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The End of Schatz's Bezalel

The First World War (1914–1918) ushered in a markedly difficult period for Bezalel. The already precarious financial position of the school was suddenly exacerbated by dangers related to the war: famine, cholera, and military conscription of students and faculty. However, the 1920s witnessed the resumption of major international exhibitions and ambitious plans for a Bezalel artists' colony. Still, the school slowly declined under the combined weight of financial difficulty and the new wave of artistic "modernism" based in Tel Aviv that was rapidly supplanting the "Hebrew" style of Bezalel. When the school closed its doors in 1929, Schatz made several attempts to revive it. He died in 1932 in Denver, Colorado, while on a fund-raising trip to the United States.

Beyond 1929

The school eventually reopened in 1935 as "The New Bezalel." More influenced by Bauhaus than Bible, the new school distanced itself from Schatz's artistic vision. Over the next 75 years, Bezalel continued to grow and evolve. Today, the "Bezalel Academy of Art and Design" encompasses 1700 students and 400 faculty members. In 1906, the founders, students, and artisans of Bezalel sought to create a new and distinctive art in the Land of Israel that reflected Jewish identity in all its complexity. However, in the century that followed, art, identity, and Judaism all proved too fluid to be as neatly integrated as Bezalel's pioneers had once imagined. Their ultimate success lies in having established a point of departure from which future generations would continue to explore the role of art in the formation of Jewish national identity.