Israeli Genealogy Research: An Intro To Archives In Israel

by Rose Cohen | Jul 21, 2011

Rose Cohen

Migration and the Holocaust are two major factors that have shaped and influenced Jewish Genealogical research. Forced migrations result from edicts and political decisions, while voluntary migration is the individual's choice. The Holocaust (Shoah) created chaos amongst an entire nation. Families were wiped out and those who survived were dispersed.

Archives In Israel

This article aims to introduce the researcher to archives in Israel and to the digitized material that is available. Israel has a multifaceted history which has bearing on research. Archival material can be found in an array of languages such as English, Turkish, Hebrew, Yiddish and Arabic. Archives in Israel may be divided into a number of categories. The Israel State Archives, The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Defense Establishment Archives and the Municipal Archives, fall under the category of Governmental Archives. The Central Zionist Archive and The Central Archive of the History of the Jewish People are examples of public archives. Yad Vashem, the History of Political Parties in Israel may be referred to as Historical Archives. There also a large number of private archives.

Family research in Israel is vibrant. Archives are opening their doors to genealogists. The archives are assessing their genealogical holdings and digitizing large amounts of material making them available to the researcher.

It is becoming far easier to overcome the language barrier. Many of the websites are in both English and Hebrew and for the websites that are in Hebrew only, the following translation tools are available to assist the researcher.

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Immigration To Israel

Immigration has played a major role in the history of Israel and thus influences research. Israeli archives and immigration therefore go hand in hand.

Between the 13th and 19th centuries, there was a significant rise in the number of Jews returning to the land of Israel. Between 1882 and 1903, (the First Aliya (immigration) during the Ottoman Empire, approximately 35,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine. The Second Aliya between 1904 and 1914 saw the arrival of approximately 40,000 Jews to Palestine also from the Russian Empire. The outbreak of the First World War ended this period of immigration.

The period between 1919--1923 is known as the Third Aliya. Approximately 40,000 Jews arrived in Palestine from the Russian Empire in the wake of World War I, the Establishment of the British Mandate and the Balfour Declaration. By the end of this period, the Jewish population in Palestine reached approximately 90,000. During the Fourth Aliya, 1924-1929, as a result of the increasing anti-Semitism in Poland and Hungry, and the immigration quotas of the United States, approximately 82,000 Jew arrived in Palestine. Of these, approximately 23,000 left the country.

Between the years 1929-1939, during the Fifth Aliya, approximately 250,000 immigrants arrived in Palestine from both Eastern and Western Europe. 1933-1948, saw the period of Aliya Bet: Illegal Immigration to Israel. Between the period of 1948 and 1950, over half a million individuals immigrated to Israel, both from Europe and Arab countries. Since the establishment of the State, large numbers of immigrants have arrived in Israel from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia.

Name Changes

Many immigrants chose to change their names upon arrival in Israel. Name changes take place up to the present. During the period of the British Mandate in Palestine (1921-1948) people who legally changed their name had this information posted in the British/Palestinian publication called the "Palestine Gazette. 28,256 names were published showing the old name, new name and sometimes country of origin. Examples of these are the first and second Prime Ministers of the State of Israel. David Green (Gruen) changed his name to David Ben Gurion and Moshe Shertok to Moshe Sharett. Name changes during the period 1949 through 1979 appear in the "Yalkut Hapirsumim", the official publication of the Ministry of Justice of the Israeli Government. The publication is published in Hebrew.

The Case Of The Chalomovsky Family

The Chalomovsky family hails from Poland. The paternal grandfather, Abraham Chalomovsky came to Palestine in about 1880 and in 1933, his grandson Isaac Chalomovksy followed in his footsteps. The families have lost track of each other, and our aim is to reunite them.

Searching For Abraham Chalomovsky

Abraham Chalomovsky immigrated to Palestine having been influenced by messianic fervor, thus he may have settled in Jerusalem, Tiberias of Safed. He arrived in Palestine during the Ottoman Empire as well; therefore we will search for documents relating to him in archives that hold material within the framework of these periods of history.

