Israel's History in Pictures: The Cigarbox Collection

The story of an exceptional collection of photos of Israel from the early 20th century. Two examples are here and on the main page.

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Arutz Sheva Staff, | updated: 08:03

Children at Kibbutz Nahalal
Children at Kibbutz Nahalal

The following was written by Lenny BenDavid of Efrat, formerly of AIPAC, who created the website for a Picture a Day after realizing the extent of the Library of Congress archive of pictures - and the "Cigarbox Collection":

Dr. Othniel Seiden of Denver is a fan of the History of Israel in Pictures and offered his exceptional collection of pictures found in a cigarbox in his parents' home. I asked Dr. Seiden that he tell the story behind the collection. His recollection follows:

My father, Dr. Rudolph Avraham Seiden, was born in 1900 and was first involved in Palestine through a Zionist organization in Vienna called Die Blau Weiss or the "Blue White." As a teen, sometime around 1919, he started smuggling Jews out of Eastern Europe into Palestine through Blau Weiss.

At that time, a whole family could travel to Palestine on a family visa. The organization established a front travel agency and hired a Greek ship in order to put together strangers as families and arranged tours to Palestine for these "large family groups." When the tourists got to Palestine they "disappeared," and their return tickets were sold to people wanting to go to Europe from Palestine.

My father's intent was to move our family to Palestine, and in the mid-1920s he went there to check things out. He was the first chemist to take minerals out of the Dead Sea, and it was his intent to set up a factory to do that. Unfortunately he contracted malaria and had to go back to Vienna.

He still longed to move us all to Palestine, and in the late 1920s my mother's family, the Abileahs, moved there. In the meantime, he worked in Vienna and held the first patent on tempered glass.

When Hitler came to power and the Austrian Nazi Party gained status, my father suddenly couldn't publish anymore and saw the writing on the wall. In 1934, when we were planning our move, my mother's family said that life in Palestine was very difficult, and if we had a chance to go to the U.S. we should do it. In 1935 we moved to the U.S. Many of the Abileahs are still in Israel. [Othniel's uncle Beni Abileah was a well-known Israeli diplomat.]

In 1980, I started an organization called "Doctors To The World" which took medical personnel to various areas in the world to do volunteer work in needy areas. We sent dentists into villages in Israel to serve mostly Israeli Arabs and anyone else needing help. That was when I took out Israeli citizenship so I could get a medical license in Israel.

My father took only some of the photos. Many were either post cards or some other stock photos. Those that had an imprint on the back [some are stamped "Keren Hayesod Photo] I assume is that of the developing and processing individual.

When I asked for formal permission to publish the photos, Dr. Seiden responded: I give you full permission to use the photos I sent you in any way you feel fit, for educational purposes, or to lend and permit to be used by other media and organizations that will use them for educational or historical purposes.

Arutz Sheva thanks Dr. Seiden and Mr. BenDavid for this treasure chest, otherwise known as a cigarbox.

More historical pictures and essays at


Bedouin Arab family near Lake Hula and their reed huts