Israel Museum Founder Eliyahu Dobkin Is Born
Henrietta Szold and Eliyahu Dobkin pictured at the Atlit transit camp in Palestine, 1943. Photo: National Photo Collection Israel

December 31, 1898
Eliyahu Dobkin, a signer of the Israeli Declaration of Independence and the founder of the Israel Museum, is born in Bobruysk, Belarus.

Dobkin is raised in a religious Zionist family. His father, Yosef, is a leading member of the Mizrahi movement and a delegate to the Zionist Congresses. After World War I, Dobkin and his family flee the violence in the new Soviet Union and settle in Bialystok, Poland. He serves as the general secretary of the HeHalutz world youth movement, based in Warsaw, and is active in ORT and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Dobkin immigrates to Palestine in 1932.

He works with and becomes the head of the Jewish Agency’s immigration department from the 1930s through the 1950s. He leads the organization’s efforts to increase international fundraising for Israel. His Jewish Agency work helps rescue Jews from Eastern Europe and propels illegal immigration initiatives to bring Jews to British-controlled Palestine during and after World War II. Dobkin is one of 37 people to sign the Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948.

In 1965, Dobkin founds the Israel Museum, the largest cultural institution in Israel and one of the most renowned art and archaeological museums in the world. Dobkin, said to be a passionate collector of glass, bestows 700 glass objects to the museum. He serves on the advisory board of the museum until his death in 1976.