This weeks Parashah, Ki Tisa, describes how Bezalel, the master craftsman, was chosen to construct the Mishkan (Sanctuary), the dwelling place of G-d during the children of Israel’s wandering in the desert.
The name Bezalel very appropriately arose in 1903, when Professor Boris Schatz, one of the founders of the Royal Academy of Art in Sofia, Bulgaria, interested Theodor Herzl in a proposal to establish a school of arts and crafts in the Land of Israel. In 1905, the Seventh Zionist Congress in Basel supported the formation of the Bezalel School of Art, and in the following year, Professor Schatz establishes the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts on Ethiopia Street in Jerusalem. Its stated goals were “To train people in Jerusalem in crafts, consolidate original Jewish art and support Jewish artists, and to find visual expression for the much yearned national and spiritual independence that seeks to create a synthesis between European artistic traditions and the Jewish design tradition of Eastern Europe, and to integrate it with the local culture of the Land of Israel.”
Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design currently enjoys an international reputation, both for the courses it provides, and the pre-eminence of its teachers, students and graduates.
Among recent prizes and achievements, Bezalel celebrated with Bezalel instructor Ari Fulman, and graduates David Polonsky and Yoni Goodman on the achievement of winning the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film for “Waltz with Bashir”.
Bezalel explores a wide range of activities. In June 2008, Bezalel architects participated in a “Charrette” (Design Workshop), organised by FoEME (Friends of the Earth Middle East) with architects from Yale University’s Urban Design School, together with architects from Israel’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and Jordanian and Palestinian architects. The program focused on Environmental Peacemaking with the goal of creating a Jordan River Peace Park.
Bezalel, the divinely inspired master architect and craftsman, has provoked much discussion and commentary including about his name, leading to the reminder that every person is unique with a unique mission. Bezalel was the topic of one of the questions at last years Bible Quiz for Yom Haatzmaut (see the SZC website for the upcoming Sydney celebration).
The biblical Bezalel would no doubt be delighted with the modern day Israeli Bezalel Academy.