Following the protest that erupted in Tel Aviv in May 1939, after the British government issued its White Paper, limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine, Mandatory authorities clamped a curfew on the city. In a photograph taken by Hans Pinn, two British policemen on horseback can be seen patrolling its empty streets. Pinn (1916-1978) had immigrated from Germany the year before, and went on to serve in a photography unit of the British Army during World War II and to work for The Associated Press and Israel’s mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth. His works can be found in the National Photo Collection of the Israel State Archives, in Jerusalem.
In July 1946, Pinn was on hand to photograph the closure of Tel Aviv after the bombing of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel by the pre-state Etzel underground, in which about 90 people – British, Jewish and Arab – were killed. Less than a year later, in March 1947, he documented Operations Hippo and Elephant, when the British imposed martial law on the Jewish communities of Greater Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in response to attacks by the militant Etzel and Lehi organizations. Pinn’s photo showed residents of Tel Aviv waiting behind barbed-wire fences, for permission to move about the city.
These same historic events were photographed by another iconic photographer, Zoltan Kluger, who was born in Hungary in 1896. He served as an airborne photographer in the Austro-Hungarian army in World War I, worked as a press photographer in Berlin in the 1920s and immigrated to Palestine after the Nazis rose to power. Kluger is known in particular for his documentation of the Jewish state-in-the-making.
The State Archives has scanned and uploaded some 20,000 of Kluger’s photos and also houses the photographic collection of the Mandate’s Palestine Information Office, which includes pictures of British police officers patrolling Tel Aviv during a closure. There is no specific information, however, pertaining to the events documented, their dates or the name of the photographer who took the shots.
Another important collection in the same archives is that of Beno Rothenberg, a German Jewish photographer who immigrated in 1933 and documented Israel’s War of Independence, but is better known for his subsequent work as an archaeologist. His collection includes photos from Operation Betzer in August 1948. This time it was not British Mandatory authorities, but the nascent Israeli government that placed Tel Aviv under curfew in an attempt to ferret out deserters and draft dodgers during the war. Some 3,000 civilians were detained during the operation; a few hundred were drafted immediately.
Later that year, another closure was imposed on the city – but for a completely different reason. On November 8, 1948, Israel’s first census was conducted in the middle of the war. A general curfew was imposed and everyone was ordered to remain in their homes for seven hours to guarantee that all residents could be found at home.