This is a photograph from the NLI’s Eddie Hirshbein Collection showing students studying in an ulpan – a Hebrew language school for new immigrants to Israel – in Eilat in 1962.
In the classroom are young adults, both women and men. The man standing in the centre of the photograph, who seems to be the teacher, is holding a piece of paper with the letter” מ/ם” on it, which suggests that this a class of beginners who are just learning the Hebrew alphabet. Both the teacher and the students are wearing casual clothing from the 1960s, with a number of them wearing shorts and sandals. The classroom furniture is basic, and there are writing implements and pamphlets on the tables.
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Ulpan – The first Hebrew ulpan was established in 1949 in Jerusalem. Its goal was to teach the Hebrew language as well as Israeli culture in order to facilitate the absorption of the many new immigrants who were arriving in Israel. Since then, hundreds of ulpanim have opened in Israel, and the target audience has also expanded, with ulpanim teaching Hebrew not only to potential immigrants but also to tourists and foreign workers.
Immigration to Israel in the early years of the State – The early years of the State of Israel were noted for the large wave of immigration from all over the world. During its first three and a half years, 688,000 new immigrants arrived in Israel, doubling its population. The immigrants were mostly Holocaust survivors from Europe and refugees from Arab countries. This welcome influx of Jews to Israel required many resources. The new immigrants needed housing and jobs. They also needed to quickly integrate into Israeli society, and thus there was a massive campaign to teach them Hebrew.
Aliya in the 1960s – This photograph shows new immigrants (olim) in the 1960s. During this decade 427,828 new immigrants arrived in Israel, almost double the number in the decades before and after. The majority of the olim in this period came from Morocco and Romania, but a relatively large number also came from the Soviet Union. One of the reasons for this large wave of immigration was the euphoria following the victory of the Six-Day War.