This is a black and white photograph taken in 1950 by Rudi Weissenstein in a ma’abara (temporary refugee absorption camp). Pictured in the photograph is a square tent with the words “Barber” and “Fryzier” written in large, white letters. Above the entrance to the tent is a sign with the word “Fryzjer” which means barber in Polish. From the language on these signs it is possible to conclude that the men inside the tent are Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel after the war. Inside the tent a man or boy is sitting in a chair with the barber standing next to him. The barber is attending to a customer, perhaps giving him a shave or adjusting the towel around his neck. In the background there is a small house and a couple of trees. The ground around the tent is not paved.
In the early years of the state with the mass immigration to Israel, many new immigrants were initially housed in ma’abarot until more permanent housing could be built. The photograph gives the observer a glimpse into life in the ma’abarot.
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Ma’abara – The ma’abarot were transit camps that were built to accommodate the large influx of Jewish immigrants who came to Israel in the 1950s. The word ma’abara derives from the Hebrew word ma’avar meaning move or 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. Many ma’abarot became development towns providing permanent housing to Jewish refugees from Arab countries, Holocaust survivors, and other new immigrants. Many development towns, such as Kiryat Shmona, Bet Shean, and Yokneam, developed into thriving towns and cities, while others, mainly in the peripheral areas of Israel, still have difficulty overcoming various socio economic issues.
Mass Immigration to Israel in the Early Years of Israel - The early years of the State of Israel were noted for the large wave of immigration from all corners of the world; in the State’s first three and a half years, 688,000 new immigrants arrived, doubling Israel’s population. The immigrants were mostly Holocaust survivors from Europe and refugees from Arab countries. This welcome influx of Jews necessitated many resources. The immigrants needed housing and jobs. They also needed to integrate into Israeli society, and there was therefore a massive campaign to teach the immigrants Hebrew.
Hatzalmania (PhotoHouse) – Rudi (Rudolph) Weissenstein (1910–1992) was born in Czechoslovakia, where he studied photography from his father before going to school in Vienna. Weissenstein moved to Israel in 1935 after experiencing anti-Semitism. In Israel, he began working as an independent photographer, taking photographs all over Israel and providing pictures of the pre-state development which were spread all over the world. In 1940, Weissenstein opened the Pri-Or Photo House, later known as Hatzalmania or PhotoHouse, where he built an archive of his work along with documentation about the subjects. After his death in 1992, his wife and, later, his grandson continued to run the Photo House.