Yad Ben-Zvi (Ben Zvi Institute)

The Ben-Zvi Institute, at Yad Itzhak Ben-Zvi in Jerusalem, was founded in 1947 for the study of Jewish communities of the land of Israel, and the Middle East more broadly. It houses the Documentation Center of North African Jews during World War II, a significant photography archive, and also publishes two journals: Ginzei Qedem, an annual journal dedicated to Cairo Genizah research, and Pe’amim: Studies in Oriental Jewry (quarterly, in Hebrew).

Yad Ben-Zvi houses two research institutes, the Ben Zvi Institute for the Study of Jewish Communities in the East, and the Institute for the Study of the Land of Israel.

There are three principle collections of note at Yad Ben-Zvi:

Yad Ben-Zvi’s library holds rich manuscripts and archive collections. It contains about 3,000 manuscripts including rabbinical texts, pinkasim (communal record books), kabbalistic (mystical) texts, and more. Numerous personal collections include manuscripts, autographs, and photographs; most collections date from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. There are also extensive microfilm collections and newspaper archives. Read a description of the archive collections in Hebrew.

The Documentation Center of North-African Jewry during World War II was established in 2006. It seeks to raise the public’s awareness of the history of Jews in North Africa during the Holocaust by developing a curriculum and training teachers to incorporate the subject within the educational system in addition to advancing academic research. Prof. Haim Saadoun has directed the center since its foundation in 2006. Its collection holds copies of documents from various archives in France, Germany, England, the United States, and Israel. Information and abstracts of the documents are available on their website.

Their collection holds many photographs of the North African campaign, Jewish life in North Africa before and after the war, as well as throughout its course. Photographs can be used in books, academic presentations, and educational materials. Some of the materials are owned by different archives, and a license is required.

In addition, the Yad Ben-Zvi Photo Archive contains about hundreds of thousands of photographs relating to the history of the land of Israel and Jewish communities throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Formed in 2000, the photographic archives have scanned over 250,000 photos, 20,000 of which are catalogued online. Areas of focus include: photographs of families in Jerusalem and throughout Israel/Palestine, landscapes and portraits from the nineteenth century, aerial photography, and history of Jewish communities in the MENA region.

Research Notes

Yad Ben-Zvi’s reference library and archives are available for consultation in-person during normal business hours. Contact information can be found on the website of Yad Ben-Zvi as well as the National Library of Israel.

Much of the photo library has been digitized.

Further Reading

  • S. Rubinstein, “The Establishment and Beginnings of the Institute for the Study of Jewish Communities in the East,” in: Pe’amim 23 (1985), 127–49.