Romanian Immigrants, 1949
This is a photograph of a family of immigrants from Romania sitting in their home in the village of Tarshiha in the Western Galilee. The photograph was taken by Rudy Weisenstein in 1949.
Featured in the photo are the father, the mother, and a small child. The father is reading a newspaper in a foreign language and the mother is writing something while being watched by their child. The parents’ clothes are very casual and simple, but the mother is wearing make-up and the child seems to be dressed and combed especially for the photograph. Their home is furnished with various pieces of wooden furniture, and on the shelf of the cabinet are several patterned serving dishes. The dining table where they are sitting is covered with a decorated tablecloth and a potted plant. The room looks small, and there are no paintings on the walls.
This family was part of a group of about 100 Romanian Jewish families who settled in abandoned houses in the Arab village of Tarshiha in 1949. These immigrants, like many others at the time, were sent to build their homes in the peripheral areas of the new State of Israel. In 1957, a development town named Ma’alot was established to the east of Tarshiha for Jewish immigrants from, primarily, Romania, Iran, Lebanon, and Morocco. In 1963 Ma’alot merged with the neighbouring Arab village Tarshiha, and in 1996 Ma’alot-Tarshiha was recognized as a city. While it has developed considerably since its early days, the city still has many social and economic problems due to its location in the periphery and the fact that it has suffered many rocket attacks from Lebanon.
This photograph can be used in Jewish Studies lessons to discuss the differences between the various origins of the immigrants during the mass immigration in the early years of the State of Israel and between their lives both before and after immigrating, focusing on the difficulties faced in both homes. Teachers can also use the photograph to discuss Israel’s multicultural society before a visit to Israel or before Yom Ha’atzmaut.
This photograph can also serve as a trigger for discussions in Jewish History lessons about the establishment of the State of Israel and the complexities of the mass immigration in those early years. Teachers can also use this photograph when discussing the history of different Jewish communities around the world, particularly, in this case, the Romanian Jewish community and how immigration to Israel affected them.
Sociology teachers can use this photograph to explore the concept of mass immigration and the difficulties faced by refugees and immigrants to different countries around the world.
Describe the photograph.
Who are the people in the photograph?
What are they wearing?
What are they doing?
Describe the room.
What objects can be seen in the family room in the picture?
How would you describe the room: elegant, decorative, plain, simple, etc.?
Reading Between the Lines
The photograph was taken in 1949 in the village of Tarshiha.
Where is Tarshiha?
Who lived there in 1949?
The family in the photograph are new immigrants from Romania.
What can the family’s clothes tell us about their situation?
What do you think their life in Romania was like?
Do you think their life might have changed upon arrival in Israel?
What language is the father’s newspaper written in?
What could this tell us about their absorption in their new homeland?
In the following years, a development town called Ma’alot was founded.
Search for information about Ma’alot. When was it founded, and what was its purpose?
Imagine that you are the boy or one of the parents in the photograph.
How does it feel to have left your home in Romania and settled in Tarshiha?
Ma’alot was established to the east of Tarshiha.
Compare the situation in Ma’alot today to its early days.
What is the connection between Ma’alot and Tarshiha today?
Compare the lives of these new immigrants to Israel to those of refugees and immigrants to your country today.
What are the similarities and differences?
Create a diary extract written by a new immigrant from Romania in the early years of the State of Israel.
Relate to the interesting, surprising, disappointing, or challenging things they might have faced.