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Monday, December 20, 2010

Judaism at the Israel Museum


Last week I  visited the newly  upgraded / rebuilt/ renovated  Israel Museum in Jerusalem. I hadn’t seen it since it reopened in the summer after its multi million dollar face-lift, and as I often write about sites to visit in Jerusalem I know  that this museum is world famous and one of the most popular sites for tourists in Israel.

It’s collection of ancient archaeological  artifacts is, as always,  truly impressive and extensive – monuments to dead dynasties,  obsolete civilizations, and  lifeless lifestyles.

But  surprisingly, as  I walked through the Jewish Life exhibition, I  found myself picking up my pace – walking past the glass cases of prayer books and  Torah scrolls,  past the models dressed in ‘Jewish clothing  of the past “ and past the glass cases and films of ancient jewelry and  ancient Sephardic pre wedding customs.
I  was trying to think,  why wasn’t I so interested in these things? Why was I spending so little time here?
And then I realized.
It wasn’t particularly  exciting because it wasn’t unusual. Most of what I was looking at  were the same  things that I  see and even use  in everyday life. The exhibition cases had samples of silver – covered siddurim, similar to those I see often  in the shops and buy as presents. The examples of  clothes that Jews ‘used to wear’ are in fact often seen on the streets of Jerusalem, Golders Green and Borough Park  today. The intricate Yemenite bridal  jewelry and headdress of the past are  used by many  young Yemenite brides today who keep up  their ancient traditions .
The Sifrei Toah that we read from, photographs of a  mitzvah- tanz  (dance) at the end of a Chassidic wedding, silver, chanukiyot  and Seder plates for Pesach – all items, symbols and customs which are in regular  use  today in the 21st century.
I glanced up at the screen displaying a  film explaining how matzo is made  knowing that thousands of  children watch  this happen in real life in Jewish centers all over the world during  the weeks before Pesach.

And yet there were many visitors taking their time and reading all the attached notes about each exhibit – some I’m sure thinking that they were looking at a lost world of the past.
It was said that Hitler ( may his name be blotted out) kept many Jewish items, stolen from homes he had plundered and Jews he had slaughtered,  intending to set up a Museum to the lost religion of Judaism after the war.

But thank G’d Judaism is very much alive and flourishing all over the world . 

For those who have no idea what Judaism is all about, this Museum has much of interest. But fortunately  this isn’t in order to display a lost world of   ancient rituals and customs. For these very same rituals, customs, treasured books and  objects are still in constant use in our homes, within our families .
A Museum is, by dictionary  definition, a place or building where objects of historical interest are exhibited, preserved, or studied –

I’m very happy that  my Judaism  is  alive and well at home.  

Israel Museum Shrine of the Book Ann Goldberg


Rosalind Adam said...

What a shame that the Museum Curators have not included the information that these items are still being used by many Jewish people today... but it's good to know that others are interested in the Jewish culture and, what's more, that the culture is still very much alive.

Ann said...

You're quite right Ros, but that's not the only thing the curators have forgoten.
Don't even start me off on how lost I got in the archaeological section, missing entire sections and dynasties because of lack of adquate signs.....