Bezalel logo

Commerce and Marketing

A palpable tension existed between Schatz's attempts to create a "Hebrew" style of art and the economic realities of early 20th century Palestine. In an effort to broaden its market, Bezalel gradually incorporated more traditional Jewish motifs and made use of artistic elements from both Eastern and Western cultures. As a result, the school and workshops produced a large number of ritual objects integrating the Bezalel "Hebrew" style into the familiar forms recognized by Jews around the world. Used for traditional rites and services, these included kiddush cups, menorahs, spice boxes, prayer-book covers, and cases for biblical scrolls.

In the city of Jerusalem itself, Bezalel pieces were sold mostly to tourists, at a custom-built pavilion outside the Jaffa Gate. In the Diaspora, an expanding network of Bezalel Societies and Associations promoted and sold a variety of products. In addition, special Bezalel exhibitions were held in cities throughout Europe and the United States.

Catalogue of Bezalel Exhibition
New York, 1926

Reuben Lifshitz [Leaf]
New York, 1926

Moldovan Family Collection

The Sharar Cooperative

Schatz's founding of the Bezalel School and its workshops had been undertaken under the auspices of, and with financial backing from, the Bezalel Society of Berlin, whose board members frequently clashed with Schatz over his methods and practices. By 1913, after years of friction, the board replaced Schatz as manager of the workshops with a Berlin pharmaceutical salesman, Arie Leib Estermann. Schatz retained his leadership of both the school and the museum. Estermann closed the unprofitable workshops and fired more than three quarters of Bezalel's workers. Led by Bezalel teachers and alumni, who for the most part maintained a fierce loyalty to Schatz, the now-idle workers formed new working groups that maintained close ties with Schatz and the Bezalel School and totally circumvented the workshops led by Estermann. Even with Estermann's departure and Schatz's partial reinstatement in 1914, the pattern of external affiliated workshops continued.

The Sharar Cooperative is an example of an external affiliated working group. The catalogue they produced in the mid-1920s focused on ritual objects made of silver or brass, such as kiddush cups, mezuzah cases, spice boxes, and Hanukkah lamps. Although many of the independent workshops did not survive the closing of the Bezalel School in 1929 and Schatz's death in 1932, some remained active for many years. The Sharar workshop was formally dissolved only in 1954.
Mezuzah Cases
Brass, silver, and silver-plate
Jerusalem, 1920s

Collection of Ira and Brigitte Rezak

Levant Fair Medals

Beginning in the 1920s, a regular series of Palestine Exhibitions & Fairs were held. These were originally devoted primarily to the agricultural products of Palestine. By the 1929 Fair, an increasing shift to a more worldly view was in evidence, with business enterprises and artisans represented alongside agricultural successes. The 1932 Fair was the first to be called a "Levant Fair" and the first to have truly substantial international participation, from both commercial exhibitors and fair attendees. The 1932 Fair initiated the "Flying Camel" logo and the medals seen here were created by Moshe Murro. In the design for the 1932 Fair, Murro created a fairly realistic representation of a winged camel, but in the redesigned image he executed for the 1936 fair, the shift to a modernist aesthetic is evidenced by the streamlining of the camel. This logo is still used today by the Israel Trade Fairs & Convention Center.
Moshe Murro after a design by
Arieh El-Hanini
Jerusalem, 1932 and 1936

Collection of Ira and Brigitte Rezak