Before Zionists built Israel’s first kibbutz, first university, or first luxury hotel, they built an art academy. The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design opened in 1906, not because the Jewish homeland needed an art school more than it needed a university but because the Zionist leadership thought an art school would be an effective motor of economic growth.
The man who built the art school was named Zalman Dov Baruch Schatz before he left his yeshiva to study art and changed his name to Boris. His sculpture won a silver medal at the Paris Exposition Universelle, but he couldn’t feed his family. So, in 1895, he accepted an offer to help train the first generation of artists for the new nation of—Bulgaria.