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Project Chronicles Memories of Israel's Founding


JERUSALEM, Israel -- Although Israel has existed for thousands of years, as a country it is still very young. In fact, the Jewish state celebrates the 66th anniversary of its founding Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a unique project is underway to preserve the history of Israel's early years by recording the memories of those who lived through them. 
"The project is called Toldot Yisrael, which means the Chronicles of Israel," Aryeh Halivni, executive director of the project, said.

"[The project] is dedicated to recording first-hand stories of people … who were either involved in Israel's War of Independence or the pre-state era or simply witnesses to aspects of the founding of the state," he explained.
Halivni said many interview subjects don't understand that their story is special.
"They don't see themselves as heroes. [The say] 'Look this is just what I was supposed to do. This is what we needed to do at the time,'" he said.  
Elad and Zimra Peled met in 1946 in the Palmach, the Jewish pre-state underground defense, and married during the War of Independence. 
"Elad was 20 years old and he commanded Tsfat, which is a very complex community, and he did it successfully," Zimra said.
So far, the project's producers have interviewed 700 people, logging 3,000 hours of interviews. They're hoping to get several hundred more interviews but since that generation is aging, time is running out.
Some of these personal stories have been turned into short documentaries, like "November 29, 1947: The Story of the Vote," which documents the historic U.N. vote that created the state of Israel.
"You spoke to the Belgian and you spoke to the Swede and you spoke to the Brazilian preaching, explaining why all the time," Suzy Eban, wife of Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Abba Ebansaid, says in the documentary.
"There were a number of us working also at the same time getting votes," Ralph Goldman, with the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, recalls in the film.
"Haiti of all countries was the last country coming to vote," he continued. "We sent down to Haiti a Protestant minister by the name of Sheldon, who also believed that the Jews should have a homeland."
The Chronicles of Israel will be housed at the National Library of Israel and people can also access it online. 
The Peleds hope the project will help teach the younger generations "because people don't know the history of this country," Zimra said.
Elad recalled, "Many days when we went to bed we didn't know if we'll get up in the morning still alive and if this whole so-called country will survive."
"There is another thing," Zimra noted.  "In our generation we talked about 'we' and not 'I.' In this generation now individualizing everything, they lose a lot." 
"When people try to complain, 'This is bad. That is bad,' We had worse situations already and we overcame it," Elad said.

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