On Independence Day 2004, the actress Gila Almagor, an Ein Hod member, received the Israel Prize, awarded by the President of Israel to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in every field of endeavor. In so doing Gila Almagor became the tenth Ein Hod member to receive this prestigious award. That is a remarkable accomplishment for a village which today, larger than it has ever been, can claim only 150 members, the first twenty of whom had to be cajoled by Marcel Janco in 1953 to settle the dusty place at the top of the hill. There is little doubt that that no settlement in Israel can boast a greater proportion of its inhabitants to have won the prize than the little village of Ein Hod.
Gila Almagor, cited for her life’s work as one of Israeli’s leading actresses, joined the list of nine other illustrious Ein Hod personalities who have enriched Israeli culture in many fields. Zahara Shatz, who won the Prize in 1955 for painting and sculpture was the first, followed by Marcel Janco, for painting (1967), Gertrude Kraus (1968) for dance, Shimon Halkin (1975) for literature, Haim Hefer (1983) for Hebrew songwriting, Natan Zach (1995) for poetry, Aryeh Navon (1996) for theater scenery and art, Michael Gross (2000) for painting and sculpture, and Gavri Banai (2000) for his special contribution to Israeli culture as a member of the Hagashash comedy trio. It would be hard to imagine Israeli national culture without them.
Shatz, Janco, Navon and Gross, the painters and sculptors, stand at the center of the world of plastic art in Israel.
Zahara Shatz, born in Israel, was the daughter of Boris Shatz, who founded the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem. After studying at the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris she rose to great prominence in Israel and overseas. She exhibited and won prestigious prizes throughout the world, from the Milan Triennale, where she won a special award, to the Milane Bienalle, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where she was awarded a medal for her artistic achievement.
The renowned Marcel Janco, born in Bucharest, Romania, was one of the founders of the important Dada Movement (non-artists). Dadaism was established in 1916, at the Cabaret Voltaire, in Zurich, Switzerland, by a group of exiled poets, painters and philosophers who were opposed to war, aggression and the changing world culture. Pablo Picasso who belonged to the Dadaists Group in Paris, was a contemporary of Janco. In 1922 Janco returned to Romania, where he gained fame as a painter and architect. Then, in 1941, fleeing the Nazis, he moved to Palestine, and became one of the founders of the New Horizons Group (1948). In 1953 he founded the Ein Hod Artists Village. The Janco-Dada Museum, founded in 1983 in Ein Hod, is an important source of information about the Dada Movement and Janco’s work.
Aryeh Navon, born in Russia, immigrated to Palestine with his parents in 1919. He studied here and at the Institut d’Esthetique Contemporain in Paris and became one of the first caricaturists in Israel, published daily in the famous Davar newspaper. In 1948 he started working as a theater set designer, and became the most prominent artist in that field in Israel. Recipient of many prizes, in 1975 he was selected by the International Theater Institute as one of the thirteen most outstanding theater artists in the world for the years 1970-1975.
Michael Gross, a sixth generation Israeli, produced works that are steeped in the Israeli experience and imbued with the atmosphere of his native Galilee. He served as a watchman in the Settlements Police during the British Mandate and took part in the War of Independence. In his works, imbued with the light and spirit of the Land, he achieved many breakthroughs, striving toward a minimalism that was never pure abstraction, but tied to natural form and laden with feeling. He achieved acclaim in Israel and abroad, and also became a great teacher, beginning in the Bezalel Art Academy. Generations of Israeli artists, including many of the most well known in Israel today, look to him as their mentor and source of inspiration.
In the realm of literature and songwriting Shimon Halkin, Haim Hefer and Natan Zach stand out as well.
Shimon Halkin was one of the fathers of academic teaching of Hebrew literature in Israel, and a worldwide authority on Hebrew and Yiddish literature. Author of classic texts in these fields, in use throughout the world, he was a teacher, a poet, a researcher and a translator. He was a superb scholar who influenced generations of students. Likewise, his translations, such as that of Shakespeare’s Shylock into Hebrew, poems from Leaves of Grass, and many more, stand as classics.
