For All Those Who Came on Summer or Year Course Programs to Israel

by Sybil Kaplan November 6, 2018


sandalism1When I came to Israel in the late ‘50s on the Young Judaea Leaders course, and a few years later, leading the college-age Student Zionist Organization trip, the first day orientation included changing money and a walk on Jerusalem’s triangle—King George for falafel; Jaffa where we got off the bus from Bet Hakerem; Zion Square where the movie house was located; and Ben Yehudah for gift shopping.

Along the way, we all bought sandals.  I preferred a sturdy, brown style but not the classic “sabra sandal” and a pair of white sandals for Shabbat and special occasions.

The Eretz Israel Museum in Ramat Aviv, a suburb of Tel Aviv proper, recently exhibited, “The Sandal—Anthropology of a Local Style.”

Our guide, Michal, was a personable, knowledgeable young woman who had been a guide for seven years. She told us this museum is the third largest in Israel, founded in the 1950s and has 10 pavilions.

After passing the first archaeological site in Israel and learning the reason the museum was built at this site as a museum of ethnography and history, we passed the various pavilions dedicated to different kinds of materials like glass, ceramics, coins, post and stamp communications, folklore and man and his work.

The  Migdal is for temporary exhibits like this one.

As we enter, we see it looks like a shoe store. Here the story can be seen through styles and functional objects.

In the Judea desert caves, sandals from the Bar Kochba era 132 to 135 CE were found. Next is the Nimrod vintage collection including the “sabra sandal,” created by the Rosenblatt family who came from Galicia in the 1930s and settled in Tel Aviv. The father was a shoemaker. His son was a shoemaker in Holland then immigrated to Palestine in 1933 and to Tel Aviv in 1935. In 1937, he and his sons produced and repaired shoes. Later, in 1944, they registered their shoe company as Nimrod, and he was responsible for the design of the biblical Israeli sandal. The two-strap sabra sandal was actually Roman, developed for the 1st-2nd BCE Roman legion.

The Nimrod manufacturers had a factory in the 1970s in Hebron, then by the 1990s, the manufacturing was moved to China, although the Hebron factory continued to manufacture sandals for Jaffa, East Jerusalem and Acre under the brand name Camel. Today, Nimrod has a store at 185 Diengoff.

The company still maintains its principles for the local consumer as simplicity, minimalism and comfort.

In 1989, the Shoresh Sandal Company was established offering rubber and cloth sandals instead of leather, a symbol of people connected to the land.

Next in the exhibit were the sandals made in Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar,  resembling the Birkenstock designs, of leather as a built-up slip on. It later became known as Teva Naot.

The last part of the exhibit was a mock shoemaker workshop from Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar. This kibbutz began making sandals for its members in the 1930s and continued until the 1990s. In 2005, it reopened its workshop to make sandals.

The exhibit was created by curator Tamar El Or, professor of anthropology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is author of “Sandals—An Ethnography of Israeli Style,” published in Hebrew; in English, her paper “The Soul of Biblical Sandal: On Anthropology and Style” was published in “American Anthropologist.”

This was truly a memorable exhibit, especially if you’ve ever bought and worn Israeli sandals!


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