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The first international gathering of Zionists took place in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 and was dedicated to reestablishing a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. There was, however, sharp dissension among the early adherents of the movement. "Political Zionists" were focused exclusively on the acquisition of an internationally recognized charter; "Cultural Zionists" championed a spiritual revival focused on Jewish culture in the Land of Israel; and "Practical Zionists" emphasized the more concrete methods of attaining Zionist goals: aliyah (immigration), rural settlement, and the founding of educational institutions in Palestine.

Despite these wide ideological gaps among the Zionist factions, the initial article of the "Basel Program," the manifesto adopted at the First Zionist Congress, called for the settlement in Palestine of Jewish artisans and tradesmen. Though Schatz was greatly inspired by the position of the Cultural Zionists, in the end it was Otto Warburg, Theodor Herzl's successor and a Practical Zionist, who stated in 1905 that "craftsmanship and home industry would thrive in Eretz Israel, if a national museum and a Jewish academy would be established." The support of the Zionist movement paved the way for the bold attempt to link economic self-reliance with the creation of a national Jewish artistic identity.

Herzl Memorial Plaques

The exalted status of Theodor Herzl among early Zionists cannot be exaggerated; a staggering degree of shock and mourning accompanied his sudden death at age 44 in 1904. In his meteoric eight-year career as a Jewish leader, he succeeded in the widespread promulgation of Zionism, an idea that would forever transform the future of the Jewish people. Schatz created a memorial plaque that featured the distinctive profile of the father of Political Zionism. To the left and below are quotations from Herzl's writings, while at right is a depiction of Moses, the only other leader to successfully guide the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.

Schatz gives a date of 1903 (the year before Herzl's death) for this plaque in his Monography. However, the word l'zekher (in memory) appears at the top of the plaque and Moses is depicted with his gaze set towards a promised land he will never enter. It has been suggested that the plaque was substantially completed in 1903 and the final modifications mentioned above added only after Herzl's demise on July 3, 1904.
Silver-plated bronze cliché
Reproduced by Bezalel Schatz
(son of Boris Schatz)
Boris Schatz (1866–1932)
Original design ca. 1903–4
Jerusalem, 1965

Collection of Ira and Brigitte Rezak

Remembrance Day for Theodor Herzl
at the Bezalel School, ca. 1906

Printed by Y[aakov] Ben-Dov (1882–1968)
Judaica Collection of Chaim and Naomi Steinberger, New York

Lord Balfour

Arthur Balfour (1848-1930) was a British statesman, who as Foreign Secretary in 1917 wrote a letter addressed to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the Jewish community in Britain. Known as the "Balfour Declaration," it was the first significant declaration by a world power in favour of a Jewish "national home" in Palestine. It became an important symbol of official recognition of Zionist aspirations and helped to bolster the movement to create a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, and Balfour himself was lionized in Zionist circles.
"Balfour Declaration" Letter
November 2nd, 1917