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Israeli Arts, Culture & Literature: Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design

(1906 - )

The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is known for its outstanding program and fine artists. The name Bezalel comes from the Bible (Exodus 35:30); Bezalel, son of Uri, was appointed to oversee the construction of the Tabernacle.

The school was founded on January 18, 1906, by Boris Schatz, who shaped the character of the Academy. His approach stressed both the practical and the ideal. His vision was to develop useful arts and crafts among Palestinian Jews, thereby decreasing the dependence on charity. At the same time, he sought to inspire his students to create a Jewish national style of the arts, in order to promote the Zionist endeavor.

Schatz himself was taken prisoner by the Turks during World War I. At that time, financial support from abroad lapsed, and the school closed until the end of the war. Additional financial pressures as well as other problems forced the school to shut down once again, for a number of years. The Academy reopened after Schatz's death, in 1935. The new director, Joseph Budko, took advantage of the many new European immigrants' talent and energy, and succeeded in revitalizing the school.

Today, Bezalel offers a B.F.A. degree in a wide range of arts and design fields. There are currently approximately 1,000 students studying at Bezalel, with 250 faculty members. In 1990, the school changed premises, moving to its new location on the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Sources: The Jewish Agency for Israel and The World Zionist Organization.

Photo: Bezalel on Mount Scopus - ???? ?????????, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.