The Origin and Early History of
The Habima Theatre
("Habima" means "stage" in Hebrew) was founded in Moscow
by Nahum Zemach, not long after the 1905 revolution. During their
first few years of existence, the Habima troupe was comprised mostly
of amateurs and teachers. They organized and performed
without charge. in attics and cellars, all the time evolving into the
Habima of today. Their performances reflected their ideology and
artistry. In 1911, the group went on tour to various Russian cities
as well as Vienna. All of the Habima's performances were given in Hebrew and
often dealt with many of the problems experienced by the Jewish
struggled under the persecution of the Tsarist government before
World War I, that forbade plays to be presented in Hebrew. The
Hebrew language had been forbidden in Russia at that time. It was
during this time that Moscow Art Theatre and Stanislavsky took the
Habima under its wing, not wanting it to fail in its efforts. The
troupe also were forced to stop their activities because of the post-war Soviet
Government in 1917. The troupe were forced to disband for two years; Zemach then found work as a bank clerk. After this time, under the
aegis of Stanislavsky, he once again started up the Habima, and from
then on they developed a program that would eventually earn the
group worldwide recognition.
In 1921 Zemach turned to folk drama as the basis for what would be
the group's repertoire. First he chose "The Dybbuk," a drama of
legend written by S. Ansky. He subsequently chose "The Golem" by H.
Levick, a version of this play produced under the title "The
Deluge", "Jacob's Dream" by Beer-Hoffman, and "The Eternal Jew"
written by David Pinski.
In 1926 the Habima company left the Soviet Union and
toured widely for a number of years in Europe and the United States.
They played in one hundred and eleven performances at New York's
Mansfield Theatre from December 1926 to March 1927.
One year later,
Nahum Zemach and some other actors of the troupe decided
to remain in the United States; others chose to immigrate to Palestine, where
Habima would make its new home. It later became the national theatre of Israel in