Haim Hefer is another Israeli institution. The “poet laureate” of the Palmach, he wrote many of the songs that people the world over associate with the period surrounding the War of Independence, the spirit of Israel reborn and of Israeli heroism. He continued to be a great influence for the next fifty years, writing a column in the Yediot Achronot newspaper, the words for many of Israel’s best known songs and collaborating in the writing of the famous movie Kazablan, among others.
Natan Zach was born in Berlin and immigrated to Haifa as a child. He lectured at Tel Aviv University and was appointed professor at Haifa University. He is not only a poet, but also an editor, critic and translator, and was chairman of the repertoire board of both the Ohel and Cameri theaters. Rebelling against the previous generation of Israeli poets he led a group that changed the face of poetry in the 1950s and 1960s. Breaking with tradition he aimed for openness and experimentation, using irony and a colloquial vocabulary. Internationally acclaimed, Zach has been called “the most articulate and insistent spokesman of the modernist movement in Hebrew poetry.”
Gila Almagor, Gertrude Kraus, and Gavri Banai excelled in the field of dance, acting and entertainment.
Gila Almagor , an actress and author, was born in Kefar Saba and moved to Tel Aviv at the early age of 15 dreaming to become an actress.
Gila Almagor, is performing in the Cameri and Habima theaters, in movies and on TV playes leading roles in many famous productions. In 1987 she published her book The Summer of Aviya, based on her personal biography. She also transformed the book into a movie, which represented Israel at important film festivals worldwide and won international prizes, as did her second book, Under the “Domim” Tree. She also was one of the founders of Ami, Association of Israeli Artists, a member of the board, Tel Aviv municipality, and acted as director of art and culture department of the city.
Gertrud Kraus (1901-1977)
Dancer and choreographer, teacher of dance, painter and sculptor, Israel Prize Laureate for Dance (1968). Born in Vienna, Austria, studied piano at the Vienna Music Academy (1915-1920), and dance at the same Academy (1922-1924). Immigrated to Israel in 1935. Organized dance recitals in Israel during her visits there in 1931 and 1933. In 1939 appeared in a series of solo performances. From 1940 on she concentrated on choreography and teaching. In 1942 she founded a dance company. Gertrud Kraus developed generations of dancers and established the first ballet company in Israel. She was the principal teacher of dance in the Rubin Academy of Music in Jerusalem. In 1975 she agreed to present her first exhibition of painting and sculpture. She passed away at the age 76.. In the book about her written by Williger in Vienna in 1938 he described her well as ” a living example that it is possible to allow reason and intellect to rule without losing faith.”
Movement design for theaters:
HaOhel, HaBima, Do-Re-Mi, Cameri and others
Choreographic design for performances:
Shabtai Zvi (1936), The White Circle, Herod and Miriam, Sodom, Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Silk and Bread, Mendel HaHocher, In Praise of the Lord (1947), Faust (1957), Shulamit the False Patient, Three Angels (1963), Day and Night, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Young Love, Barbara Blumberg, The Marriage of Figaro, Peer Gynt, The blue Bird, Thieves’ Ball, Emperor Jones, etc.
Gavri Banai, born in Jerusalem, is a member of the “Hagashash Hahiver” comedy trio, a unique Israeli institution. Formed in 1963, the trio achieved massive popularity and influence due to the artistic excellence of their work and the keenness of their observation of Israeli society that was reflected in their performances. The “Hagashash” has been credited with coining many standard phrases in use in the modern Hebrew language, creating “a new language which has successfully combined Biblical language with Israeli slang.” With characteristic humility, though, Gavri Banai commented that this was simply a matter of observing language that was in everyday use and putting it on the stage. Some of Israel’s greatest authors and playwrights prepared material for the trio, which appeared on the stage, in movies, television and army camps throughout the country and overseas.
Artists working in Ein Hod are fully aware of the illustrious example of these great artists and scholars, who lived and are still living among them. The work of these prize-winners and their lives provide inspiration and the challenge to emulate the best in each of them. After over fifty years as a vibrant, creative community Ein Hod faces many challenges, including the formidable, fundamental task of remaining an artists village in the face of serious economic and social pressures. Serious artists, writers, performers and musicians of all ages and specialties are still working and producing here.
— Written by Bob Nechin