BEZALEL, Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design was founded in 1906 by Boris *Schatz, first named the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts. It was named after the artist in charge of the construction of the *Tabernacle, Bezalel ben Uri (Ex. 31:1–5, 35:30–32). Schatz, who had a utopian vision, believed that the students would be able to help build a Third Temple in Jerusalem. In 1903 Schatz broached his idea to Theodor Herzl, and the decision to establish Bezalel was confirmed at the Seventh Zionist Congress (Basel, 1905).
From the beginning the institute contained three divisions: a school for painting, workshops, and the Bezalel Museum. In 1908, when the school moved to new premises it already taught 30 different crafts, such as silverwork, weaving, woodcarving, ivory inlaying, etc. In 1913 the number of students was around 500. In 1911–14 a separate branch for Yemenite goldsmiths operated in *Ben Shemen. The works of art created in the workshops were displayed by Schatz in Europe and New York as means of getting financial support.
The Bezalel style in crafts was a combination of Art Nouveau, the Oriental style, and the Art and Crafts Movement. Most of the objects were Judaica artifacts utilizing images from Jewish tradition, from the Bible as well as from the Zionist ideology (Elijah's Chair, 1916–25, Israel Museum, Jerusalem).
Economic factors in the main caused the closure of the Bezalel institute in 1929. A basic argument about its artistic style was one of the reasons its influence on Israeli art declined. The leading opponents were a group of young artists from Tel Aviv who desired a connection with modern Western art styles such as Expressionism, Primitivism, and Cubism.
German-influenced teachers founded the New Bezalel in 1935, and it was directed in that spirit by Josef *Budko, Erich *Mendelson, and Mordecai *Ardon. At that time the influence of modernism and the aesthetics of the Bauhaus became dominant. Since the 1970s Bezalel has been the major institute for fine arts and design in Israel.
O. Gideon, "The Utopian Art of Bezalel," in: Ariel, 51 (1982), 33–-63; N. Shilo-Cohen (ed.), Bezalel shel Schatz – 1906–1929 (1983).
[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.