Israel's Declaration of Independence – one of the country's most important historic documents – is usually stored in a special environment meant to ensure its preservation. But an exception was made on Tuesday and the document was taken out of its storage in order for it to be photographed using technology that was developed for the photography of the Dead Sea scrolls – one of the most ancient document in Israel's possession.
The scroll was photographed in the Lunder Dead Sea Scrolls Conservation Laboratory of the Israel Antiquities Authority using an advanced multi-spectral photographic system that shoots in various exposures and at a number of wavelengths – from the visible region to the near infrared region of the spectrum.
The advanced photography will provide information regarding the texture of the material from which the scroll is made, its ink and topography.
The combination of exposures in the visible range will provide a high quality and exact color photograph that will look identical to the original declaration, while exposures in the near infrared region will make written characters which have faded over time visible to the naked eye.
The innovative system will create a precise and clear copy of the Declaration of Independence and make it appear as it was when originally signed.
The unique photography will also help assess the current condition of the Declaration of Independence and could provide assistance in mapping out the necessary measures for preserving the scroll for future generations.
"Until a decision is made regarding how the scroll is to be exhibited to the public, we will continue performing various operations aimed at documenting, revealing and preserving the scroll for future generations," State Archivist Dr. Yaacov Lozowick said. "Today’s photography is another step in this process after last year when the archive, with the assistance of the Israel National Heritage – Landmarks program, digitally photographed the scroll in collaboration with Google.”
Dr. Mordechai Naor, a writer and researcher of the history of Israel described in his recently published book "Great Friday" the ceremony proclaiming the state and the preparation of the Declaration of Independence. In the book, he presents both well-known and little-known details about the scroll, the writing of which was not completed until the time of the historic ceremony, and the problems that arose during the signing.
For example, he mentioned, “Because the ceremony was held in Tel Aviv, some of the signatories were unable to arrive because Jerusalem was under siege, and they signed the scroll only a month later, in 'spaces' that were left for them specifically for this purpose.
“Because the guest lists have not been found to this day, it is not known exactly who were the 300 individuals that were invited to the ceremony proclaiming the state. One person that was almost not allowed to enter was the designated minister of justice Pinchas Rosenbluth (Rosen) who forgot to bring his invitation. It was only after Ze'ev Sherf, Secretary of the Situation Committee, intervened was he permitted to enter and thus was also able to sign the Declaration of Independence.”
The Declaration of Independence is the most important document created in the State of Israel. It is the first document reflecting Jewish sovereignty since the time of the Hasmonean kingdom, and it is probably the first document that reflects a desire for sovereignty achieved by a democratic consensus.
Representatives of various political camps in the Yishuv negotiated every idea and word in it until they reached an agreed upon text. The debate continued until close to the signing ceremony itself. The scroll was read as a proclamation of independence, on Friday, the 5th day of Ayar, 5708 (May 14, 1948) in the Tel Aviv Museum then located at 16 Rothschild Boulevard, in the house of the city’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff.
Twenty-five members of the Provisional State Council signed the declaration and twelve others who were in besieged Jerusalem signed it later. The scroll is 117 cm long and 29.7 cm wide. It is made in three parts, and bound on the side with an interwoven thread and a wax seal.