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President's Message

In the Israeli landscape, Bezalel is unique and without competitor. This is for two reasons: It is the only art school that teaches arts and the crafts across a wide variety of disciplines, enabling an unusual synergy between them. And among all Israeli cultural institutions, it is the first and oldest, founded in 1906 by Boris Shatz. As the first cultural institution of Israel, it has accumulated a historical depth that no other institution has. Bezalel teaches plastic arts, architecture, photography, graphic art, design and crafts, ceramic, jewel-making, as well as academic courses in the history and theory of the arts. Bezalel has the unique power to train students that have a broad knowledge, skill and creativity.

The classical and medieval artist was indistinguishable from the craftsman. Both would have been surprised by the distinction we commonly make today between artist and artisan, between what is made for beauty and what is made for utility, between what requires creativeness and what requires skill. Artists and craftsmen were one. The synergy between the different department of Bezalel takes us back to the power of that old and unified definition of the artist and craftsman. What they had in common was a similar attitude toward making objects. Both artists and craftsmen acquire skills that are slowly and patiently learned, and know that objects take time to be produced well. They both have a sense of the general design but must care about the details of execution. They do not compromise on the materials. They both translate ideas into objects through their individual creativity and immersion in tradition. In short, whatever their respective relationship to society, both crafts and arts demand a love of effort, precision, perfection.

What artists and craftsmen teach and learn must not remain isolated from the rest of society. On the contrary. The unique historical status of Bezalel brings with it a responsibility vis-a-vis the society and citizens that support it. Artists and craftsmen bring a radical message to Israeli society. Whatever is done with a care for perfection and beauty demands conscience and accountability to oneself and to others. No good artist or crafstman can be complacent or arrogant, because s/he is too aware of the tradition of great masters that preceded him and her, because s/he is aware that skills can always be improved, because she knows s/he is engaged in a conversation much greater than him or herself. The love for the beautiful and well- finished object or building is not foreign to what it means to live in a good society because it teaches to never cuts corners, to never do things fast, to never pretend or improvise with poor material. True quality cannot be faked. True quality demands integrity. The patience displayed in art and craftsmanship is one we can use to build a society based on the norm that we do things with attention to the general design of things as well as to the details of their execution.

Artists in all their forms can and must guide this society because they know more than most, what it means to demand perfection, harmony, significance, things that cannot be cheaply imitated. And thus the world of art and craftsmanship represent values that can and must be shared with others in other domains of our society. To say that Bezalel is excellent means that Bezalel not only offers a great program that has the best teachers but also that it has the responsibility to show Israeli society the moral and social value of patient and effortful learning, of professionalism, of talent and creativity, of conscience for the work well done, of accountability. Patience, modesty, attention to detail, accountability, all this combined with relentless creativeness, originality, individuality, talent are the values which Bezalel has a responsibility to promote everywhere in Israel society.

Professor Eva Illouz
President, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design