Souvenirs from Utopia: The Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts in Early 20th-century Jerusalem

On View: 
Aug 27, 2019 to Jun 26, 2020

At the turn of the 20th century, under Ottoman rule, Jerusalem—to the west of the Old City—became a hotbed of Jewish cultural activities. The protagonists of this scene were, for the most part, East-European Jews, eager to shake off the oppressive conditions they had experienced in the Russian Empire. Living and working in close proximity were Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (1858-1922), a former rabbinical student from Belarus attempting to revive a spoken Hebrew language; Abraham Zvi Idelsohn (1882-1938), a cantor from Latvia, documenting and researching Jewish musical traditions,  and Boris Schatz (1866-1932), the son of a Hebrew schoolteacher from Lithuania looking to create a unique Jewish artistic style inspired by Bezalel, the biblical artist par excellence.

In 1906, Schatz founded The Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem, fulfilling his dream to establish a Jewish artistic cooperative in the Holy Land. The school trained scores of new Jewish immigrant artisans. Their products, ranging from olive wood desk sets to silver ritual objects, embroidered textiles, and mass-produced postcards, flooded the local and international tourist market, and are today part of private and museum collections worldwide. A century ago, while exiled from Ottoman Palestine during the First World War in 1918, Schatz wrote his utopian Zionist novel, Jerusalem Rebuilt: A Daydream (yerushalayim ha-benuyah: chalom be-haqitz). In his book, Schatz described Palestine in the year 2018 as a cultural center, in which most economic wealth would be created through cooperative art production. This exhibition explores the utopian legacy of the Bezalel School as it was preserved by The Magnes since its founding in 1962.


Major funding ($100,000+) for The Magnes Collection comes from Karen and Franklin Dabby, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the Helzel Family Foundation, the Koret Foundation,  Peachy and Mark (Z’l) Levy, Magnes Leadership Circle, Magnes Museum Foundation, the Office of the Chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, Barbro and Bernard Osher, and Taube Philanthropies.

Exhibitions Information
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
Opening Hours: 
Tuesday-Friday 11am-4pm
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
2121 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA
United States
Media Galleries


Meir Gur Arie, "Ya-halili. Silhouettes: IX," Jerusalem, Palestine, ca. 1920

Ya-halili. Silhouettes: IX

Meir Gur Arie, "Ya-halili. Silhouettes: IX," Jerusalem, Palestine, ca. 1920

Meir Gur Arie (b. Meir Gorodtski, Belarus, Palestine, and Israel, 1891-1951)
Ya-halili. Silhouettes: IX
English and Hebrew
Jerusalem, Palestine, Bezalel, ca. 1920
Offset lithograph on paper
Gift of Mary Schussheim, 85.35.20f