Yaakov Bendov studied at a cheder and then at the Kiev Academy of the Arts, where he became active in the Zionist movement. He immigrated to Jerusalem in 1907, where he studied at the Bezalel School of Art. After graduating, he joined the faculty and established the school’s photography department. He worked as a photographer for the Turkish army during World War I and after the British conquest of Palestine he was elected to serve on the first Jewish municipal committee of Jerusalem.
In 1917, Ben-Dov began to work as a filmmaker. He established the country’s first film company, Menorah, which produced pioneering documentary films about the Yishuv (pre-Zionist Jewish residents) in Israel. Among his most well-known films were “The Return to Zion” (1921) and “Tale of an American Tourist in Eretz Yisrael.”