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Workshop, School & Museum

Ze'ev Raban (1890–1970)
Pen and ink drawing
Jerusalem, 1949

Collection of Congregation Emanu-El,
New York
Gift of Reva Godlove Kirschberg, 1987
WORKSHOPS
Schatz's supporters in Berlin formed a committee called the "Bezalel Society for Establishing Jewish Cottage Industries and Crafts in Palestine" whose primary goal was to oversee the creation of a network of artisan workshops. These were meant to provide employment for the impoverished Jews of Ottoman-ruled Jerusalem by producing goods for local tourists as well as for export to the Jews of the Diaspora. The first workshop to open its doors was the carpetweaving department in 1906, followed by workshops for metalwork, ceramics, woodcarving, basketry, lithography, and photography.

Postcard
Y[aakov] ben Dov (1882–1968)
Jerusalem, 1920s

Judaica Collection of Chaim and Naomi Steinberger, New York
SCHOOL
With few students and fewer qualified teachers, the school in its early years was particularly prone to setbacks in its development. Schatz's position as the only teacher of drawing, painting, and sculpture for nearly three years ensured that his artistic preferences and taste served as the primary influence for Bezalel students. The close connection between the school and the workshops was quite evident and the emphasis on decorative arts was clearly manifested in the curriculum. A student's typical day included at least two hours of practice in one of the workshop disciplines. Hebrew was taught six hours a week, alongside classes in art history, perspective, and anatomy.

Postcard
Shmuel Ben-David (1884–1927)
Published in a postcard album by Yaakov Ben-Dov, 1926

Private Collection
MUSEUM
Schatz began collecting materials for a museum as soon as he arrived in Palestine. Opened to the public in 1912, the museum featured native flora and fauna that Schatz hoped would serve as inspiration for the students and artisans. It also included an ethnographic and archaeological division comprising locally discovered artifacts and traditional Jewish ritual objects. Finally, there was a small fine arts section for which Schatz assiduously sought out works created by Jewish artists or depicting Jewish themes. Mordechai Narkiss, a student of Schatz's, served as head of the museum from the mid 1920s until his death in 1957. Under his leadership the collection expanded to international dimensions and incorporated objects as diverse as African art and Renaissance drawings. In 1965, the collections of the Bezalel Museum became the core of the newly founded Israel Museum.

Song of Songs I

Carpets and rugs have been used in the adornment of public and personal spaces since early antiquity. Schatz, hoping to emulate the accomplishments of the Bulgarian carpet industry he had overseen in Sofia and inspired by the commercial appeal of home crafts industries he had observed at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, saw the creation of a carpetweaving department as the natural first step for Bezalel. It was in fact the very first workshop set up by Schatz when he arrived in Palestine in 1906.Marbadiah, an offshoot of the original Bezalel carpet workshop, began producing carpets in 1920; the Song of Songs carpet was among their earliest designs.
Carpet, cotton, and wool
Marbadiah Workshop
Jerusalem, 1920–21

Collection of Jane and Stuart Weitzman

Shmuel Ben-David and Workers of the Carpet-Weaving Department

Carpets and rugs have been used in the adornment of public and personal spaces since early antiquity. Schatz, hoping to emulate the accomplishments of the Bulgarian carpet industry he had overseen in Sofia and inspired by the commercial appeal of home crafts industries he had observed at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, saw the creation of a carpet-weaving department as the natural first step for Bezalel. It was in fact the very first workshop set up by Schatz when he arrived in Palestine in 1906. Marbadiah, an offshoot of the original Bezalel carpet workshop, began producing carpets in 1920; the Song of Songs carpet was among their earliest designs.

In a 1919 essay, Schatz said: "My basic idea concerning carpet-weaving was not to compete in price (I believe the oriental system of exploitation should not be adopted in Eretz Israel)…rather we should…try to give our carpets an original Eretz Israel form."
Jerusalem, 1908
Collection of the Israel Museum

Ceramic Tiles

The ceramic tiles produced by Bezalel proved to be quite popular among tourists and locals alike. Their imagery drew upon recognizable landmarks of the Holy Land, such as Rachel's Tomb, and silhouettes of contemporary halutzim (pioneers) cultivating the Jewish homeland. The iconic image of the biblical spies returning from Canaan bearing an oversize grape cluster was especially popular, carrying the implicit message that the Land of Israel was truly flowing with milk and honey.

In 1924, Schatz approached the Tel Aviv municipality and offered to produce ceramic street signs, as well as house plaques with addresses and owners' names. Although the city administrators of this small but rapidly growing city never formally responded, several important architects ordered Bezalel ceramics from the Keramika workshop headed by Ya'akov Eisenberg (Barzilai). Some of these tiles may still be seen today on the facades of older buildings in Tel Aviv.
Pioneers
Glazed and painted ceramic tile
Keramika Workshop
Jerusalem, ca. 1925

Collection of Ira and Brigitte Rezak

Medals

Many of the first plaques and medals produced in the Bezalel School were copies or reductions of designs Schatz had produced early in his career, before arriving in Palestine. These included Jewish themes such as a Torah scribe, a Jewish mother, and a matchmaker. Later plaques often featured the designs of Moshe Murro (1888-1957) who in addition to his work in medals headed the Kameya workshop specializing in carving stone, shell, and ivory. Among these are Jewish "types," including the Tunisian boy with a turban and sidecurls and the young halutz (pioneer). Another prominent Bezalel artist, Ze'ev Raban, is very likely to have been the creator of the popular mishloah manot design depicting the traditional exchange of gifts of food that characterizes the holiday of Purim. Other subjects of Bezalel medals included important Zionist personalities such as Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism; Joseph Trumpledor, the Hero of Tel Hai; Vladimir Jabotinsky, founder of the Jewish Legion; and two separate deathbed depictions (one by Schatz, the other by Murro) of Eliezer Ben Yehudah, the father of modern Hebrew.
Mishloah Manot (Purim Gift-Giving)
Moshe Murro (1888–1957)
Electrotype with lead backing
Jerusalem, 1920s

Collection of Ira and Brigitte Rezak