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.