The Year Is 1936. A Man Picks Up a Camera, Captures an Israel That's No More

A deeper look at the works of legendary photographer Rudi Weissenstein from 1936 to 1973 shows what was and no longer exists, and hints of the future

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Rudi Weissenstein
Lost road, 1973.Credit: Rudi Weissenstein
Daniel Tchetchik
Rudi Weissenstein
Daniel Tchetchik
Rudi Weissenstein

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Rudi Weissenstein’s archive is managed today by The PhotoHouse, a business that reminds you of the old-fashioned beauty of Tel Aviv. His grandson, Ben Peter, tells about his thoughts as he edited these pictures:

A 26-year-old man, what does he know? Decides to get up and leave. In fact, he is called. The year is 1936 and he has one camera and many fantasies. Even back when he worked at a newspaper in Vienna he imagined how he would build his photo archive, in Palestine – a rather strange word.

Beit Yosef, 1937.Credit: Rudi Weissenstein
Herzliya, 1940.Credit: Rudi Weissenstein
Ra'anana, 1938.Credit: Rudi Weissenstein

Oranges and clementines. Tel Aviv was a city that had just begun and knew nothing about its future. People came from all over the world. They were persecuted, which ignited an inner fire in them – to build, to live. Everything was new and promising. A very large collection laid in front of you, wrapped in strong senses and smells, confusing and enticing, important but forgotten.

The man who saw and collected has passed on. A woman sits and flashes a shrewd smile at me. She is rich in years that have wrinkled and softened her, shrunk her more and more, and now she is facing me. Take it. The touch of her hands is so soft and pleasant. She holds on to me. Her name is Miriam and she is my grandmother. She asks me for herself, to devote myself, to give up everything for her. To continue to walk the path she has built.

A 26-year-old man, what does he know? The year is 2003 and he has a hard time deciding. He has no camera and no parents, nor a clear direction or goal. When he worked for that company he fantasized how he would be a successful actor in New York – the Big Apple.

Tel Aviv does not know anything about its past. People come from all over the world to eat, enjoy and screw. Everything is new and ugly, advanced and improved. Successful. And it lies on my shoulders but its weight does not crush me. It roots itself inside me and gives birth to new things.

Now I’m mother and father, I’m the parents.

Ra'anana, 1947.Credit: Rudi Weissenstein
Kibbutz Hanita, 1938.Credit: Rudi Weissenstein
Ashdot Ya'akov, 1939.Credit: Rudi Weissenstein
1973.Credit: Rudi Weissenstein
Gymnastics School, 1942 (Left), and Herzliya, 1941.Credit: Rudi Weissenstein
Lost road, 1973.Credit: Rudi Weissenstein
Kfar Blum, 1946.Credit: Rudi Weissenstein

These photographs are taken from a new book that marks 80 years of The PhotoHouse archives.

For more information on The Photo House and the Rudi Weissenstein collection, click here.

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