Saturday, May 14, 2011

At the Israel Museum

The other day I visited the newly renovated Israel Museum to see the archaeology section there. For a Tanakh teacher, it was a real treat; there are phenomenal exhibits which bring Tanakh to life.

We saw artifacts from ancient Hazor, the royal archway from Achav's palace in Shomron. Here is the earliest reference to the "House of David" (See right - highlighted in white")

Here (below) is Sennaherib's prism which tells the story of the Assyrian attack on Hizkiyahu. It is incredible what these archeological artifacts reveal. For example, until we had these Asyyrian records, we never knew that Sennaherib described his besieging of Hizkiyah as if Hizkiyahu was a "caged bird." But after we learn this, we better understand why Yishayhu (31:5) uses the metaphor that, "as birds fly free, so will the Lord of Hosts protect you." Yishayahu MUST be responding to Sennaherib's propaganda, but until this archaeological find, who knew?

It is incredible to see these connections with the past. When you see Hizkiyahu's royal seal in front of your eyes, when you can look at "shekel" and "gera" weights and measures, the amazing silver "scroll" of Birkhat Kohanim, found in the Hinnom valley, and so much else which directly overlaps with Tanakh, it is quite wonderful!

The museum has been beautifully refurbished and renewed and it looks amazing.

One of the things I was excited to see was Anish Kapur's special new sculture. The way I read about it is that it reflects the notion of ירושלים של מעלה\ ירושלים של מטה as it switches heaven and earth. In Jerusalem, the "heaven" is on "earth," and the "earth" is in the "heavens." What an amazing metaphor, and what a stupendous creation to express this idea.

Come visit!


Justine Saidman said...

What did you make of the reflection and inversion in the final piece of art work? It seems to imply that Jerusalem is a kind of upside down place ... Or perhaps it is more about how one can find their inner selves there?

Alex Israel said...

I think that Jerusalem is a place on earth that holds the heavens - it is THE city of religion in which battles have been fought over God for millenea.The Temple sought to have God reside on Earth.

And likewise, Jerusalem is a place in heaven, it is a concept of perfection, of God. Jerusalem is a place in which people live their lives devoutly in order to reach the heavens, to live on Earth as if they were heavenly, spiritual.

Judaism has a concept of TWO Jerusalems: the Jerusalem below (on Earth) and the heavenly Jerusalem.

So I think the sculpture encapsulates this amazing mix.