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Moshe Elazar Castel

CASTEL, MOSHE ELAZAR (1909–1991), Israeli painter. Castel was born in Jerusalem to Rabbi Yehudah Castel and descended from a Spanish family that emigrated from Castile to settle in Israel. The family lived for many generations in Hebron. His father was a scholar and a Judaica artist as well as a sofer. From 1922 Castel studied at *Bezalel in Jerusalem. In 1940 after 13 years in Paris, where he studied art and participated in exhibitions, he returned to Israel and settled in Safed. He was inspired by the ancient holy places and the mystic atmosphere created by the kabbalist rabbis of this medieval town. Castel was one of the founders of the "New Horizons" artists group (Ofakim Ḥadashim) that had a central role in the history of Israeli art.

Over the years Castel created a number of mural paintings, one of them for Israel's Knesset in Jerusalem (Glory of Jerusalem, 1966) and others tailored to the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem (Wall of Glory to Jerusalem and Golden Scroll, 1970–71).

Castel was recognized by his unique technique. The material he used in most of his works is ground basalt. Castel said that he chose this material after he visited Galilee, where he was inspired by the ancient synagogues constructed from basalt stone and decided to create a new material. He was attracted to the integral blending of the Jewish faith and the Israeli landscape. It was clear to him that the new material was appropriate for his art, since its themes involved Judaism and biblical visions.

The content of Castel's art refers to significant events in Israel's chronicles, such as the unification of Jerusalem in 1967, using symbols taken from biblical prophecy. These symbols, such as scrolls and ancient Hebrew letters, connect national history to his personal memories of his father's profession. Some of his works describe the pilgrimage to the Temple, with the stones of the wall combined with the scrolls and letters in the background. In the 1950s and 1960s Castel's work incorporated cuneiform script as well as the Canaanite and Aramaic languages. His symbolic style was consolidated after an early figurative-naive period where he described life in Galilee and the synagogues of Safed.


Tel Aviv Museum, Moshe CastelRetrospective Exhibition 1928–1973 (1973).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.