How product advertising was imported to Israel by German Jews


A vision of the future of Palestine

During the British Mandate of Palestine in the 1930s, ads not only sold products but also the Zionist dream and their vision of the Land of Israel, "Eretz Yisrael." A popular brand of cigarettes, seen on this newspaper stand, was Atid. The word means "future" in Hebrew.


Aliyah: the immigration

Another brand of cigarettes in the 1930s was Aliyah, a term describing the immigration of Jews to the Holy Land — another basic tenet of Zionism. On the poster on the left side, a ship is bringing in immigrants from Europe to Palestine. The depiction reminded buyers not only of their own journey, but also promoted the hope that more Jews would be joining them soon.


A new life

The exhibition at the German-Speaking Jewry Heritage Museum in Tefen, Israel, shows ads and product designs from the 1930s - 1950s, as well as black-and-white photos by Alfons Himmelreich. He too was a so-called "Yekke": a Jew from a German-speaking country who had immigrated to Palestine. His pictures captured the spirit of the time — for example in cafes.


Landwer's coffee

The Yekkes retained old habits in their new country. For many Austrians such as graphic designer Franz Kraus, that also included Viennese coffeehouse culture. "Landwer's Coffee," as advertised above, still exists today. It's a chain of cafes with branches in Tel Aviv and worldwide.


Tel Aviv chronicles

The photographer Alfons Himmelreich was born in Munich. In 1933, he immigrated to British Palestine. Photography was initially only a hobby for Himmelreich, until he opened his own photo studio in Tel Aviv in 1942. The photos on show at the German-Speaking Jewry Heritage Museum are from the book "Alfons Himmelreich: Photographer on the Roof."


Soap with a Zionist message

The posters in the exhibition are replicas, and the exact year the originals were printed is unknown. The ad on the left side must be from before the foundation of the state of Israel: "Palestine" appears on the soap, along with the symbolic menorah — which would later become the emblem of the State of Israel.


Products from the land

The newly arrived Jews were still attached to the lifestyle they had in big cities like Berlin or Vienna, as the ads for soap, razors and cigarettes would underline. However, agriculture was also extremely important for Zionists. Fruit and vegetables were sold with the slogan "produced in the Land" — referring to the Land of Israel.


The famous Jaffa oranges

Two products in particular were produced in Palestine, way before the Jews immigrated there: olive oil and oranges. Named after the Arab city of Jaffa — now a part of southern Tel Aviv — Jaffa oranges had been renowned for their sweetness since the 19th century. The Zionists turned the oranges into one of the country's top exports.


New market: children

However, before turning to exports, most ads in the 1930s-1950s targeted the local population. By the 1960s, advertisers realized children also offered a major market. The largest food manufacturer at the time, Osem, developed a new product: a peanut butter-flavored snack, called...


Every Israeli kid knows them

... Bamba! To this day, the peanut butter-flavored snack made from puffed maize is a favorite throughout the country. Apparently, Israeli children are not as allergic to nuts as in other countries because they've been eating them from an early age — a myth everyone prefers to believe. The first packaging and ad for the product was designed by Otte Wallish, a Yekke from the Sudentenland.


Diving into the founding years of Israel

For museum director Ruthi Ofek, one thing is clear: "Israel's actual national dish is bamba, and not falafel!" The exhibition at the German-Speaking Jewry Heritage Museum in Tefen offers a nostalgic look back at the crucial years preceding the foundation of the State of Israel.

In their homeland they were successful designers and business owners. Then came the Nazis. An exhibition in Israel shows how German Jews, known as "Yekkes," brought something completely new to the country: advertising.

"Visit Palestine," says the ad, with the word "Palestine" larger than all others, glowing in a yellow that goes well with the oranges above it.

Society | 09.11.2017

Although the Jewish Agency aimed to promote tourism with this poster, it's easy to see that there's something more to it. Its aesthetics connote a Palestine where orange trees bloom. Three newly built houses and a water cistern make up a small settlement. That's already a beginning. "Come and contribute to building our land," the poster seems to call out.

