A collection of 130,000 postcards was recently donated to Hebrew University. The generous donation was made by David Pearlman, an Englishman who started collecting stamps as a young boy until he realized postcards were more beautiful. Pearlman stored his collection in shoeboxes, which eventually took up so much space in his garage that he needed to park his car on the street. The collector decided to hand over what is now the largest collection of its kind, sourced from auction houses, private shops, and estate sales over the years.
The “Postcards of Palestine” collection shows a historical and cultural peek into Israel’s past, through the varieties of postcard art, and the messages behind them. The pictures share insights into the religious, architectural, political, and social aspects of Israeli society, from as far back as the Ottoman Period to commemorating General Allenby’s 1917 arrival to the creation of the state. Many of the postcards also include messages from Christian Pilgrims, sharing their travels between Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, and of course, mentioning the heat of Israel.
The immense collection was donated through the British Friends of Hebrew University and landed at the Folklore Research Center in Jerusalem in November 2019. With over 1,500 publishers, each postcard is being conserved properly, in preparation for research into Israel’s artistic and imaginative postcard past.
Pearlman says he doesn’t have a favorite postcard, “but it’s the whole collection that feels like part of my family. They’re all my favorites. It’s like touching a piece of history.”