July 21, 2024
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Israelis Note Omission of Judaism in Met Exhibit on History of the Israeli Capital

New York—“Jerusalem 1000-1400, Every People Under Heaven,” reads the description of the latest temporary exhibit at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The line describes the significance of this city, holy to nearly every known faith. However, one people’s claim is sorely underrepresented in the history, artwork and narratives presented. A nation whose history is perhaps most significant given it is the sovereign state currently controlling Jerusalem; this is, of course, the connection between the Jewish People and their eternal capital.

The exhibit comes at a murky time in relations between Israel and the United States, and perhaps an even murkier time in Israel’s relationship with her capital city. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, the 226th ruling against the Jewish State in less than a quarter of that many years, throws into question our people’s claim to the City of Gold. Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech imposing conditions on the State of Israel that include its evacuation of settlements in contested territory (which many consider to be most or all of Jerusalem), only adds to the credibility of those questioning Jerusalem’s Jewish identity. It is certainly a time when many are seeking a balanced perspective on a very complicated legal and moral issue.

For those looking to learn more, this reporter cannot, in good faith, recommend visiting the Jerusalem Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Most artifacts from the four centuries represented in this exposition lack any clear explanation of historical context, and give the impression of nearly eternal Muslim rule of the Holy Land leading up to the Ottoman Empire. Jewish residence in the Land of Israel is mentioned in the context of artwork from the period of the Crusades, but the bloody military campaign is glossed over to give the impression of a mostly peaceful pilgrimage, instead of a Church-sanctioned massacre leading to the murders of exponentially more Jews than the Shoah. The story of Chanukah, on the other hand, is distorted by the exhibit’s organizer as a bloody affair, with the description of one particular painting entitled “The Battle of the Maccabees, in a Letter” offensively likening the Hasmonean’s campaign for religious freedom in Judea to the Crusades. Anyone visiting this exhibit with prior knowledge of Middle Eastern history would find themselves confused, or, in my case, deeply hurt at the clear misrepresentation of Jerusalem’s history. In fact, despite the claim that “every people under the heaven” were represented in this exhibit, most visitors would question any Jewish claim to Jerusalem after visiting.

Matan Peleg, CEO of Im Tirzu, told JLNJ in an interview that exhibitions that minimize or omit Jewish connections to Jerusalem will soon become the rule rather than the exception. At times like this, it is essential that the Jewish communities of both Israel and the Diaspora stand strong for our history and stand up against revisionism of any form—history cannot be pushed aside to avoid inconvenient and politically incorrect facts. “The connection between the Jewish People and Jerusalem is one unparalleled in history,” said Peleg. “This inextricable bond represents not only 3000 years of Jewish history, but the very core justification for the Zionist movement and the State of Israel.”

Peleg’s organization has been dedicated to promoting Jewish rights to Jerusalem, including on the Temple Mount, and works hard to fulfill Theodore Herzl’s vision of a Jewish state based on Jewish values in our homeland. Im Tirzu has been working tirelessly to fight fake anti-Israel news in the media and promote the Zionist vision in the wider world. They are afraid that, as the anti-Israel narrative continues to mainstream revisionist history, it will become more and more difficult to keep track of what is true and moral in the Middle East.

Perhaps most painful for many was the lack of mention of Jerusalem’s present anywhere in the display of its past—in fact, the word “Israel” does not appear a single time in the entire wing. The Holy Temple built by Jewish King Solomon in the millennia preceding the common era (a historical fact backed by countless archeological digs), and the Second Temple rebuilt by Ezra the Scribe and renovated by Herod (the remains of which are still visible today), are attributed as “Temples to God” in the exhibit, with little or no mention of their Jewish roots to be found. One video shown in a corner dedicated to the Temple includes an interview with Jerusalem-born (note that the museum’s curators didn’t even describe him as “Israeli” despite his being born in the Jewish State’s capital and having citizenship) author Ruby Namdar, in which he compares the modern-day observance of Judaism to chasing a train that has long ago left the station. “The Jewish existence after the Temple is basically scar tissue,” Nadar says, further negating Jerusalem’s eternal significance to the Jewish people. Meanwhile, a separate wing dedicated to the Al Aqsa Mosque features a video of Samar Nimar, a conservator of manuscripts in the Islamic Museum, who conveniently fails to mention any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount while claiming a “rich Palestinian history on Haram Al-Sharif for millennia.” Again, something is clearly rotten in Denmark if an exhibition about every faith’s connection to Jerusalem does not even mention that the Temple Mount is the holiest spot in Judaism.

Anyone leaving these particular sections, or the exhibit as a whole, would not only question any Jewish history in Jerusalem, but may even begin to doubt that Jerusalem sits in the center of a Jewish sovereign state (geographically if not also politically). In fact, this Jerusalem-based writer even questions whether the exhibit’s organizers have even personally visited Jerusalem before.

Yonah Rossman, a New York-born oleh and veteran of the IDF, currently studying Political Science at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, highlights the mindset behind this incorrect attitude towards Jewish Jerusalem: “It may take a village to raise a child but it takes a nation to build a city. Jerusalem does not and cannot exist in a vacuum. It exists as the most prized possession of the Jewish State of Israel. Only for that reason are we finally able to return Jerusalem to its glory and appreciate it’s history. Indeed, a tourist walking through Jerusalem will quickly appreciate it’s politic, religious and cultural complexity. Trading complexity for untruthful simplicity does no one justice. If you are going to do Jerusalem, do it right.”

Representatives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art were unable to reach the exhibit’s curators for their input; however, a cursory scan of the Met’s website promoting the exhibit yields that any form of the word “Jew” is mentioned less than five times in the entire website (and zero times in the pages pertaining to the Temple Mount… sorry, Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque), and the word Israel is not mentioned even once—even the few Israeli historians and scholars quoted in the exhibit are cited as being “Jerusalem-born.” Even if unintentional, this is quite telling.

Meanwhile, representatives of Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat’s office were understandably disappointed in the lack of recognition of the Jewish People’s historic claim and modern-day reuniting of our eternal capital of Jerusalem at the Met’s exhibit. “Two thousand years [ago], the Maccabes were fighting a mighty battle for Jerusalem and won,” said Mayor Barkat in a statement. “A united Jerusalem is the heart of hearts of the Jewish People and the capital of the State of Israel… [its] rightful place cannot, and should not, ever be denied.”

It seems clear to this writer that the Metropolitan Museum of Art did not intend to undermine the Jewish connection to Jerusalem in its exhibit. However, with the United Nations declaring Jewish settlement in Israel’s capital illegal, and nearly every country with diplomatic relations with the Jewish state refusing to locate their embassies in its capital, extra sensitivity must be given to emphasizing the Jewish history in the City of Gold. Furthermore, the exhibit’s curators ignoring Jerusalem’s current location in a Jewish State, and seeming refusal to even identify Israeli contributors as anything other than “Jerusalem-born” seems severely negligent, bordering on deliberate. We can only hope that, in the remaining week of its display in New York, the “Jerusalem 1000-1400” exhibit will abandon its politically correct revisionist history and decide to finally feature the connection and history of every people under heaven to the City of Gold.

What should the Jewish population of the Diaspora take away from this, as all signs point to more exhibits undermining their national connection to Jerusalem and Israel? Im Tirzu’s Matan Peleg reminds us that a common denominator among all of the nations actually mentioned in the Met’s exhibit is that none of them control Jerusalem right now, and most of them no longer exist. “Many nations have come and gone in Jerusalem, yet the Jewish People still remain because the city was, and will remain, the eternal capital of the Jewish People.”

By Tzvi Silver/JLNJ Israel

 

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