Unlike the US, Israel doesn’t celebrate its Independence Day by sending its president to fight invading aliens in huge spaceships (our presidents are too advanced in years for that). We do, however, have other traditions, and one of the earliest of these has been for the Jewish National Fund to issue each year a small lapel pin celebrating the young state’s birthday. Since my childhood these would be sold for a small donation to the JNF’s activity, and I’ve kept some of them and bought some others later, making a nice little collection.
Here they are. Each row stands for one decade; the oldest pin I have, with the stylized number eight, is from 1956; the newest, #40, is from 1988.
And as I look at the series, I’m amazed to see that while the state of Israel has progressed from humble and austere beginnings to become today’s vibrant “start-up nation”, these pins have moved in the opposite direction: their design and quality of manufacture have degenerated considerably with the advancing years!
This photo shows the pins from years 20, 25 and 38. See what I mean? The leftmost pin is cast in a solid bronze alloy; all the years before it use embossed metal too. But year 25 uses a flat metal disk with a paper sticker, as do subsequent years (and years 31 and 37 shamelessly recycle the same design on the paper!); then, in year 38, we see a move to the el-cheapo buttons used for political rallies and countless other mundane uses.
And it gets worse. Year 39 had three versions: the cheap button, a flimsy plastic “paperclip”, and a disposable paper sticker!
Incidentally, year 10 also had a choice; but not between flimsy and disposable. In that year there were two respectable, embossed metal pins – one in tinplate and one in bronze.
Consider the change in raw materials in this sequence:
Bronze in year 10 (this was the only material in use in the first decade), tinplate in year 16, and the yucky plastic in year 39.
Lastly, consider the complexity of structure in the year 14 pin from 1962 (the wooden backplane was meant to celebrate the JNF’s highly successful reforestation efforts), in contrast to the trivial technique in the paper sticker from 1987.
Of course, we see this decline of craftsmanship in many manufactured goods in our modern world – and here it is captured nicely in a microcosm of ID lapel pins!