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Museum and Meetings

This morning, I went to the Israel Museum with Nadine, Barbara, and Kitty. Now, I am definitely up on museums, having been brought up on them, raised two children on them, centered many vacations on them, and now volunteered in them. And I must say, the Israel Museum is a stunner.

It consists of a number of beautiful contemporary buildings on a campus. Two hours was barely enough to see a temporary exhibition on Herod the Great, visit the "Shrine of the Book" where they have the Dead Sea Scrolls, and skim their archaeological galleries. Admission includes a superlative audio guide, which I found extremely helpful in navigating the material efficiently.

I started with Herod the Great. I can't really communicate how wonderful it was, so I suggest that my readers check out this link. Of course it was quite wonderful to be right up close to the frescoes and mosaics and to see the mammoth columns that made up this ruler's building campaigns.

Next, I visited the Shrine of the Book. You can see from the web site that they design the site with a threefold structure that echoes the structure of ancient temples that had an entryway, a tunnel, and the holy-of-holies. Everything is underground, echoing the Caves of Qumran where the scrolls were found, and the lighting is dim, for atmosphere, of course, but more importantly, to protect these priceless artifacts. The entry contains a photo exhibit on the discovery of the scrolls. In the tunnel are artifacts and explanations about the life of the Essene commnity at Qumran. Then the visitor goes up some steps into the holy-of-holies of biblical scholarship, where a facsimile of the Isaiah Scroll, the only complete biblical text in the Scrolls. This is shown around a circular drum directly under the distinctive dome. It is extremely dramatic. The original is kept under safer conditions, and different sections are rotated in the displays along the walls, along with sections of other scrolls. Having been fascinated by scriptural study since college, I was actually rather stunned to view these ancient scrolls there before me.

By the time I finished there, there wasn't a lot of time for the regular collection. I headed for the archeological galleries in the main building. They were rich indeed, with material from paleolithic times in addition to the civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and of course Israel and Judaea. I wanted to concentrate on the material that referred to biblical accounts, but by time I found that section, I had all of five minutes left. We grabbed a lunch in the pleasant cafeteria and took a cab back for our meeting with Bishop Suhail Dawani, the Episcopal bishop of Jerusalem. We all sat around in high backed red velvet chairs in a beautiful stone room looking out on an elegant garden and overseen by portraits of past bishops. The bishop told us about the diocese, its dwindling population, and its ministry. Despite their loss of population--due to the lack of opportunity for young Palestinians in the area--they sustain numerous schools and clinics, often for people who have no access to care. He was definitely more formal than the clergy we are used to, but he was also warm and gracious.

After a break (and brief nap) we met with the organizers and guides for our tour and got an overview of the geographical and demographic obtaining in Israel and Palestine. Our guides will be Faraj Lati, a 60 year old Palestinian Christian retired secondary school educator who has studied theology in Germany, and Yuval Ben-Ami, 37, an Israel Jew some of whose grandparents immigrated as children. He is a journalist whose father served as high-ranked aide to Yitzhak Rabin.

Tomorrow: the Mount of Olives, the Wailing Wall, the Muslim Quarter, the Via Dolorosa, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Israel Museum

Israel Museum

The Shrine to the Book

The Shrine to the Book

Posted by mlld3536 17:00 Archived in Israel

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