Man and His Work Center

virtual tour


The Center displays the traditional material culture of the Land of Israel in numerous spheres of daily life, among them agriculture, crafts, domestic work, design, and decoration. The Center is rooted in the 1930s when Professor Avitsur, after whom it is named, began studying the subject and collecting ethnographical artifacts and utensils illustrating traditional ways of life.

Archaeological finds show that work tools, artifacts and production methods have scarcely changed over thousands of years of history and have been used until recent years in the Arab localities, Bedouin encampments and by Jews living in the Land of Israel and neighboring countries. Most of the exhibits in the collection are ethnographical and relate to recent generations; nonetheless they are enlightening as they show life in ancient times as well. For comparison, ancient artifacts and tools have been incorporated into the exhibit, with reference to their date and place of origin. As this traditional material culture is disappearing, the Center seeks to preserve its cultural and historical importance.

The Center comprises three spaces: the permanent exhibit, the Crafts Arcades, and the Bread Courtyard. Some of the outside exhibits, and particularly those in the Land of Israel Landscapes Park, are also part of the Center.

The new permanent exhibition comprises some 20 sections of exhibits and artifacts from variouss fields of daily life in the Land of Israel.

The pavilion's northern wing (to the right of the entrance) is devoted to gathering and processing food. Its main  sections cover the three basic crops (grain, grapes and olives) which contributed the main components of the food table: grains, wine, and oil. Grain and its cultivation and processing is exhibited through tools that complete the Bread Courtyard, and include rare stamps for the piles of grain on the threshing floor, and a threshing board equipped with hundreds of flint blades. Other sections show how animals - such as sheep, pigeons and bees - were raised, and the food they produce, as well as hunting and fishing - the primary means of gathering food. A new section in the pavilion is devoted to water, which has never been abundant in our country; as a result, diverse equipment was developed for drawing and distributing it. Another showcase displays tools and containers which were used in the kitchen and the courtyard for preparing, cooking and storing food.

The southern wing (to the left of the entrance) exhibits a range of crafts and activities, and completes the Crafts Arcades which is adjacent to the pavilion: spinning and weaving (with a special display of a reconstructed floor loom), riding and transporting by human beings and animals, use of a wide assortment of plants for producing tools and containers (a fascinating exhibit as these are in most cases not preserved in archaeological finds), building and stone hewing and cutting, wood carving and wooden tools (a rare exhibit is a large lock and its key), and measuring and weighing implements which were in use from ancient times through the British Mandate, some bearing stamps and inscriptions of officials who verified their images. A special section shows diverse techniques (such as carving, engraving, painting and inlaying) for designing and decorating objects, since human beings always aspired to beautify their possessions, even if the decorations contributed nothing whatsoever to their practicality.

Another section shows secondary use and recycling of wornout artifacts, a subject that has become central in our times but was also characteristic of the frugal traditional culture. Another deals with plastics - a new raw material - using traditional shapes and design; these plastic items are placed next to their predecessors which are identical in shape but were made of traditional materials. The center of the hall houses rare exhibits: an animal-operated mill from the Byzantine period decorated with a seven-branched menorah which was uncovered in excavations conducted by the museum in an ancient synagogue at Zur Natan; a large storage jar beautifully decorated in earth colors (ochre); and a large water wheel made of oak used to drive the grindstones in a flour mill in the Taninim Stream, also uncovered in an excavation.

A slideshow of everyday life in Israel is screened in a special space. Idioms that originate in ancient Hebrew, which relate to the different activities, are incorporated into the show. We use these idioms in everyday life but only few people are aware of their original meaning.

The Crafts Arcade is a reconstruction of a paved market street (bazaar); along the street the "shops" display raw materials, work tools, and the products of various traditional craftsmen: the blacksmith, wood-turner, carpenter, silversmith, shoemaker, cotton-carder, potter, tinsmith, weaver, harness maker,  baker, glass blower, and knife sharpener. This is a singular collection in its authenticity and richness of display, which reflects the character of ancient urban craft centers.

The Bread Courtyard is an outside exhibit devoted to crop cultivation and grain processing for bread - the staple of life. It comprises a wide range of traditional wooden plows and modern iron plows, ancient threshing implements made of diverse raw materials (including a rare threshing stone of the Templers), grindstones and grinding tools from various periods, and baking utensils.

The comparison between the old and the new attests to the great resemblance between the way of life in ancient times and that of recent generations, and highlights how minor the changes in work tools and daily artifacts have been over the years.