8 Things You Need to Know About… Nathan Axelrod

Pioneer of Hebrew cinema

1. Nathan Axelrod was born in Russia in 1905 and made aliyah in 1926. Finding no film industry in Palestine, he improvised some equipment and began filming.

cropAxelrod2. He made a studio out of two wooden shacks, dubbing his creation “Eat Your Heart Out, Hollywood.” The studio began putting out films in 1927, initially as the Modelet Company. In 1934, as the Carmel Company, it began filming weekly newsreels.

3. Axelrod filmed Israeli pioneers establishing settlements, draining swamps, irrigating new farmland, developing Tel Aviv, building the land and developing cultural life. Later he filmed the founding of Nahariya, the immigration of German Jewry and the declaration of Israel’s independence. Film foot by film foot, he created a treasure trove.

4. He made some of the earliest films in the Hebrew language. In 1931, he scripted and photographed the first locally-produced feature film, a comedy set at the annual Purim carnival in Tel Aviv. It was called “Biyemei” (Once Upon a Time). He also directed films, including “Don Quishote and Sa’adia Pantsa” (1956).

5. In the 1960s he produced the film “The True Story of Palestine,” comprised mainly of excerpts from the Carmel newsreels. In the 70s, “The Pillar of Fire,” about the Zionist movement, was created by Israeli TV largely from Axelrod’s documentary footage.

axelrod head shot6. Axelrod’s film archive is a priceless compilation documenting the years 1927-58. It includes roughly 400,000 feet (two hundred hours) of film: 150,000 before the founding of the State of Israel and 250,000 after. The story of its conservation, duplication and transfer to the Israeli State Archives is a saga in itself, covering the years 1959-87.

7. The original films are in France at the National Film Institute. The Israeli State Archive has a full set of duplicates; you can see some of them online at YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOH_oW31tWhVFHwreAxhIgA

8. Nathan Axelrod died in 1987, leaving the largest and most comprehensive collection of documentaries of Israel’s early years. The full collection is described in The Nathan Axelrod Collection, first published in 1994.

N_L_DSC01979You’ll find Natan Akselrod Street in north Tel Aviv running east off Sderot Levi Eshkol, not far from Arnold Schoenberg Square.

Thanks to Ido Biran facebook.com/telavivi1909 for the street photo.

8 Things You Need to Know About…David Yellin

Advocate for the Hebrew language

1. David Yellin was born in Jerusalem in March 1864. He was educated at the Etz Hayim Yeshiva there, but in 1882 enrolled in the Alliance Israelite Universelle. At age eighteen he became a teacher, and eventually he headed the Lamael School.

2. In 1903, he was one of the organizers and also first president of the Teachers Association.

yellin3. In 1913, Yellin resigned his position as director of the Lamael School over the issue of using German as the dominant language. He was a firm advocate for Hebrew.

4. He founded a Hebrew teachers’ seminary at Beth Hakerem, where he served as director until his death. The David Yellin College of Education still exists today.

5. He helped establish the nucleus of the Jewish National Library, now housed at Hebrew University.

6. He served in many political capacities, including the Jerusalem Municipal Council, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem and president of the Jewish National Council.

7. A member of the Ottoman parliament, he joined the Zionist movement (1913), one of the first public figures to do so openly. During World War I, he was exiled to Damascus by the Ottomans. While in exile, he served with the American Palestine Relief Committee. When the war ended, he was a member of the Jewish Committee to the Paris Peace Conference.

8. David Yellin died in Jerusalem in December, 1941.

In Tel Aviv, you’ll find David Yellin Street just north of Jabotinsky and west of Kikkar HaMedina. In Jerusalem, look for him in Mahane Yehuda north of Kikkar HaHerut.