Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jerusalem Museums on Chanukah

Jerusalem has great museums - many. Most of our kids have been to them all through school, but it's always more fun to go with your family. Our family visited two museums this Chanukah.
On Monday, we popped over to the Bloomfield Science Museum. We didn't even have to enter to be caught up in the clever hands-on exhibits. Outside in the courtyard is an exhibit of optical illusions. Every one of them elicits a "WOW, WAY COOL." And each one of these illusions is possible only thanks to your brain's coping mechanism.
The museum explains, "The human brain has developed many fields of expertise to help us function efficiently. Yet, sometimes, it's these feilds of expetise that make our brain easy to fool because it is locked into a certain set of assumptions."
Those assumptions make different shapes or spacial orientation give the illusion of movement or color or depth or size. Believe me, "way cool," go look yourselves.
Then there was science and story books, finger prints, Leonardo da Vinci's ideas, and Albert Einstein's life story (pretty interesting AND surprising). Did you know that he was a suspected Communist during the McCarthy era, and that he had an FBI record? Also on exhibit was his last notebook, a movie about this trip to Israel, and the letters he received when he was offered the Presidency of the State of Israel.
The kids had a great time. Everything is hands on and they were kept very busy.
(ONE PART of ONE KINETIC EXHIBIT GREATLY disturbed me, but I am going to put that on hold for a few days while I wait to hear again from the director of the museum. The director was lovely, open, knowledgable and open to public opinion. We had a chat about the exhibit, and I am waiting to hear from the creator of the work. If nothing happens on the part of the craftsman or the museum soon, you'll hear from me about this. Meanwhile, I will wait until after Chanukah.)
Light was one of the themes in the Israel Museum. We went to the Pyromania show on Tuesday. But there was no fire. There were talented gymnasts playing with light. The show was clever and entertaining. The audience was mesmerized. The show was short (about 30 minutes), but then again, how long do we think little kids can sit.
Then in another part of the museum, a trio was playing Chanukah songs on a variety of different instruments. Visitors sat on rugs around the room and enjoyed the music.
While the main exhibition hall of the Museum is closed, you can still go to the Shrine of the Book. Little kids will like seeing the "old stuff" for about ten minutes. If you can shlep them out a little longer, you'll get a glimpse of the varied finds from Qumran that give us a glimpse into the society that lived in the desert 2000 years ago, as the forces of Light battled the forces of Darkness.
My kids went back to the children's museum to do some arts and crafts, and I settled down outside watching folks in front of the white dome of the Shrine of the Book. I took a bunch of photos, and even made a video. IY"H, when I get a chance, I'll share them with you. You can check later in the week for some great Chanukah videos.
Lastly, we stopped at the model of the Second Temple. There we saw "King Herod" and his wife "Miriam" welcoming the visitors. While he seemed too nice to be Herod, he did say that he hadn't "killed" anyone today, so I guess that was scary enough for the kids.
The model is magnificent. Walking around the city of Jerusalem at its largest point during the Second Temple, 66 CE, was awe-inspiring. What grandeur! The model showed Jerusalem just before the revolt against Rome broke out.
It was twice the size of the Old City today, and our understanding of its magnificence make the destruction of the Holy Temple and the world's most beautiful city even more tragic. The model is based on a scale of 1:50. Two centimeters represented a meter. It is very large - and gives us a look at Herod's palace, the palace of the Chashmonaim, the city of David, the Shiloach Pools, and the streets upon which our forefathers walked two millenia ago. We marveled at the model, as did visitors from all over the world. I took a zillion pictures. You will too.
I am hoping to upload videos of the two museums, so check back to to see those and other interesting clips.
Hope you use the rest of Chanukah to discover Jerusalem and feel the light of this eternal city.

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