a longtime employee of the archives and in recent years has served as Lazovik's deputy.

Lazovik, who became state archivist in 2011, pushed for a number of changes at the archives, most notably the move to digitize its collections, but also including the disclosure, at the archives' initiative, of previously classified material, including documentation on the disappearance of Yemenite immigrant children in the 1950s and the minutes of cabinet meetings during the state's early years.

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Lazovik's changes sparked opposition both from within the archives and beyond, with researchers claiming that digitization was depriving them of access to the physical documents. There has also been opposition to the archives' more lenient approach to public disclosure of material, some of it classified, that was collecting dust on shelves.

File photo: Boxes of archival materials in Israel's State Archives.Credit: Ofer Aderet

Lazovik announced his early retirement with a year and a half's advance notice, but no replacement was appointed and he stayed on despite his desire to step down, which he finally did in September.

If Abramovitch's nomination is approved, she will face a number of important issues, notably including the continued digitization project, which is receiving a considerable portion of the archives' resources, and an upgrade to the archives' website.

Also of importance to the archives, the Supreme Court has a case pending over whether the state has the authority to "nationalize" items of national importance, following a government effort to halt a sale of drafts of Israel's Declaration of Independence. In addition, the State Archives has been waiting for years for amendments to laws governing its operations so that they meet current needs.