The Israel State Archives is the national archives of the State of Israel. It was established in 1949 and its operation is regulated by the Archives Law of 1955. The Israel State Archives and all of the archives in Israel are headed by the State Archivist. The above-mentioned law constitutes the legal, administrative and professional framework within which the archives of Israel are run. The rules and regulations accompanying the law grant the Archivist, and through him all employees of the Israel State Archives, the authority to instruct and supervise the management of archives and records in government ministries, local authorities and government corporations.
The main responsibilities of the Israel State Archives are:
- Gathering the archival records (of all types) of state institutions, keeping them for posterity, and making them available to the public in accordance with viewing regulations.
- Determining policy on keeping, or alternatively destroying, documentation in the State of Israel.
- Professional supervision of the operation of various archives in the country.
- Locating, registering and accepting for safekeeping private archives in the possession of state institutions or private citizens.
- Publishing the "Documents on the Foreign Policy of Israel" series.
- Publishing commemorative volumes in memory of Israel's late presidents and prime ministers.
- Publishing professional literature and a bibliography of Government publications.
The Israel State Archives currently holds some 40 km of shelf space of valuable records of the institutions of the State of Israel and of previous administrations in Palestine – from the Ottoman period (material from 1838 to 1918) and the British Mandatory period (1918 – 1948) as well as collections originating with institutions of the Arab community in Palestine during these periods. These collections are a lodestone for researchers and serve all those who explore the history of the various communities in Palestine and the State of Israel. Most of the post-1948 material is in Hebrew but a considerable portion of the earlier material, and some of the documents from the earlier years of Israel, are in English and other foreign languages.
The Israel State Archives contains, inter alia, documents, maps, postage stamps, official publications of the various government ministries, the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and the President's Residence; stenographic records of government meetings from 1948 onwards; minutes of Knesset Committee sessions; records of governmental commissions of enquiry and legal documentation, including records of the High Court of Justice and land registry records. In addition, the Israel State Archives holds many private archives of institutions and people of importance in the history of Palestine and Israel. It also houses a variety of audio-visual records, including films documenting events from the time of the British Mandate onwards, such as the trial of Adolf Eichmann, audio recordings and video tapes with testimonies of central figures in Israel; audio recordings of speeches, Knesset sessions, ceremonies and many other events, as well as a collection of some 100,000 photographs.
The Archives holds the fundamental documents of the State of Israel, (foremost of which is the Declaration of Independence), the Law of Return, the laws of the state and international agreements and treaties which the state has signed over the years, such as the Armistice Agreements with the Arab states, the reparations agreement with the Federal Republic of Germany, the peace treaties with Egypt and with Jordan, the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (the so-called "Oslo Accords") and the exchange of letters with the PLO, and more.
The departments of the Israel State Archives are in charge of all instruction, supervision, preservation, computerization and publication activities. Below is a list of the departments and department heads:
Management of the Israel State Archives:
Ms. Ruti Avramovitz, Director of the Israel State Archives
Administrative Coordinator (02-5680605)
Research and Public Services Department (reading room):
The department places documentation that is open to the public at the disposal of researchers, students and the general public and provides professional advice for researchers.
Supervision and Training Department:
In charge of locating archival documentation currently in the hands of state institutions and private agencies and individuals which is suitable for deposition in the Israel State Archives. In charge of determining the timeline for keeping and for destroying records and of developing instructional programs and professional training.
Information Systems & Technology Department:
In charge of the maintenance and development of the central computer department of the Israel State Archives and of preparations for future systems.
Information and Cataloguing Department:
Handles the arrangement and description of the archival material through archival methods and standards, creation of the central database of the Israel State Archives and making it available via on-line computerized systems to the general public.
Handles receipt, input and maintenance of State records intended for permanent preservation. In charge of loaning out documentation and responsible for maintaining its physical integrity according to standards.
State Documents Department:
In charge of compiling, editing and publishing the "Documents on the Foreign Policy of Israel" series (volumes in Hebrew and English).
Presidents and Prime Ministers of Israel Commemoration Department:
The department compiles, edits and publishes the series commemorating Israel's late presidents and prime ministers (volumes in Hebrew only).
Handles the preservation, registration, and conversion of audio-visual documentation into current-day media. Also provides instruction on handling of audio-visual documentation.
The department handles the declassifying of classified archival documents in the Israel State Archives, in keeping with the Archives Law, the regulations on viewing archival material and the criteria approved by the ministers' committee for permission to view classified archival records.
Preservation and Restoration Department:
The department handles preservation and restoration of damaged documents. In charge of formulating policy and disaster-prevention plans in the area of preservation; in charge of professional training on the subject.
Official Publications Department:
Collects and catalogues all official publications of state institutions, public committees and local authorities. Assists researchers in locating these publications; publishes an annual bibliography of publications in Hebrew and English.
Oral Documentation Unit
The unit is part of the activities for the commemoration of Israel's late presidents and prime ministers.