The Bezalel Academy of Art
The original Bezalel Academy of Art was first envisioned in a meeting between
Boris Shatz and Theodore Herzl in Vienna in 1903. Shatz, already famous for his
statue “Matityahu the Hasmonean”, and founder of the Royal Academy of Art in
Sophia, Bulgaria, desired to establish an institution for the arts in the land of Israel.
He chose the name Bezalel for the biblical artist, mentioned in the book of Exodus
as the creater of the “Meeting Tent/Mishkan”. After Herzl’s death in 1904, Shatz
traveled Europe looking for donors to establish the school in Jerusalem, where Otto
Warburg and Franz Oppenheimer agreed to fund the project.
The Bezalel School produced decorative art objects in a wide range of media: silver,
leather, wood, brass and fabric. While the artists and designers were European-
trained, the craftsmen were often members of the Yemenite community, which has a
long tradition of craftmanship in precious metals. Silver and goldsmithing had been
traditional Jewish occupations in Yemen. Yemenite immigrants with their colorful
traditional costumes were also frequent subjects of Bezalel school artists.
Leading artists of the school include Meir Gur Aryeh, Ze’ev Raban, Shmuel Ben
David, Ya’ackov Ben-Dov, Ze’ev Ben-Tzvi, Jacob Eisenberg, Jacob Pins, Jacob
Steinhardt and Hermann Struck.
In 1912, the school had only one female student, Marousia (Miriam) Nissenholtz,
who used the pseudonym Chad Gadya. The school closed down in 1929 in the wake
of economic difficulties, but reopened in 1935, attracting many teachers and students
from Germany, many of them from the Bauhaus school shut down by the Nazis.
After being reopened, the school was referred to as “The New Bezalel”, and items
produced in “The Old Bezalel” intrinsically carry great value.
In 1958, the first year that the prize was awarded to an organization, Bezalel won
the Israel Prize for painting and sculpture. In 1969, Bezalel became a state-supported
institution. In 1975 it was recognized by the Council for Higher Education in Israel as
an institute of higher education. It completed its relocation to Mount Scopus in 1990.
In 2006, the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design celebrated its 100th anniversary.
Today, it is located on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem and has 1,500 students. Faculties
include Fine Arts, Architecture, Ceramic Design, Industrial Design, Jewelry,
Photography, Visual Communication, Animation, Film and Art History & Theory.