Are you a descendant of the House of David? If you have ever wondered if blue
blood flows through your veins, you might consider visiting the King David
Private Museum and Research Center, which reopened on Monday in its new location
in central Tel Aviv.
Better yet, run your name through the museum’s
online database that curators vow will accurately tell you whether you are
related to the monarch from the 10th century BCE
The museum, which was founded by
Jewish-American philanthropist Susan Roth, is dedicated to telling the story of
the ginger shepherd from Bethlehem who became the leader of the Jewish
“We want to show who King David was not only here – but also in
America and other countries – and especially here because right now the younger
generation consider themselves simply Israeli, not Jews,” Roth said in an
interview after the museum’s rededication.
The small exhibition, which
was previously housed in the Old City of Jerusalem, provides various depictions
of the Hebrew king from throughout history including famous paintings and
sculptures by the likes of Michelangelo and others. In addition, it displays a
few archeological artifacts related to his life including ancient slingshots and
pebbles, similar to the ones David is said to have used to slay the mighty
Philistine giant Goliath.
“This museum is proof that we would are not a
nation of 63 years as some would like us to believe, but in fact we are a nation
[that is] 3,000 years old – and that we didn’t take this country from anybody,”
said Roth. “In fact, it was taken from us several times.”
Don’t try to
ascribe a political agenda to the museum, Roth said, sensing the next question,
as you won’t find it.
She is, however, proud of her support of the Tomb
of the Patriarchs in Hebron and of Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem.
said she influenced the government during the early ’90s under prime ministers
Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres and funded protests to keep Rachel’s Tomb in
“The government realized that they can’t give it away, and
that’s how it was saved,” she said.
Roth, who claims to be a direct
descent of David, is royalty in another sense. She is the daughter of Pesach and
Lilian Burstein, and the twin sister of Mike Burstein.
family made up the Four Bursteins, the internationally famous Yiddish theater
troupe. She is proud of her pedigree but said her interest in Judaism as a
religious way of life and in Kabbala did not stem from her upbringing. Rather,
it came much later, only as an adult.
“There was no religion connected to
it,” she said. “My parents and my brother and I were actors. In a way it was the
forerunner of what I’m doing now, since we were entertaining the survivors who
needed to hear a Jewish word because they lost everything.”
But if you’re one for science you might not be impressed by the replicas, artifacts and other tchotchkes on display. The only non-biblical evidence that refers to the House of David is the Tel Dan Stele, a replica of which is shown at the entrance to the exhibition. And its authenticity is disputed by some scholars.
“There’s no doubt a historical King David
existed, because the scribes of the Bible give us detailed accounts that fit in
with other sources of the time,” noted archaeologist Israel Finkelstein said
over the phone on Monday. “But the Bible itself is ambiguous in describing the
kingdom in various ways and with various boundaries – one time it says [the
kingdom] straddled Dan to Beersheba, and another time the Euphrates to
Finkelstein said David may have been a leader of great import in
the history of the Kingdom of Judea but that archeological evidence directly
related to him was extremely scarce. Furthermore, what does exist suggests he
ruled over much less of the land than what was credited to him in the biblical
narrative. Finkelstein suggested we think of David as a chieftain of a small but
ambitious tribe rather than a mighty king lording over distant lands.
founder of a 10th-century BCE dynasty in the Judean Hills existed, but it
doesn’t mean he had the power later attributed to him,” Finkelstein
For most believers, however, including Roth, the Holy Scriptures do
not allow such a minimalist interpretation.
She is a staunch believer in
David the Great. And if more people learned about him and even discovered that
they were his direct descendants – which she believes can be scientifically
proven – then the Jewish people would truly fulfill its destiny of being a light
upon the nations.
“Come to the museum,” she implores the
“Come and you will see that David wasn’t a myth.”