Aharon Shevo


Aharon Shevo was born in 1943, in Hungary, to Rivka and Mattityahu  HaCohen Schwartz. His father was not fortunate enough to know him, because he was taken into enforced labor in the concentration camps and never returned. Shevo was less than two years old when he returned from the camps with his mother and siblings. His widowed mother did all she could to rehabilitate the family. Aharon, at age three, began his "formal" studies in Cheder, learning the Hebrew Alphabet. His mother invested great effort in his education and when she became aware of his talent for drawing, she made sure that there would always be pencil and paper near him and she would never be angry when he scribbled on a piece of paper or a book binding he would find…Hebrew letters were the first shapes he drew, inspired by the Prayer Books. As a child, the stories of the Bible sparked his imagination and these remained his favorite subjects and source of inspiration when he became a designer of stamps, coins and medals, and an illustrator of books. In 1951, Shevo made aliyah to Israel, with his family, living in tents and bearing the hardships of the new olim of the time.

His first public recognition as a designer came from the Bank of Israel in 1958, when he won the "Maariv (newspaper) for Youth" Competition for the design of banknotes. His prize was awarded to him by David Horowitz, Governor of the Bank of Israel. In 1966, he graduated from his studies at the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem, with distinction. There he made the acquaintance of the late Gad Almaliah, who became his fellow student and with whom he was to work closely in the future. Together, the two realized many artistic projects in publishing and the designing of stamps, coins and medals.

After completing his compulsory military service in Israel, Shevo studied Animation Art at the School of Visual Arts in New York. When he returned to Israel, after about two years, he worked for an Israeli and American publisher and, later, taught graphic design in the "Emuna" College in Jerusalem, as well as in other colleges. He established an Animation Art course at the WIZO College in Haifa.

Shevo especially worked on the illustration of books on biblical and Judaic topics for children. Later, it was the Bank of Israel, the Israel Philatelic Service, and Israel Government Coins and Medals Corporation that provided fertile ground for his artistic works. For these respected institutions, he designed many coins, medals and stamps, to name just a few of them, the "Joseph and his Brothers" and "Wolf with the Lamb" Biblical Art Coins, the Israel Anniversary Coin 2004 featuring "Children", and medals honoring Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Maimonides, Rashi and Ilan Ramon.

Two Anecdotes from Aharon Shevo

Some years ago, I had the opportunity of participating in the contest for the design of the "Priestly Blessing" stamp, together with about ten other designers. Looking at the list of the participants, I noted that I (Aharon the son of Mattityahu the Cohen) was the only Cohen (person of Priestly descent) in the competition. This presented me with a special challenge and I won the contest. I believe the "Priestly Blessing" Stamp deserved to be designed by a Cohen, one of the priesthood.

I also took part in the competition for design of a medal to honor Rabbi Aryeh Levin, the "father of prisoners". I had many ideas for the design and worked hard into the night, preparing drafts. I wanted to know how people would react to my designs and, therefore, decided to show them to some friends at our local Synagogue. After Shacharit, the morning prayer, one of my friends, who had personally known Rabbi Aryeh Levin, particularly remembered the Rabbi's encouraging handshake. He told me how many years ago, when he was yet a small boy, he used to pray in one of the Jerusalem neighborhoods, in the same Synagogue as Rabbi Aryeh Levin. After the service, he would approach the Rabbi and receive his warm and very special handshake. The Rabbi would warmly clasp my friend's hand between the palms of his own, for a few moments. This recollection became my inspiration for the design of the medal and I rushed home to change the design. Drafts of the designs had to be submitted to the Public Committee responsible for choosing the winner. When the committee convened in the Office of Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin, Speaker of the Knesset, former prisoners of the Jewish underground, who were present, well remembered the visits of Rabbi Aryeh Levin to the British Jail in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. They unanimously agreed that the handshake of Rabbi Aryeh Levin had to be part of the design of this medal, and thus, I won the competition.

18 November 2010

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