Culture in Jerusalem during the British Mandate Period


national institutions building . The Bezalel museum and school of art were full partners in the message that went forth from Jerusalem to the Jewish world : the message of the new Eretz Israel . The British establishment was an additional source for culture in Jerusalem . Jews were employed by the establishment , alongside British and Arabs , as officials and professionals . Some arrived with the administration of the first High Commissioner , Lord Samuel ; others were recruited from among First Aliyah immigrants , including some who had been connected with the Ottoman administration ; still others were Sefardim from long-established families . They saw themselves as representatives of Western culture , English or French . Although they developed colonial manners , most still had ties to the Zionist enterprise , and they participated in the country’s cultural life , contributing to it in their own right , or as part of the audience . In the years between the Arab riots , when the atmosphere in Eretz Israel was relatively calm , the different Mandatory elites - British , Jewish , and Arab - met at various cultural events , mainly special concerts or at gala exhibition openings , but participation in such events was the province of only a few , the “ upper class . ” Life in Jerusalem in the 1920 s In the middle of the 1920 s the British administration decided on construction of a series of impressive buildings in Jerusalem , buildings that would symbolize its dream for the city : a Christian institution that would promote interreligious tolerance , the YMCA ( 1926 ); the magnificent King David Hotel ( 1929 ); and the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum ( 1930 ) . Participating in the construction of these edifices were builders and stone cutters from the Jerusalem company of the Joseph Trumpeldor Labor Battalion , who lived as a commune . One of the Battalion’s three companies had , in 1923 , located itself in Jerusalem . It pitched its tents near the Ratisbonne monastery and began to build the nearby Rehavia neighborhood . The company’s leaders included Yitzhak Sadeh ( later the commander of the Palmah ) , David Horowitz ( later to be appointed as governor of the Bank of Israel ) , Mordechai Ish-Shalom ( the future mayor of Jerusalem ) , and Menachem Elkind , who led the leftist faction of the Labor Battalion ( he would later bring about its split ; he and his comrades left Eretz Israel and sailed to establish their own commune in the USSR ) . Despite their financial straits , the members of the Battalion established a library in their camp , and they held study and cultural evenings . The Jewish establishment was apprehensive of the leftist bent of the Labor Battalion’s members and were not eager to employ them . The British , however , were aware of their skills as stone cutters , builders , and craftsmen , and involved them in the construction of the Mandatory buildings . The ornamentation of Jerusalem’s YMCA building was fashioned in an Eretz Israel Biblical style by an artist from Bezalel . This building , along with the King David Hotel and the Rockefeller Museum , also built by the members of the Battalion , reflected a unique Jerusalem culture that developed during the relatively calm period prior to the 1929 Arab riots . Opinions are divided as to the character of Ronald Storrs , the British Military Governor and Commissioner of Jerusalem , and his attitude to the Jewish community , but his major contribution to cultural activity in the city is indisputable . Immediately following the war , composer and researcher Abraham Zvi Idelsohn founded the Hebrew Stage Choir and a music school , whose executive board was headed by Storrs himself , and whose student body included Christian Arabs . The cellist Thelma Yellin-Bentwich founded the Jerusalem Music Society , centered principally on a string quartet . Its concerts , some of which were held in Storrs’s official residence , were the venue for social and cultural gatherings of the Jerusalem aristocracy of the time , which was mainly composed of leading British officials , senior officials - both Jews and Arabs

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