The Yishuv and State of Israel Press Section

This section includes newspapers which were published in the Jewish Yishuv in Palestine, and later in the State of Israel throughout the twentieth century, primarily in Hebrew.

Hebrew-language press began to appear in Palestine as early as 1863 (see The 19th Century Hebrew Press Section), but the heart of this press was—until the First World War—in Eastern Europe, where the majority of the world's Jews lived. During the first forty-five years of Hebrew press in Palestine, periodicals, weeklies, and even papers that were published two or three times a week had appeared, but the first regular daily publication did not appear until the fall of 1908. This was Ha-Zvi, under the editorship of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. The daily publication's appearance coincided with the strengthening of the Zionist presence in Palestine at the end of the Ottoman period (1903-1914). Over the next six years, until the outbreak of World War I, the press of the then small Jewish Yishuv advanced significantly. Additional daily publications (Ha-Cherut, Moriah) appeared, and ideological weeklies affiliated with different labor movements (Ha-Poel Ha-Za'ir, Ha-Achdut) were established which often attacked the daily publications, and Ben-Yehuda's papers. World War I led to the closing of all the newspapers, and only Ha-Cherut continued to appear until 1917.

With the British conquest of Palestine, a new era in the history of Hebrew-language press began, and Palestine became its new global center. In 1919, the newspapers Hadashot Ha'aretz and Do'ar Ha-Yom were published almost simultaneously. Hadashot Ha'aretz which quickly changed its name to Ha'aretz, expressed a General Zionist platform, and Do'ar Ha-Yom, founded by the Ben-Yehuda family and under the editorship of Itamar Ben-Avi, represented the right-wing element of the Yishuv. Initially both papers were published in Jerusalem, but in 1923 Ha'aretz moved to Tel Aviv. Do'ar Ha-Yom was a sensationalist paper, while Ha'aretz maintained a more reserved style. In 1925 a new player entered the arena: Davar, published by the Histadrut, quickly became the most widespread and influential daily publication in the Yishuv. The Palestine Post, an English-language daily newspaper, was established in 1932. Revisionist Zionist groups published journals of their own (Ha-Yarden, Ha-Mashkif, and others), as did the General Zionists (Ha-Boker), the Religious Zionists (Ha-Tzofeh), the Hashomer Hatza'ir ("Youth Guard") movement (Mishmar, which became Al Ha-Mishmar), and others.

In general, the Yishuv excelled in political polarization, and the reigning assumption was that each party needed a daily publication of its own. The number of private newspapers was quite small, but gained momentum with the first appearance of the independent evening newspapers Yediot Ahronoth (1939) and Maariv (1948). During the period of the War of Independence, the number of publications reached its peak: fifteen dailies in Hebrew, two in German, and one in English. Afterwards, a slow decrease in the number of newspapers began, although papers in foreign languages for new immigrants emerged. The politicization of the journalistic arena continued through the first decades of the State of Israel, at which time the written press served as the main means of mass communication. In this landscape, one sensationalist, anti-establishment weekly stood out—Ha-Olam Ha-Zeh.

From the 1960s onwards, the number of newspapers was greatly reduced. The party-affiliated press was the first casualty, and one after another of the party publications shut down. Davar, the paper of the Histadrut and Mapai, had weakened, and its place as the leading publication in Israel was captured by Maariv (whose founders withdrew from Yediot Ahronoth in 1948) and Ha'aretz. In the last quarter of the twentieth century the decline in party-affiliated press continued, and in the 1990s the Labor movement papers Davar and Al Ha-Mishmar ceased publication. The majority of the foreign-language press designated for new immigrants disappeared as well. The arrival of commercial television led to a decline in the written press, and Maariv, which had already lost its precedence to Yediot Ahronoth, suffered one of the hardest blows. The last of the party-affiliated dailies to remain were in the Orthodox-Charedi sector. This period saw the development of local newspapers—weekly publications affiliated with national newspapers distributed free of charge.

Alongside the Hebrew-language press, an Arabic-language press developed on a large scale during the Mandatory period and later in the State of Israel. The massive influx of new immigrants from the Soviet Union in the 1990s generated an abundance of Russian-language press in Israel and it is the only immigrant press to still show signs of vitality today.

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