The poster was conceived by Otte Wallish, a graphic designer who was born in 1906 in the German-speaking region of Sudetenland, now the Czech Republic. He had studied at the Vienna Art Academy, then worked in Berlin, and later opened an advertising agency in Prague.

Jeckes-Werbung im alten Palästina

Graphic designer Otte Wallish

In 1934, he immigrated to Palestine. "He was a true Zionist," says Ruthi Ofek, director of the German-Speaking Jewry Heritage Museum in Tefen in northern Israel.

The museum is featuring an exhibition on advertising designed by co-called Yekkes — Jews of German-speaking origin — who had fled to British Mandated Palestine after Hitler seized power. The show features some 40 posters as well as the original packaging of 80 to 100 products, including soap, detergent, razors and creams produced between the 1930s and 1950s.

Origins of the name 'Yekke'

There are a number of theories explaining the etymology of "Yekke," explains historian Moshe Zimmermann, whose ancestors were also Yekkes.

"One theory is that the word Yekke came from the abbreviation 'JKH,' for jehudi kshe havana," Hebrew for "Jewish squarehead," explains the historian. Squarehead was also a disparaging term for a German person.

The term "Jecken" is also used in the Rhine region for the "jesters" celebrating Carnival, and there might be a connection, says Zimmermann.

However, the most plausible theory is that Yekkes wore jackets (called "Jacken" in German, the J being pronounced with a y-sound), while all others only wore shirts.

 "Today Yekke has a positive connotation," as people appreciate the manners traditionally attributed to German Jews, such as their attention to detail and punctuality. "But at the time, the term was derogatory," says Zimmermann.

Related Subjects

"The majority of early immigrants came from Eastern Europe; they made fun of the peculiarities of those arriving from German-speaking areas. They were so diligent, punctual, honest and conservative — at least according to their preconceptions."

Between 1933 and 1941, about 70,000 Jews from the "extended" German Reich — including Austria, the Sudetenland, Bohemia, Gdansk and the Memel region — fled to Palestine. Many of them were academics, doctors, lawyers, scientists and merchants.

"Capitalism played an important role for them," says Zimmermann. "With this entrepreneurial spirit came advertisements for the products, leading to the importation of the German style of advertising."

More than consumerism: Publicity for the new state

Otte Wallish, a graphic artist from the Sudetenland, used the skills he had developed in Europe to open an advertising agency in Tel Aviv. He designed products, came up with slogans and printed them with specific fonts before selling them to large companies that were often owned by families with German roots. 

Among them was Osem, which remains to this day one of the country's largest food manufacturers. When the company was bought by Nestlé in the mid-1990s, it felt like a national tragedy for many people. The company had been established by seven entrepreneurs, all of them Yekkes.

Jeckes-Werbung im alten Palästina

Ads for Osem products designed by Wallish

When these entrepreneurs started out they were already familiar with advertising products. However the concept was still new in Israel, and advertising took on a meaning that it didn't have yet in Europe.

"It stands for way more than consumerism," says Jewry Heritage Museum director Ruthi Ofek. "All the advertising posters in the exhibition are connected in some way with Zionism," she adds.

Cigarettes for instance were called "Aliyah," the word referring to the immigration of diaspora Jews to Israel. Another brand was "Atid," which is Hebrew for "future."

"People wanted to build a new country, and you can feel that in ads as well," explains Ofek.

That's what Otte Wallish literally did. When the founder of the state of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, read the Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948, the calligraphy and the design of the scroll had been done by Otte Wallish, whose agency designed the first stamps and election campaign posters of the young state.

It's not clear if Wallish was even paid for these official assignments, says Ofek, adding that he likely made a living from his commercial work instead.  

Otte Wallish died in 1977 in Tel Aviv. When his son Eri took over his father's agency, he kept the posters and product packaging designed by his dad. These are among the broad range of advertising memorabilia on show at the German-Speaking Jewry Heritage Museum in Tefen.