Bialik House stands at 27 Bialik Street, in Tel Aviv. It is the former home of Israel’s national poet, Haim Nachman Bialik (1873-1934), and houses a museum dedicated to the poet and his work. Bialik House was designed by Yosef Minor and built in 1924 on the arrival of Bialik in Israel. The house offers a glimpse into the aesthetics of early 20th-century Israel, and the exhibition gives visitors a comprehensive understanding of Bialik’s work, achievements, and role as a social activist.
Who Was Haim Nachman Bialik?Haim Nachman Bialik was born in Russia in 1873 and from the age of seven, he was raised by his Orthodox Jewish grandfather. When he was 15 years old Bialik moved to Lithuania to study at the Volozhin Yeshiva. He gradually drifted away from the strict life of Talmudic study and was eventually expelled. Some of his early writings reflect his disillusionment with the narrow-minded world of Yeshiva life.
He moved to Odessa at age 18, where he mingled with the elite of Jewish culture including Ahad Ha’amBialik died and joined the Hovevei Zion movement. His first poem “To the Bird” was published in 1892. Returning to his hometown he married Manya Averbuch in 1893. After moving around the county for several years, Bialik returned to Odessa in 1900 and continued his involvement in Jewish literary circles and the Zionist movement for the next two decades.
His first collection of poetry was published in Warsaw in 1901 to great critical acclaim and his poem “In the City of Slaughter” highlighting the horrors of Russian pogroms. Bialik translated several great European works into Hebrew including Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and Don Quixote. He published poetry in Yiddish newspapers in the Russian Empire. Among his works was The Book of Legends, a compilation of folk tales and proverbs extracted from the Talmud. Bialik remained in Odessa until 1921 when he traveled to Berlin.
There he established his publishing house, Dvir, and joined other Jewish authors, and published developing modern Hebrew literature. In 1924, Bialik moved to Palestine where he reestablished his publishing house, Dvir, and devoted himself to cultural and social activities. He was already recognized as one of the greatest Hebrew literary figures, and in 1927 became head of the Hebrew Writers Union. He died in Vienna, Austria in 1934 from a heart attack following a prostate operation and is buried in Tel Aviv.
Bialik’s LegacyBialik wrote mostly in Hebrew and pioneered modern Hebrew poetry. His work gave voice to life in what would become the new Jewish homeland. He is best know for his long nationalistic poems, love poems, nature poems, and prose. Some of his children’s songs have become traditional Hebrew nursery rhymes, such as NadNed, a song about a seesaw.
Bialik wrote it to popularise modern spoken Hebrew but also to illustrate the balance between Zionism and traditional Judaism. Bialik was one of the forces influential in turning Hebrew from an ancient Biblical language to a contemporary spoken vernacular. Many places and streets in Israel are named after the national poet, and each year the city of Tel Aviv awards the Bialik Literary Prize. His works have been translated into more than 30 languages and set to music.
The Bialik House BuildingThe house was built in 1924 by the Solei Boneh construction company under the supervision of the future minister of finance, Eliezer Kaplan. The house was designed by Russian-born architect Joseph Minor (1885-1966). He was one of the architects who tried to develop a unique architectural style for Palestine, combining western building forms with traditional Middle Eastern styles that suited the climate and lifestyle.
Features of this unique style included outdoor terraces, pointed arch windows, towers, tile work, and domes. Much of the thought behind this style was to keep the house cool in the hot Middle Eastern climate. The interior of Bialik House is in the Arts and Crafts Movement style. In the first-floor reception room, are tiles produced by the Bezalel School with designs by Ze’ev Raban. The tiles feature images from Jewish history.
History of Bialik HouseAfter Bialik’s death in 1934, the house was used by the Hebrew Writers’ Association and later as a children’s library. The Bialik house Society took on the task of preserving the property for posterity. Bialik House was renovated in 1980 and lost much of its original interior. A new renovation took place in the following years, this time remaining true to the original architectural features, and restoring the property to resemble the home Bialki would have known.
The original colors were used and historic architectural features which had been covered up were revealed. The house was furnished in original historic furniture. Today the house has a blend of rooms restored to their original appearance and a permanent exhibition focused on the life and work of the poet.
On the lower level of the house is the Beit Bialik Archive, which reserves the valuable documents of Bialik’s national and cultural work. Among the documents are poems, speeches, stories, and articles. Bialik House is open to the public Monday to Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm.