Even as the Hovevei Zion (“Lovers of Zion”) movement established a teachers’ college in 1911 in Neve Zedek, then a Jaffa neighborhood and today in the heart of Tel Aviv, the foundations were laid for its guiding principles: academic excellence and community involvement. Despite turbulent times, political disturbances and security instability, the College grew and developed steadily. Named after Elhanan Levinsky, a Hovevei Zion visionary who had died a year prior to its founding, the first teachers’ college using Hebrew as its language of instruction had by 1938 overgrown its modest quarters.
Fittingly, its new home was a new building on Tel Aviv’s Ben-Yehuda St, named after Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the driving spirit behind the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language.
During the 1940s, the building also served as a training facility for the Hagana, the pre-state paramilitary organization that eventually became the Israel Defense Forces. In 1945 the school began accepting male students.
With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the ever-growing need for teachers, the College continued to expand. In 1981 it relocated to its present campus in north Tel Aviv, simultaneously merging with the College for Music Educators, founded in Tel Aviv in 1945. A year later Levinsky College was granted the right to confer academic degrees by the Council for Higher Education, making it the first Israeli teacher education institution to be honored with that distinction.
In that same year, the Levin Kipnis Center for Children’s Literature Research was inaugurated at the campus, honoring an Israel Prize laureate who had taught at Levinsky from 1923 until 1956, and authored some 800 stories and 600 poems for children. The Center serves as the Israel Section office of Unesco’s International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).
True to its founders’ vision of looking to the future, Levinsky College of Education in 1988 inaugurated its Center for Digital Learning, introducing advanced technologies to teacher training. Since then the Center has developed many courses that integrate information technology and communications with distance-learning. The Center moved to a new building in 2005.
In 1990, the College founded the Institute for the Study of Zionism to strengthen students’ understanding of the ideas, practice and values of Zionism.
While Levinsky College enjoys the wisdom that comes with age and experience, it has never lost its drive, vitality and passion. In order to further its educational mission the College plans to expand its academic programs. In order to open the world of higher education to broader groups, it plans to expand the Pre-academic Preparatory Program, as well as its Eilat branch and other places in Israel’s periphery. A new building at the main campus will house the Faculty of Music Education and serve as a venue for public concerts and other music-related activities. A new library and learning center, also at the main campus, will be integrated with a new entrance plaza. Our International School continues to connect Hebrew teachers in Israel with their counterparts around the world.
Levinsky College has come far since the days of its Hovevei Zion pioneers. It could not have trained 40,000 educators without the support of many organizations in Israel and abroad, including the Women’s Division of the New York United Jewish Appeal, an organization whose donors enabled the establishment of Levinsky College of Education’s new building in Kiryat Hachinuch in Tel Aviv.