Tag Archives: Israel Museum

Children at the Israel Museum

School group learning about the Byzantine period at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem
School group learning about the Byzantine period at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

On a cold rainy Wednesday morning in December, I went to the Israel Museum (IMJ) with my class from Pardes. We were, by far, the oldest organized group in the museum. Everywhere we went, we crossed paths with groups of children, brought by their schools.

I knew that schools take advantage of the resources of the museum to teach students about history, art, archeology, and religion. When I have taken my grandchildren there, they often express interest in seeing specific things. Last winter on a visit to IMJ with then nine year old Yocheved, she led me to the theater in the Shrine of the Book. She wanted me to see the movie about the time traveling girl. She had seen it when she was there with her class earlier in the year. Then we went into the large white-domed part of that complex to see the documents themselves. As is her practice with any exhibit, she raced through it, allowing me to time to read maybe a quarter of each explanatory sign under the vitrines. Yocheved told me that her school would bring her to the Israel Museum four times that year, and four more times when she was to sixth grade.

When my grandsons were eight-and ten-years old,  I took them to climb a

In front of the Aron Kodesh of the 1700 Vittorio Veneto synagogue at the Israel Museum
In front of the Aron Kodesh of the 1700 Vittorio Veneto synagogue at the Israel Museum

special exhibit. “Bambu” was a construction of bamboo sticks that looked like a forty foot high nest built by a very large messy bird interested in architecture. We had arrived early and instead of just sitting around waiting for our turn, Yakov asked to go see the synagogues which have been brought to the museum from other countries. Not only did Yaakov know what he wanted to see, he led the way to the exhibit.    

So I wasn’t surprised to see groups of schoolchildren in the museum. I was surprised to see the number and variety of groups. In the lobby, a group of preteen Arab girls, dressed in navy jumpers and white blouses, dark slacks modestly covering their legs, was supervised by teachers wearing hijabs. Quartets of teen aged boys raced to complete their worksheets about specific exhibits in the area of Roman antiquities. A corner of the room displaying portions of Byzantine churches and mosaics was occupied by ten or twelve year olds sitting on the floor in a large circle, listening to an explanation of the history of the period. As we walked through a hall that displayed clothes associated with birth, marriage, death, and other life events, we tried to avoid being run over by six or seven year olds being hurried through the room by the teachers.

Leaving the museum, we huddled in the semi-protected walkway waiting for our bus. We were passed by a seemingly endless procession of young children from an Arab school, rushing through the rain from their buses.

It’s wonderful to see all the children. They will grow up understanding the depth of history in this land. They will appreciate the diversity of cultures in this country, the archeological evidence left behind, and the variety of experiences that can be expressed through the arts.

Pharaoh in Canaan

Poster for Pharaoh in Canaan exhibition at entrance to Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Poster for Pharaoh in Canaan exhibition at entrance to Israel Museum

On  Sunday during Passover, Allen and I went to the Israel Museum to view the special exhibition ,”Pharaoh in Canaan.” The exhibition focuses on the second millennium BCE, the period during which Canaanites migrated and settled in the Nile Delta area of Egypt and the Egyptians conquered and ruled much of the land of Canaan. Archaeologists refer to the time as the middle and late bronze ages, the time in which Jacob and Moses lived.

Anthropoid sarcophagus covers from the 13th century BCE, found in Israel Photo: Yocheved Bernstein
Anthropoid sarcophagus covers from the 13th century BCE, found in Israel
Photo: Yocheved Bernstein

I had gone through the exhibit a week earlier with my nine-year old granddaughter Yocheved. Her approach to museums is somewhat different from mine. She moves quickly, sometimes stopping to look at an artifact. Letting her use my camera slowed her down a little as she stopped to take multiple photos of things she found interesting. Thus, I ended up with several photos of anthropoid sarcophagus lids, some of which are in focus.

My approach to museums is slower paced. I read the labels on the artifacts and the informative signs. I look carefully at the artifacts, comparing them. And sometimes I take a photo or two of something I find particularly interesting, if photos are allowed. Flash photos are often forbidden because the light can damage some ancient artifacts.           

Yellow limestone statue of Pharaoh Akenaton, who ruled Egypt from 1340 - 1335 BCE
Yellow limestone statue of Pharaoh Akenaton, who ruled Egypt from 1340 – 1335 BCE

One exhibit I found particularly lovely was a small statue of Pharaoh Akhenaton carved from yellow limestone. In the photos advertising the exhibit, the statue looks large and golden. Surprisingly, it is only about two feet high. The lighting makes the yellow limestone look as if it is gold. What I like about this statue is that it makes him look more human than most statues of Pharaohs. I wonder, however, what he thought of the sculptor’s showing his pot belly.

The statue was originally of two people,

Queen Nefertiti's arm around Akhenaten 's back. Statue on loan to Israel Museum from Louvre Museum, Paris
Queen Nefertiti’s arm around Akhenaten ‘s back. Statue on loan to Israel Museum from Louvre Museum, Paris

Pharaoh and his wife Nefertiti. Unfortunately, all that remains of Nefertiti is her left arm draped gracefully around Akhenaton’s back. From the back, you can see he is leaning slightly towards her, a depiction of marital intimacy not often shown in royal portraits.

Two cases were full of gold jewelry found in archeological digs in Israel. Although the rings did not appeal to me, many of the earrings were similar to ones you can see in today’s jewelres’shops. It’s strange to think that styles over four thousand years old would still be appealing, but many of the earring I would enjoy wearing myself.