These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Jenn Mager’s Museum Musings: The Israel Museum

Posted on September 15, 2014 by Jenn Mager

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Lajenmagst Thursday, Michael Hattin provided an outstanding tour of the Archaeology Wing of the Israel Museum.  I had visited the museum several times; the tour provided me with a much deeper understanding of the significance of the exhibit.  It is the largest collection of biblical archaeology in the world.  Walking through the Archaeology Wing is more than just seeing tools and carvings from 14,000 years ago.  It tells the story of the peoples in this region from the Stone Age forward, spanning thousands of years.  We learned about the transition from hunter / gatherer to small farming settlements to large communities, the progression of stone to copper to bronze for tools of increasing complexity, and burial rituals.  Michael Hattin shared with us the emergence of hieroglyphics and cuneiform, writing systems based on symbols, followed by the Phoenician and Hebrew alphabet, made up of letters.  It was fascinating to think about the impact of written language on civilization.  He made a comment at one point that I have thought about since: the development that we were seeing of tool making, forming materials, lighting fire, farming, writing, all of the capabilities that make us unique as humans, are a parallel to the list of Shabbat prohibitions.

If you haven’t made it to The Israel Museum yet, I would strongly encourage it.  With a Student ID, you can buy a one-year pass for 90 shekels.  In addition to the Archaeology Wing, there is an impressive collection of art, a sculpture garden, the Shrine of the Book, which is a presentation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and my favorite, a large collection of Hanukkiyot from all over the world.

There are several interesting Contemporary Art exhibits, including Unstable Places, depicting the concept of instability, in physical, political, and existential terms.  There is a powerful work by Nira Pereg: two videos running simultaneously on opposite walls.  One video shows a synagogue being dismantled, soldiers coming in, Muslim men putting down prayer carpets and assembling a mosque.  The video on the opposite wall shows a mosque being disassembled, soldiers coming in, and Jewish men assembling a synagogue and praying.  I watched it several times before I read the background.  It’s a shared holy place.  The videos show the Cave of Machpelah and the Mosque of Ibrahimi simultaneously.  For me, it provoked a sense of separation without distance and the possibility of coexistence in a shared space.

Go for an afternoon to walk through the gardens, climb Big Bambu, see the inside of synagogues from several countries, or enjoy modern art.