May 2007 Journal

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Letter from Israel

Israel possesses many places of archaeological, historical and religious significance for all mankind. The modern state has constructed buildings and established sites with meaning of a more contemporary and/or national character. But there can be few spots which combine so many levels of significance for so many people as the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

In the 40 years since it was founded, the Museum has grown from a modest assortment of artworks and archaeological artifacts to one of the world’s most extensive collections, encompassing Jewish ethnography, Israeli art, period rooms, American and African art, archaeology, a very respectable collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and modern art and sculpture, as well as a few old masters, Judaica, and of course the Dead Sea Scrolls, housed in their own unique building, the Shrine of the Book.

The scale model of Jerusalem in the time of the Second Temple which was formerly situated in the grounds of the Holyland Hotel has recently been added to the Museum’s collection, adding yet another dimension to what was already a wide-ranging collection.

When my husband and I retired, we sought a channel for our abilities and decided to contact the Israel Museum, where we were promptly enrolled as volunteer ‘hosts’.

After completing a one-month course of lectures and tours in an attempt to familiarise us with the Museum’s labyrinthine galleries, we were each issued with a wine-coloured waistcoat and a scarf bearing the Museum’s logo, sent to our appointed places, and told to help visitors find whatever it was they were looking for.

All through the year the Museum throbs with visitors from every corner of the world intent on passing some time in its cool interior and benefiting from its cultural offerings. Many enquiries are about mundane things such as eateries and toilets, but we are also able to help visitors find specific exhibitions or displays about which they have heard. We greatly enjoy being part of the community of the Israel Museum.
Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

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