Prestigious Jerusalem Arts Academy’s New Campus Could Bear the Names of Its Donors

A draft contract between Bezalel and the United States-based Mandel Foundation reveals the strict conditions the fund has attached to its donation.

Ellie Armon Azoulay
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Ellie Armon Azoulay

The U.S.-based Mandel Foundation is setting strict conditions for its donation toward building the new Bezalel campus in central Jerusalem − first and foremost adding donors’ names to the name of the building and official publications, according to a draft agreement that Haaretz obtained.

The draft outlines the terms of the proposed agreement between Mandel and the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.

The fund is proposing to contribute $25 million toward the projected $110 million needed to complete the campus. In return, Mandel is demanding influence on decisions related to the project.

One of the conditions is appending “Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel” to the name “Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem.” This formula would also appear on all Bezalel publications, signposts and building fronts and interiors.

The fund is also demanding that it be the only one whose name will appear on the front of the building, the lobby and all other areas of the building. Should there be other donors, it would be made clear that the Mandel Foundation is the central contributor and that any change would require its approval.

In another clause, the fund demands that Bezalel submit plans of the campus building for donor approval, as well as the choice of the architect and any other decisions related to designing the building. This clause is problematic, as it comes at the end of a saga that has already dragged on for five years since the first competition for planning the project was announced. The winning firm was later fired, and Bezalel brought in another architectural office; the Bezalel building committee finally gave the green light for the project in June 2012.

Furthermore, Mandel is seeking a written commitment by the Council for Higher Education’s planning and budgeting committee to allocate $22 million for the building. It also demands a declaration by Bezalel that it is selling the existing building on Mount Scopus for $38 million, as well as commitments by other donors.

Beyond the list of conditions, the agreement calls for complete secrecy toward the press.

Zvi Barak, chairman of Bezalel’s administrative committee, who according to close associates is leading the negotiations with Mandel, said the foundation is a long-standing donor to the academy, and that they have been in touch for six years. But he said he did not know of any new agreement beyond those made with the Mandel Foundation previously.

“I cannot confirm that there is anything or any agreement with the foundation,” he said. “Of course we’d be happy if they would contribute a significant sum.”

Regarding the demand to add donor names to the building, he responded that Bezalel would act like any other academic institution that receives a donation and would weigh its steps in accordance with the size of the donation. “We won’t reinvent the wheel,” he said.

Sharon Ahdut, a spokesperson for the CHE’s planning and budgeting committee, said the committee supports Bezalel’s planned move to central Jerusalem. However, she added, the budgetary issue has yet to be discussed.

The Mandel Foundation said it does not discuss pending donations, whether or not they are actually on the agenda.

The Bezalel Academy said it could not provide details of donors’ identity or the types of donations it may receive, and it would prefer to issue a proper statement once there is something to issue a statement about. 

Bezalel’s Mount Scopus campus in Jerusalem.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum