Barber, Ma'abara (Refugee Absorption Camp), Israel, 1950
This is a photograph taken in October 1950 in a ma'abara (a refugee absorption camp) near the Kinneret. The photograph shows a barber’s shop tent. On the sign outside the tent are the words "Barber" and "Fryzier" (barber in Polish).
In the tent we can see a man standing – probably the barber – and another sitting on a chair with his back to the camera – probably the client. The chair has been adapted for haircutting by the addition of a piece of wood to support the client's head. The tent itself looks a little unstable and has been strengthened with string and stones. A few houses and trees can be seen in the background, but the area around the tent looks almost empty.
The ma'abarot were temporary absorption camps that were built to accommodate the large influx of Jewish immigrants who came to Israel after the establishment of the state. The word ma'abara derives from the Hebrew word ma'avar meaning transit. These communities were intended to be temporary places of residence until the immigrants found permanent homes. Living conditions in the ma'abarot were difficult, and inhabitants were exposed to the heat of the summer and the rain and mud of the winter. They were the first home in Israel for more than 200,000 immigrants until the last one was closed at the end of the 1950s. The satirical film Salah Shabati, produced by Ephraim Kishon, offers a comic portrayal of life in the ma'abara.
Many ma'abarot became development towns, providing permanent housing to Jewish refugees from Arab countries, Holocaust survivors and other new immigrants. Many development towns developed into thriving towns and cities, while others, mainly in the peripheral areas, still have difficulty overcoming social and economic issues.
This photograph could be used in Jewish History lessons to illustrate life in Israel in the early years. The photograph could also be shown to discuss the life of new immigrants in the 1950s and to compare their situation to immigrants of today. This photograph could be a useful tool around Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day) to show how Israel has developed since the time when people started their life in Israel in ma'abarot.
Describe the photograph.
What is the tent?
Who is in the tent? What are they doing?
What do you know about the absorption of immigrants in Israel in the years immediately after the establishment of the State of Israel?
What was a ma'abara? What was its purpose?
Did the immigrants stay in these camps permanently?
Many of the immigrant camps turned into development towns. What social problems arose in these towns? What was the cause of these problems?