OHEL (Heb. אֹהֶל; "Tent"), Israel theater company, originally known as the Workers' Theater of Palestine, founded in 1925 by Moshe *Halevy. It was the company's original intention to create a socialist theater whose members combined work in the theater with agricultural and industrial labor. After about two years, however, it became clear that to reach a high level of accomplishment actors must devote themselves fully to their profession. Furthermore, from the outset Ohel found it difficult to procure ideologically suitable plays. The theater's inaugural production was an adaptation of stories by I.L. *Peretz (1926) that was received with great enthusiasm, especially in the rural settlements for which Ohel's work was primarily intended. This was followed by Dayyagim ("Fishermen," 1927), a socialist play about the exploitation of fishermen by entrepreneurs. Thereafter, the company turned to biblical plays and the standard international repertoire.
In 1934 Ohel had reached the climax of its development. The early years of the 1930s witnessed its struggle between being a "proletarian" theater and a "national" one. It sometimes even presented "proletarian" plays that were criticized for being incongruent with the actual social and labor situation in Palestine. On its highly successful European tour in 1934, however, Ohel staged mainly biblical and national plays. Upon its return to Palestine, it produced some of its greatest successes, including "The Good Soldier Schweik" (1935), mostly due to the talents of Meir Margalit (d. 1974), a comedy actor. Two years later it also staged Yoshe Kalb, adapted from a novel by the Yiddish author I.J. Singer and directed by Maurice *Schwartz.
The theater progressed until 1958, when it faced a crisis over being suddenly divorced from the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor), which had been its parent body. The motivating factor behind the split was the theater's decline in both quality and audience-drawing power. The decline continued until 1961, when Ephraim *Kishon brought his comedy Ha-Ketubbah ("The Marriage Contract") to the Ohel. With Margalit in the lead, the play proved to be such a success that it revived the theater for three seasons. Under the new artistic director, Peter Frye (d. 1991), the theater experienced another major hit, Shalom Aleichem's Ammekha (1964), and proceeded to produce works by Ionesco, Brecht, and young British playwrights, using actors from outside the repertory company and the aid of foreign directors. The period of revival was short-lived, however, and the theater closed in 1969.
M. Kohansky, The Hebrew Theatre (1969), 96–106 and index; M. Halevy, Darki alei Bamot (1955).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.