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House of Israel History

The House of Pacific Relations came into existence in 1935 as an expression of the vision of the late Frank Druggan, following the California Pacific International Exposition of which he was president. Through the House of Pacific Relations, Druggan hoped to promote an exchange of values and understanding among peoples of diverse national and ethnic origins.

1935 Exposition

Photo Courtesy of

At the close of the 1935 Exposition, a group of small buildings were declared  superfluous. These structures were leased by the House of Pacific Relations and  sub-leased to the various national and ethnic groups. Each group, by displaying  in these structures its cultural and ethnic exhibits to the public, and by  working with one another to promote their common objectives have been very  successful. These groups by working together in a harmonious and friendly atmosphere demonstrate how national entities are making unique contributions and enriching the social pattern of American life.

In September 1939, World War II broke out.  Balboa Park, renamed Camp Kidd, was taken over by the US Navy, and used for barracks and training.   At the end of the war, after being used by the Navy for seven years, the cottages were reclaimed by the House of Pacific Relations and restored for their original purpose as one of the features of Balboa Park.

The House of Israel opened on July 1, 1948, the same day that the House of Pacific Relations re-opened after WWII.  Famed Hollywood actor Melvyn Douglas, Master of Ceremonies, handed the keys to Cottage of Israel delegates Irving Cohen and Ernest Green.  The Cottage’s operation was directed by a Board elected at an annual meeting by the general membership. Membership was open to anyone interested in Israel.

This was, of course, a short three months after the founding of the State of Israel, making the House of Israel in Balboa Park the first public building in the U.S. to fly the flag of Israel.

Cottage of Israel, 1948

1951 1952 Annual Meeting


HOI 1952

Outside the House of Israel, 1952

1953 Lag B’Omer – Beth Israel Plants Tree
1953 Beth Israel Lag BOmer

1956 Lawn Program



Hillel Leaders Volunteer at HOI

In 1957, Hillel was just one of the Jewish organizations that supported the House of Israel by volunteering to serve refreshments.

1957 Cottage Voice Annual Newsletter


1971 State of Israel Bonds Dinner

Inside the House of Israel, 1973

Inside the House of Israel, 1973; Mrs. Yearl Schwartz, far left; Gussie Zaks, far right


1976 Cottage Voice – Annual Newsletter


1980 Annual Membership Meeting





showell wall 88

Morris Showel shows off his creation, a model of the Western Wall. Courtesy of San Diego Jewish World


Now known as the House of Israel, we are one of the 32 exposition cottages that make up the House of Pacific Relations located in Balboa Park, San Diego, California.*

In 2011, The House of Israel underwent a major renovation. Upon entering, visitors are now welcomed by the bright and airy ambiance. The cool Jerusalem stone somehow evokes the feeling of the evening sun reflecting off the warm sun-bleached walls of Jerusalem.

Our modern display cases and state-of-the-art mulit-media presentations introduce visitors to Israel’s historic and cultural uniqueness. From foods to customs to Nobel-prize winning technological advances, there is something new to be learned with each visit.

The House of Israel looks forward to continuing to educate, connect, and delight, as we build and strengthen our warm relationships with both our many international visitors and our community.

* © Copyright 2010 Special Collections & University Archives. All rights reserved.

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