Israel boasts dozens of handmade tallit makers, but only a few weave their tallits on a hand loom. With sales from Los Angeles to New York, South America to South Africa, Jerusalem to London – and all stops in between – Gabrieli tallit has taken its place as the world’s leading handwoven tallit maker.
Gabrieli Tallit Hand Weaving was founded in 1964 by Malka Gabrieli, who studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. The studio was set up in the artist colony of Old Jaffa and kept growing. Malka died in a traffic accident in 1982, but the business stayed in the family and is now run by Aryeh Gabrieli, who continues the tradition with 40 workers on 13 looms.
In addition to the Gabrieli tallit collection, the studio also produces handwoven tablecloths, challah covers, matzah covers and shawls.
Gabrieli tallit comes in wool, cotton or silk, in every hue
The weavers produce an enormous selection of designs, from various Gabrieli tallit styles in wool in traditional colors – white with black or blue stripes – to cotton and silk tallits in bold colors and patterns, including purple, teal and multicolor (“Joseph’s Coat”).
The choice of fabrics helps Gabrieli tallit customers select a handmade tallit that feels just right on their shoulders. Some go with wool because of its classic look or because according to halacha it is considered the preferred fabric. Others prefer the feel of cotton or the fine detail and sheen of silk.
Every Gabrieli tallit is available in six different sizes, ranging from 20 x 70 inches to 60 x 80 inches. The most commonly found sizes are 20 x 80 inches and 50 x 80 inches. The 20 x 80 inch size is narrow and is meant to hang down in front, while the 50 x 80 inch and 60 x 80 inch sizes are meant to drape down the back, in accordance with the age-old tradition.
Because of the large range of designs, fabrics and sizes, even if you drop by the Gabrieli tallit galleries in Old Jaffa and downtown Jerusalem you won’t find every Gabrieli tallit available in stock. So if you have a fixed target date in mind, e.g. a bar mitzvah or a wedding, be sure to place your order at least a few weeks in advance. After all, weaving by hand takes time – even if you’ve been doing it, like the Gabrielis, for over four decades.