We start our search with the Israel State Archives which holds records of:

  • the former Ottoman Empire, mainly Turkish ("Nefus") ledgers, registers of births and deaths from various places in Palestine from the years 1884-1917.
  • the British mandate period, holdings from the High Commissioner and Chief Secretary's Office, Land Registration and Land Settlement Offices as well as from the Migration Department.
  • some holdings of the British government kept in the Public Record Office in London, were microfilmed by the Israel State Archives and put at the disposal of researchers.

We continue out search at:

Central Archives of the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) which holds material:

  • relating to hundreds of Jewish communities abroad , as well as local, national and international Jewish organizations and the private collections of many outstanding Jewish personalities
  • an extensive collection of documents, pinkassim (registers) and other records of Jewish history from the Middle Ages to the present day.

We search the websites of:

Municipal and Other Archives:

Searching For Isaac Chalomovsky

We have a family name and so we begin our search with Bezeq - The Israel Telephone Company:

We do not find the name Chalomovsky.

The Israel Genealogical Society website has name changes from 1921 1949 that were extracted from the Yalkut Hapirsumim (Government Gazettes).

Name changes during the 1949 through 1979 appear in Yalkut Hapirsumim (Government Gazettes) but have not been digitized. This is the official publication of the Ministry of Justice of the Israeli Government. The publication, in Hebrew is held National Library on the campus of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and the Law Libraries at various universities in Israel holds copies of Government Gazettes.

We discover that Isaac Chalomovsky changed his family name to Isaac Chalom. The meaning for Chalom is dream in Hebrew. We are now searching for Isaac Chalom.

We look at the holdings of the Central Zionist Archives, the archives of the Zionist movement.

  • its records cover the years 1880-1970 and document the growth of the Zionist movement worldwide,
  • the development of the Jewish Home in Palestine and various aspects of the history of the Jewish people in the last 120 years including immigration material.
  • We make a request for research to: The Family Research Department at the Central Zionist Archives PO.B 92 Jerusalem 91000 Israel or by email a request to: [email protected]

We continue our search at:

We submit an application to the Interior Ministry to obtain his last known address.

Perhaps he moved to one of the larger towns in Israel and we therefore search in Municipal archives (see above)?

Perhaps he served in the army and therefore we search archives relating to the military:?

We search also in Burial Records for both the name Chalom and Chalomovsky.

The Burial Societies (Chevrot Kadisha) in Israel are under the auspices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. A website is available in Hebrew from burials in Israel.

There are also individual town Burial Society websites, under the auspices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs:

The Council for Jewish Cemeteries Tel Regev: which includes Greater Haifa and part of the Galilee:

We have not yet found Isaac Chalom and search additional websites:

Beth Hatefutsoth, The Museum of the Jewish People; The Douglas E. Goldman Jewish Genealogy Center:

  • visitors can search a computerized database containing thousands of genealogies of Jewish families from all over the world
  • can also register their own family trees.

Israel Genealogical Society

  • a number of the websites are free
  • others are available only to members of the Israel Genealogical Society.

We then turn to Yad Vashem, Israel Holocaust Remembrance Authority. Isaac Chalom has submitted a Page of Testimony to the Chalomovksy family who were murdered in the Holocaust in Poland. From his details that he has filled out on the Page of Testimony which have been digitized, we locate him and are able to reunite the Chalom and the Chalomovsky families.

Holocaust Research is a world of its own. It will be discussed in detail in an article to follow.

The search for Abraham and Isaac Chalomovksy demonstrates the way in which history and family research are inextricably linked and cannot be ignored.

Abraham Chalomovsky arrived in Palestine during the period of "religious immigration" thus his movements in the country were influenced by this factor and the documents used in the search run parallel to these movements. This too is the case for Isaac Chalomovsky, for this reason his name-change to Isaac Chalom is of utmost importance as it changes the face of the research.

Today, we can research our families from the comfort of our homes. In order succeed we need to formulate a research plan, and take all the variables that influence our research into consideration. If not, we will get caught in the web of many genealogical websites available today.

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