Tel Aviv is the home of designer David Tartakover, Israel’s godfather of graphic design. For much of his long career he has collected, analyzed and archived the quotidian history of the country as it came of age … and is currently in a ideological battle for its survival as a democracy.
I recently found a rare paperback of cards reproduced from Tartakover’s holdings. The title in Hebrew is Shanah Tovah—“Happy New Year,” or literally “Good Year,” a Rosh Hashanah greeting.
Israeli New Year cards portray events and trends of the previous year(s) “more than European or American cards,” writes Karen Davis in Tablet magazine. “They illustrate images of social, political and historic interest, as evidenced in greetings which change from the traditional ‘A happy and blessed year’ to ‘a year of peace and tranquility’ or ‘a year of peace and victory.’”
The custom of sending New Year cards did not really begin in Israel until the 1930s. Per Davis, “Early immigrants from the first and second aliyah movements (1881–1914) were largely single young men and women from Eastern Europe full of socialist ideology and dreams who were involved in redeeming the land through agricultural work and building settlements.” As a result of Tartakover’s commitment to documenting Israel’s history by mixing popular imagery and text, these artifacts can be as valuable for historians as ancient scrolls.
As for Tartakover, 77, “Graphic design for me is a tool to express myself and to give answers to current political cases that happen in Israel,” he told Middle East Eye. “I’m not a protest artist—my work is a reaction. I react to the situation around me through my posters and other things.”