Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Israel Museum

I went to the official opening of the archaeological section of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem last night. I went all the way to visit the museum a few months back and was completely surprised to find that it was closed for renovations (and had been for years, it seems) - no wonder there was so much parking. Anyway after a rather difficult day, I motored up to Jerusalem and found the museum. Now I had no ticket to the event. Ian had scored a ticket while at Megiddo and had it on good authority that if there was a problem we could call Eran who works at the museum.

So I set off on my own (Ian left early in the morning for Jerusalem to do some shopping and to wonder around the old city) in the late afternoon and battled the traffic up the hill. I arrived at the museum with some time to spare and decided to see if I could get in anyway. So I strolled up to the entrance and looking neither left or right told the people at the door I was here for the "archaeology". While looking at each other quizzically the metal detector went off and they quickly latched onto my ever present Swiss Army knife. Overjoyed at having found a reason to be there, the security people took charge, took me over to the guards desk, wrote out a receipt for the knife, deposited it in the safe and set me on my way - all questions about tickets and if I needed to be there or not, lost in the flurry of activity. So I had a half hour to wonder around the new wings before the opening officially began.

They have done a great job with the museum. I walked quickly through the art galleries as they were already asking people to leave, but I was impressed with what I saw. I then found the archaeological section, went in and waited with the other early birds while sipping some champagne and nibbling sushi. All very nice. The place filled up around six and I had a great time chatting with the Megiddo people while the speeches droned on and on (They actually had a vocal group who sang Enya songs - why not Israeli music I ask?). We were finally let into the exhibits around seven p.m. or so. I was most impressed.

They have a wonderful collection. The new modern layout is definitely "less is more" and I think it is nicely done. I was lucky to be able to walk around with a bunch of very experienced archaeologists who know what to look at and what was special. Jules was a little put out by the fact that their lithics displays were obviously not put together by a lithics expert and some of the tagging were not exactly correct. It is interesting that in some areas they had avoided using BCE or CE and went with the more politically correct x0000 years before present. All in all it is very nicely done.

By the time we got to the more recent times (Greek and Roman and anything after) we were all pretty tired and many of the group slowly made their way out. It was also very hot in certain places, and we heard that half the A/C engine room burned out and so only half was working (I am not sure if it's correct to put an 80% label on an act of god in Jerusalem). We left around 9pm and I dropped Ian off at the airport on the way back home. He has been a good friend and I am glad we got to spend time together before he headed back to the UK.

All in all the new Israel Museum is definitely worth a visit and I recommend it to anyone. They clearly have spent a lot of money and it looks good and makes sense (they could use more signposting directing you from area to area). I will have to go back as I get sensory overload after a few hours and there is a lot to see.

No comments: