»Ha-opera ha-erez israelit«, also known in English as the »Palestine Opera«, was founded in 1923 in the still nascent city of Tel Aviv. There was no stately opera house, no large stage for grand performances, not even a professional orchestra. The financial budget was extremely modest – and yet, over the course of only four seasons (1923–1927) no fewer than 17 operas were performed, all of them in Hebrew translation. This article takes the centenary of the first Hebrew opera as a point of departure to probe the history of this important cultural institution in pre-state Israel. The initiative for this ambitious undertaking came from Mordechai Golinkin (1875–1963), a seasoned conductor and passionate Zionist. Like Golinkin, most of the singers were of Russian origin. Remarkably, all libretti were in Hebrew with a synopsis in English and Arabic, so as to cater to a particularly broad audience. The article pays special attention to the four ›Hebrew/Jewish‹ operas which Golinkin selected during those years (one each season). This in turn raises the question as to how these categories were understood and debated at the time.