Royal relics

Artifacts from the ancient Land of Israel are on display at the new King David Private Museum and Research Center.

Royal relics (photo credit: Daniel Bar-On )
Royal relics
(photo credit: Daniel Bar-On )
One of the questions that Eran Katz, operating director of the new King David Private Museum and Research Center, hears often is why the museum is in Tel Aviv and not in Jerusalem, the internationally acknowledged City of David.
“Tel Aviv is Israel’s main center of culture,” he says by way of explanation. “It is also the most central location for Israelis as well as tourists.”
Located off Allenby Street and near the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian mall, the museum offers visitors a glimpse into the life and times of the king for which it is named. It also offers them the opportunity to find out if they might be descendants of the biblical monarch.
The museum, which contains artifacts from the ancient Land of Israel, opened its doors on January 9. There is no admission charge; it only asks for a small donation of NIS 10 for adults and NIS 6 for children. Soldiers are not asked to donate.
“We provide information about the time of King David in many languages, especially English, Hebrew, French, Spanish and Arabic,” says Katz during a tour of the museum. “The purpose is to show that King David and his genealogy are important to both Jews and non-Jews.”
Next door to the museum, he says, is a cultural heritage center known as Hamakom (The Place), which he explains “is especially suited to people who want to learn more [about] Judaism. They can come to Hamakom and learn a lot about Jewish culture, especially traditional music and dance.”
He then points out a re-creation of David’s throne, and a Torah scroll that is being written to perpetuate David’s legacy.
“Until King David ascended the throne, music was not allowed to be played near the Tabernacle of the Lord,” says the director. “David changed this policy by allowing music to be played near the Tabernacle, especially that of the lyre.”
Throughout the museum, artifacts from the Davidic era are on display, including ancient slings and “bullets” of the type David used to kill the Philistine giant Goliath; weapons such as spearheads, swords and arrowheads; cooking and liquid storage pottery artifacts; and signet rings that the monarch might well have worn himself.
In an adjoining room, visitors can view two films. The first deals with David as a young shepherd boy, the second with David the musician playing his lyre.
“There is a moshav, Ramat Raziel, near Ein Kerem in Jerusalem.
There, authentic recreations of biblical musical instruments, especially lyres, are made. The recreated lyres are made by men and played by women,” says Katz Another section features photos of artworks from around the world, including by such painters as Michelangelo.
“This artwork indicates the universality of David’s legacy,” he says.
Himself an artist, Katz adds that he has designed “all kinds of biblical clothing and musical instruments” and that people who live in the Bereshit Biblical Village in the Judean Hills wear some of these garments.
According to the director, the contents of the museum are a donation from the antiquities collection of Susan Roth, an American who lived in Israel during the late 1950s and is the twin sister of Yiddish comedy actor Mike Burstyn. The Burstyn family claims to be descendants of King David through the 11th-century sage Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, better known by the Hebrew acronym of “Rashi.”
“Rashi claimed to be a descendant of King David, and although this has not been factually proven, who can doubt his word?” says Katz, pointing out a chart showing the sage’s family lineage. The genealogy work the museum is conducting is particularly significant.
The museum’s genealogy expert, Dr. Chaim Luria – who gave a lecture last week on King David’s genealogy and DNA at Hamakom – has charted not only the king’s family line, but those of other noted sages, including Rabbi Yisrael Ben- Eliezer, known as the Ba’al Shem Tov and said to be the founder of hassidism. Another purported descendent of King David is Rabbi Nahman of Breslov in Ukraine.
“People are very interested in learning about their family trees, especially those that might be linked to ancient historical figures,” says Katz.
A GIFT SHOP at the entrance to the museum offers a number of souvenirs, including reproductions of the ancient half-shekel coin that people would give as an offering at the Temple during Shavuot. One of the most noteworthy items available in the shop is a gold-embossed Book of Psalms, created by Jerusalem artist Yehoshua “Shuki” Freiman. Though some of the copies cost only NIS 50, there is a framed and leatherembossed version that is “one of only 320 made,” according to Katz. Its cost: NIS 7,000. In the short time it has been open, the museum has had hundreds of visitors each month.
“All kinds of people have already visited the museum, including a large number of Christians [tradition says that Jesus was a descendant of the House of David] and also many from Asian countries,” says Katz.
Last week, the museum held a 3,025th birthday party for King David, to coincide with his traditional birthday on 1 Sivan.
On one wall of the museum is an illustration of the First Temple altar. Although it was David’s son Solomon who actually built the Temple, as both his father and God instructed him, Katz explains that “it was King David who bought a threshing floor for 30 pieces of silver in the location that is presently known as the Temple Mount.”
This site, he continues, “is eternal proof that the Jewish people are the rightful inheritors of Israel. David is the king who united all of the tribes of Israel into one sovereign nation, and he also conquered Jerusalem and made it Israel’s capital. He ruled there for 33 [years] of his 40-year reign. For these and many other reasons, David is Israel’s greatest king and deserving of being considered as laying the groundwork for the construction of the Temple.”