A land and its dolls exhibition in Tel Aviv, Israel.A land and its dolls exhibition in Tel Aviv, Israel.

An exhibit in Tel Aviv surveys the changes in Israeli history, and the nation’s self-perception, through the medium of decorative dolls.
“A Land and Its Dolls,” is a captivating exhibition that has opened at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. Read on to find out more...

A North African woman holding a watermelon
A North African woman holding a watermelon

Shelly Shenhav-Keller, the anthropologist who curated the exhibition, assembled more than 200 dolls from museums, organizations, and private collectors—some of them non-Israelis who, as tourists, had bought the dolls as souvenirs.

All the dolls displayed in the exhibition were produced in Israel, first by individual artists and craftspeople and later, as demand grew, by local workshops. The earliest dolls in the exhibition—a middle-eastern man and woman—were created by Rivka Stark-Avivi (1895-1979) in 1919. The most recent ones are from the 1980s.

The exhibition begins with the pre-state period, It proceeds to the 1950s and 1960s, when souvenir dolls were mostly devoted to the depiction of the idealized version of the “new Jew,” often as a young chalutz, or pioneer, in an embroidered blouse and khaki shorts.

The 1960s and 1970s were a period of great changes in Israeli society: The old sabra ideal still held firm, but the 1967 war glamorized the figure of the young soldier.

The exhibition runs until the 30th of September 2011. For more info visit the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv or visit their website

A North African woman holding a watermelon
A woman from Salonika
Two members of a youth movement sitting on a tree trunk, made in the 1950s.
An Ultra-Orthodox couple, 1960s.
A soldier with an eye patch, based on Moshe Dayan, and a girl soldier, late 1960s.