עברית / English

The primal attraction to water is shared by many species in the animal kingdom, and hasn't skipped mankind. People have treated water sources as places to relax, play and communicate since the dawn of humanity. Societies formed, cultures were born and with them evolved unique customs around water, the most common, yet the most mystical of all substances.

In the long history of the Jewish people, water has fulfilled a significant social function as described in numerous places in ancient scripture. Perhaps the most famous water source is the well where Jacob met Rachel and kissed her after giving water to her father's sheep. Another famous tale, from the book of Exodus, describes Miriam the prophet as the bearer of a miraculous well, supplying water to the Israelites throughout their 40-year journey in the desert. The story ends when Miriam dies near Tiberias, and upon death it is believed her well has transformed into the Sea of Galilee. Age long myths and modern day reality surprisingly intertwine considering the fact that the main source of fresh water in Israel today is the Sea of Galilee.

During the Jewish immigration to Palestine, in the 1920s-1940s, tall water towers were erected in many settlements and towns, primarily to fulfill a functional need. Throughout the years, these towers became iconic structures, visual symbols of the agricultural and urban settlement of Palestine, or in other words the Zionist movement. Aside of their functional role, the water towers acted as landmarks and local meeting points. A tower's effect on its vicinity can be compared to a centrally located church tower which usually stands out as the highest built structure in communities across the Christian world or an Islamic Minaret situated near mosques.

Many of these towers now stand dry, unnoticeably disintegrating. What used to be a sign of vitality now stands as a sad memory, carrying antennas or advertisement posters. Very few municipalities have realized the historic and cultural value of the water towers and renewed the structure. Most of the towers, however, haven’t been gracefully treated, if at all.

Upon arriving to this barren and harsh land in the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish immigrants, backed by the Zionist movement, needed a symbol for their agenda. The tall concrete tower rooted firmly in the land, and providing water for the community, fit perfectly as a sanctifier of the new life.

Strong social values of communal unity have led our parents and grandparents from around the world to Israel. However, these values have weakened tremendously with the prevailing lifestyle they have worked so hard to provide us. Looking at Israel today, it seems the immigrants' mission of revival has been successful. However, many would agree, that some of that burning idealism has passed away with the founders.

Setting grounds for a more socially aware lifestyle on the foundations of last century's disintegrating symbols holds a national and perhaps even universal question: 'now that we've settled, what should we settle next?'


The following essays and articles are taken from "Water Towers in Israel 1891-1993" exhibition catalogue, curated by Prof. Mordechai Omer, published by the Genia Schreiber University Art Gallery, 1993. The catalogue is available for purchase through the Genia Schreiber University Art Gallery. Participants of the competition are entitled for 25% discount.
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Water and the Tower as Archetypes / Mordechai Omer
A short text looking into the human aspiration to touch the heavens by building towers, tied with the inherent connection between man and water, as a basic element of life. The two motifs, the water and the tower, repeat in numerous cultures as well as in biblical Jewish heritage. The article leads us to the present with references of chosen works of art from the 20th century, dealing with towers as objects bearing an artistic value.

The Development of Water Towers in Eretz-Israel / Rivka Nahmani Shusterman
A comprehensive essay of the gradual expansion of water tower construction trends in Israel, starting in 1891, when the first stone tower was constructed by Zionist pioneers, and until the 1990's, when tall concrete towers were built with municipal funds. The study identifies 6 periods with special characteristics, and looks into specific water towers which best exemplify features of each period. With references to architects, entrepreneurs, engineers and organizations which took part of the water towers' development, the study also touches the social and communal role the towers had at the time of their construction.

Water Towers in Israeli Art and Literature / Mordechai Omer
A comprehensive summary of the role of water towers as objects charged with meaning in the Israeli space, as treated in works by Israeli artists and writers. The article presents the art works in their historical context and brings quotes from the written works of several known Israeli writers. The article includes 16 images of chosen works.

Water Towers in the 19th and Early 20th Century: Industrial Structures or Artistic Architecture? / Edina Meyer-Maril
Technological breakthroughs have affected the pioneers of modern architecture tremendously, bringing to a development of an aesthetic appreciation of industrial structures. Known figures from the history of architecture such as Joseph Paxton, Peter Behrens and Hans Poelzig, who planned water towers, are mentioned in this article. These figures, alongside other counterparts, have led to a pro-technological approach in architecture still affecting many in our times.

The Water Tower in Eretz-Israeli Graphics / David Tartakover
A representing collection of images and a short textual introduction of Israeli graphic resources, dated before and after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. With examples from children's books, advertisement posters, organizational brochures and more, this collection displays the prominent role of the water tower in the Israeli collective memory.

Water Towers in the Landscape of Memory: Negba and Yad Mordechay / Maoz Azaryahu
In the 1948 war, two of Israel's water towers received an added value of symbolism after being hit by Egyptian artillery shells. The perforated structures became war memorials and symbols of struggle, and of victory. The towers in Negba and Yad Mordechay are still in-place, scarred, as reminders of local myths.