THE SILVER DEPARTMENT AT "BEZALEL" Boris Shatz founded an art-and-crafts school in Jerusalem in 1906, naming it "Bezalel" for Bezalel Ben Uri, builder of the First Temple of biblical times. Marking the onset of applied cultural Zionism in the Land of Israel, the Bezalel School heralded efforts to forge links with a broad range of Jewish artistic traditions from East and West. The school's daring innovation offered a leading role to the local Yemenite community,particularly in the Filigree Silver Department, which was inaugurated in 1908. Boris Shatz originally hoped to coax dozens of Jewish silversmiths' families from San'a in Yemen to come to Jerusalem. He even went so far as to consider a journey to Yemen disguised in local costume, but ultimately settled for the manpower available in Jerusalem's Yemenite quarter of Mishkanot. In 1910, he relocated a dozen families of Yemenite silversmiths from Jerusalem to a small crafts village in the Ben Shemen Forest near the town of Lod. The Bezalel Colony, as the village was called, sent quantities of filigree silver products to Jerusalem, in order to supplement similar articles created by the Bezalel Silver Department. By 1913, the Bezalel Silver Department already numbered some eighty employees, among them Yehia Yemini, who had been working there from the outset. The department was headed by Shmuel Persov, an artist of Russian origin, who had spent a year studying filigree craft in Damascus in 1908. Persov taught new concepts of filigree work that were not always familiar to his Yemenite employees; thus the craftsmen, who ranged from children to the elderly, produced filigree work influenced both by the Yemenite and the East European style. The products were of every type and variety, including both ritual articles and practical utensils: Torah finials, perfume containers, Hanuka menoras, scroll covers, pipes, paper knives, coffee cups and saucers, sugar tongs and spoons, tea caddies, buttons, purses, jewelry boxes, cigarette cases, book bindings, bracelets, and brooches. Yehia Yemini distinguished himself with the quality of his work which included handcrafting, Oriental decorativity, and figurative or abstract ornamentation. The designs were interspersed with classical hammerings of Biblical heroes, holy places and tribal emblems and embellished with traditional verses. Filigree work was used with etching and hammering, with settings of stones, and with mother-of-pearl and enamel. Additionally, he combined granulation (soldered silver balls) with fine flowery adornment in the style of Russia and Poland. With his multi-dimensional perspective and outstanding Yemenite handcrafting skills, he created a pluralistic and eclectic style that came to embody the Bezalel Silver Department.











    000<000 000>000