Muslala artistic director: Matan Israeli
Black Box director and curators: Asaf Cohen and Yitzchak Izek Mizrahi
Participating Artists: Hadas Ophrat | Jenia Kris | Lola Gaynutdinova | Roy Fabian
Torah U’Melacha has a stated purpose: to change the hegemonic narrative surrounding the foundation of Israeli art in Jerusalem by revisiting the Jerusalem Torah U’Melacha School. The Torah U’Melacha School was founded in 1882 by the Alliance Israélite Universelle (Kol Israel Haverim – KIAH; the Hebrew translates as “the fellowship of all Israel”), a Paris-based international Jewish organization founded in 1860 to safeguard the rights of Jews around the world. Torah U’Melacha was the first Jewish institution founded in Israel for the study of art; it was established 24 years before Boris Schatz launched Bezalel (1906), which Israeli public consciousness has accepted as the pioneering art institution in Israel, although Torah U’Melacha preceded it. The school has been forgotten by the Israeli art discourse, primarily because it was associated with Sephardic Jewry and global Zionism. Historical obscurity was connected to physical oblivion; the building was demolished in the 1970s to make way for the Clal Center. Real estate developers and the municipality wanted to build a modern shopping center for the growing city, “a building that is a city.” Torah U’Melacha was the first professional school in Israel. 1 Alongside trades and crafts such as tailoring, shoemaking, metalworking, carpentry and mechanics, painting, sculpture and more general trades were also taught. The students were mostly Sephardic and Yemenite Jews, alongside some Christians and Muslims. The purpose of the school was to educate a generation of young Jewish tradesmen and craftsmen who would earn a decent living and not need to rely on charity. Opponents to Torah U’Melacha emerged from both extremes of the political spectrum. The ultra- Orthodox opposed secular studies, especially European-style education, and favored the distribution of charity that led to perpetual poverty for Torah scholars. The Jewish Zionist pioneers opposed the school because most of the lessons were conducted in French, not Hebrew. Some artifacts produced by the school are part of the Jerusalem landscape to this day. The teachers and students joined the team renovating the Dome of the Rock. The metalwork division fashioned the streetlight poles on Jaffa St. Even today, the manhole covers in Jerusalem include the words “Alliance” in French and “כי’ח” (KIAH) in Hebrew. The exhibition focuses on more than simply historical justice for this groundbreaking institution. It offers a new and optimistic direction for the emerging artistic vision in the Clal Center as a continuation of the artistic practice of the Torah U’Melacha School, thus creating a new and revolutionary connection between the shopping center and contemporary artistic practice, between the old and the new.
Address: 97 Jaffa St.