Gymnasia Days

The Herzliyah Hebrew Gymnasium, 1905-1959


A hundred and seven years have passed since Gymnasia Herzliyah was founded, and the time has come to discover the people, actions, and events in its history through a treasure trove of rare and fascinating photographs. This exhibit presents a chapter in the history of one of the most important and significant institutions in the history of Jewish culture.


Gymnasia Herzliyah as a world of memory

Times passes, pictures become blurred and increasingly fade, figures disappear, frames disintegrate, dust covers the files in which the photos are kept, torn bits of photos and pages fly about whenever the door to the archives opens.

The past of Gymnasia Herzliyah is slowly disappearing, eroded by time. I write these words, sitting at a heavy wooden desk, one of the three built by Avraham Krinitzy, the carpenter from Ramat Gan (and later its first mayor), for the three key figures in the cultural life of the rejuvenation of Hebrew: Haim Nachman Bialik, Meir Dizengoff and the principal of Gymnasia Herzliyah at the time - Yehudah Leib Matman-Cohen, later succeeded by Ben-Zion Mosinzon, Haim Bograshov (Boger) and Baruch Ben-Yehuda. Everyday ongoing matters were discussed around this desk, a silent witness to a history of decades; on the other hand, the archives next door hold numerous documents and photographs, which beg to be uncovered and tell the story, thus enabling readers to examine the stories and events for themselves, meet the figures whose names are now the names of streets, while in the photos they are immortalized in their educational-social endeavour. The gymnasium began as the first Hebrew high school, and next to it was a boarding school for children from all over the world who came to study. The sense of mission that beat in the hearts of the founders was passed on to their followers. They perceived the educational mission as far more comprehensive than simple teaching and saw themselves committed to the building and shaping of society.

Even in those days the gymnasium was far more than just a local high school. It was a school whose existence did not depend on one building or another, a school whose spirits made it possible for it to exist anywhere.

A great deal has been written about the school's first students, many of whom later became the social, political, economic, cultural and artistic infrastructure of the State of Israel. Their photographs, kept in the archives, some of which are displayed in this exhibit and catalogue, attest to the way in which they were educated, studied and developed, later to become key figures in Israeli society. The photos reflect the spirits, values, and atmosphere - the essence of a social and cultural institution.

The photographs immortalize both the private and the public. They show teachers and students engaged in school activities: inside and outside the gymnasium, against the background of their landscapes; many of the pictures are staged, organized and planned with a great deal of attention. In most cases the people photographed are looking straight into the lens of the camera, and thus - toward us, to those looking at them, as if to say: We are here and you are with us. Our gaze as spectators makes it possible for those photographed to exist again, here and now. We are reviving, albeit even for just a moment, the shapers of our history in their quotidian life, big and small moments alike.

From of the point of view of those engaged in education the exhibit has two aspects: for the old-timers among us it may be the world of memory, a nostalgic moment for the endeavour; for the younger people among us it may serve as an example of educational work in the present and in the future. The pictures reflect beginnings, initiatives and developments in the first years of the school's existence. As the present principal of the gymnasium I walk among the photographs, and the past comes before me as an anchor and a source of inspiration.

The exhibit, which is taking place at the 107th universe of the founding of the school, focuses on one chapter in the school's history: the first chapter that lasted 55 years and took place in the building on Herzl Street in Tel Aviv. In the spirit of Roland Barthes, who said that without an adventure there is no photograph, it may be said that the history of the gymnasium is indeed a socio-cultural adventure, a pedagogic poem, from its beginning until the present day.

Dr.Zeev Dagani, principal of Gymnasia Herzliyah


Curator: Guy Raz

Closes: April 30, 2013