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Factory, Fashion and Dream

Start Date October 2011
End Date 31 March 2012
Venue Eretz Israel Museum
Location Israel
Curator Monica Lavi, Eran Litvin

The story of the Ata textile factory mirrors the changes that took place in Israeli society from the 1930s to the 1980s. In these 50 years a dramatic change took place in the perception of work, employment and social responsibility in Israeli society and economy: from a society based on a worldview that drew its sources and inspiration from culture  and socialist working relations, which regarded the private and governmental employer as responsible for his or her employment, and the welfare and education of the employee, Israel became a state which had assimilated the capitalistic model of the American economist Milton Friedman and his students at the University of Chicago who raised the banner of privatization, freeing the economy of governmental supervision and making large cuts in welfare budgets. 

The history of the textile factory that was founded in Kfar Ata in 1934 by the Moller family, Jewish industrialists from Czechoslovakia, based on a perception that combined economic pragmatism, liberal Zionism and social enlightenment, serves as a litmus test which clearly reveals the economic, political and social changes that took place in Israeli society and the results of these changes in a brief and discrete period. 

Even before radical changes took place in Israel’s economic and political structure, the happenings in the Ata factory concretized the three governing powers in Israeli economy: one comprised the industrialists, the second – the trade unions, and the third – the government. The story of the Ata factory is also the built-in suspense story between these three powers and the attempts, at times heroic and dramatic – to create equilibrium. In addition to the socioeconomic story, the history also relates the story of the factory and its products – fabric, clothing and domestic textile, the story of the appearnce of Israeli society and its sectoral division.  Israel’s workers and soldiers wore Ata clothing, as did members of youth movements, while urban and bourgeois Israelis preferred more stylish clothing. 

Ata rendered three symbols that are engraved on Israeli cultural memory: the pride in being a worker, the struggle of workers to retain to their workplace, and work clothes. The exhibit seeks to present these memories in a broad historical context, uncover the interconnection between these elements, and reconstruct a period never to return return in the history of the State of Israel.