Tuesday, February 25, 2020

(Courtesy of Kedem Auction House) 

Dr. Yirmiyahu Rimon (1933-2018) was perhaps one of the greatest documenters of Israeli history. While others wrote books and films on the subject, “Yerri,” as he was fondly called, sought to create a documentary of a different kind. Simply put, Yerri’s mission was to assemble the physical history of Palestine/Israel in all of its original variety, styles and colors.

Born in Haifa in 1933, Yerri Rimon’s life was interwoven with the history of the State of Israel. After serving in the paramilitary Nachal Corps and living on a kibbutz for four years, he enrolled in the Technion, where he completed his degree in aeronautical engineering. In 1962 he left to pursue his doctorate at Princeton University, then going on to conduct post-doctoral work at the American Naval research laboratories. Returning to Israel in 1970, he was appointed as the head of the Computer Science Department at Rafael (the Armament Development Authority), working there for over two decades. After retiring from Rafael in 1993, Rimon began to invest an increasing amount of effort into his collection endeavors.

With time, the Rimon Family Collection became among the most comprehensive of its kind. Dr. Rimon’s Haifa collection, for instance, contained 7,000 items alone, including documents, photographs, and other ephemera dating from the late 19th century, prior to the beginnings of the modern Jewish presence in Haifa. The Haifa collection was ultimately purchased by the Haifa City Museum and was the subject of an exhibit titled “To Collect Haifa” that opened in July 2017.

Jewish-themed postcards were an especially treasured part of Dr. Rimon’s collection. His collection contained no fewer than 20,000 postcards dating from before 1948, all of them meticulously categorized and accompanied by the relevant historical information.

According to the Kedem Auction House, important selections from the Rimon Collection will be available for sale to the greater public in an upcoming September 19 auction. Meron Eren, CEO of the Jerusalem-based auction house, has described the collection as “fascinating and eclectic,” noting that the featured selections in the upcoming auction later this month “are sure to excite.”

One item slated to be sold that has drawn particular interest is an embroidered Zionist flag from the Palestine Regiment of the British Army, circa 1943.

The Regiment was established in 1942 as a mixed unit of Palestinian Jews and Arabs. Contrary to the expectations of its Jewish volunteers, the British forbade them from displaying national or Jewish symbols and, further, stationed them on guard duty remote from the battlefield. In protest, the soldiers of the “Hebrew Battalion” of the Regiment (the unofficial name of the second battalion, comprised only of Jewish volunteers) flew the Zionist flag above their tents in blatant disregard of British orders, and were arrested as a result. Ultimately, the British acceded to their demands, both permitting the display of Jewish symbols and training them for battlefield combat, leading to the genesis of the Jewish Brigade.

The Zionist flag being offered is one of those originally flown in defiance of the British prior to the formation of the Jewish Brigade. Included in the same lot is a collection of 325 letters and photographs that had belonged to a Jewish soldier of the Regiment.

Artwork by Jewish inmates of British detention camps is another area that is well-represented in the Rimon Collection. Deported and detained underground activists and attempted immigrants often busied themselves by engaging in sculpting and other forms of handicraft, using any materials that were on hand. One such example, carved in 1948 by an unknown Jewish inmate of the Gilgil Detention Camp in Kenya, is a well-executed wooden relief of Moshe holding the Luchot with one hand lifted skyward; the opening price for this piece is listed at $500. Other examples from camps in Cyprus and Latrun are also being offered.

Dr. Rimon was actively engaged in expanding, organizing, and cataloguing his collection until the time of his death in 2018. Indeed, the Rimon Family Collection stands as a testament to Dr. Rimon and his life’s passion to physically document modern Israeli history.

Kedem Auction House, an international Judaica auction company headquartered in Jerusalem, holds approximately ten sales annually, including two auctions of Rare and Important Items (usually held in May and December). The upcoming auction, titled “Jewish and Israeli History and Culture,” contains 270 lots and is scheduled for September 19. For more information, to request a catalog, or to discuss a consignment, contact [email protected]