“Israeliana” refers to the mementos, products, souvenirs and cultural products of an Israel gone by. A new exhibit at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, “A Toast to Israel!”, is a celebration of festive Israeliana glassware of the sort that was locally produced during the early years of the State of Israel and on through the mid-1970s.

Found in almost every Israeli household, most were commercial, affordable glasses, mass-produced either for everyday use or special occasions. Others were produced as decorative or commemorative items.

Glasses set imprinted with images of regional maps. Photo by Hadar Saifun

Curator Henrietta Eliezer-Brunner states that she made her selections “not because of original design, meticulous execution, or technical intricacy, but for their inherent symbolism. These objects shed light on the emerging Israeli experience.

“Fashioned in a new reality, their rich imagery and messages — whether explicit or implicit –aimed at consolidating social cohesion and solidarity,” says Eliezer-Brunner.

“These glasses provide a dynamic framework reflecting the spirit of the time, lifestyle, historical events, cultural trends and ideas.”

Girlie glassware set manufactured by the Gavish company. Photo by Hadar Saifun

As to the obvious kitsch factor, Eliezer-Brunner says, “Beyond their intrinsic historical value, their naive style and lack of sophistication imbue them with a unique charm and an air of intimacy and humanity — tangible memories from years of innocence.”

Most of the exhibit’s items are on loan from private collectors of objects related to the history, geography and folklore of Israel’s formative years. The glassware is displayed alongside a variety of popular art products, promotional/advertising material and consumer goods, as well as institutional collateral such as postage stamps, coins and medals.

Glass and demitasse set imprinted with image of Moshe Dayan. Photo by Hadar Saifun

The Eretz Israel Museum is a multidisciplinary museum that focuses on the history and culture of Israel through comprehensive permanent and temporary exhibits in the diverse fields of archeology, ethnography, post and philately, folklore, Judaica, traditional crafts, and popular art, cultural history, and local identity.

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