The Tower of David marks 25 years

Director Eilat Lieber reviews the museum’s recent history and looks ahead.

Director Eilat Lieber has plans for innovations at the museum. (photo credit: TOWER OF DAVID MUSEUM)
Director Eilat Lieber has plans for innovations at the museum.
(photo credit: TOWER OF DAVID MUSEUM)
It may seem odd to be celebrating the quarter centenary of a citadel that has stood for thousands of years, but the Tower of David Museum is doing just that.
This year marks 25 years since the ancient complex opened to the public to educate and delight people from across the globe in the vibrant history of the city it once helped defend. The anniversary will be marked by exhibitions, artifacts and special events throughout the week of Passover, including a reduced entrance fee of NIS 25.
Along with the lowered cost of admission, the intermediate days of Passover will see the museum include a number of special activities and events throughout the week.
“We’re going to screen old silent movies, the first Jewish Zionist movies; all Israeli movies from Educational Television from way back, when it was one of the first channels to develop,” says Tamar Berliner, the museum’s director of cultural events.
Children and adults can enjoy the screenings, games, arts and crafts, interactive exhibits, city views and a display of vintage toys curated by two toy collectors. The aim of the exhibits is to take visitors back to a simpler time.
Professional actors will also play a part in bringing this theme home, says Berliner. “One will wash all the clothes and she’ll invite kids to come wash with soap and a washboard, and [there will be] one who shines shoes and an accordionist playing music.” On Wednesday and Thursday “it’ll be an open museum and the idea is to come and wander around and enjoy yourself.
It’s a very open feeling, and it means you can enjoy the courtyard and the outside spaces of the citadel as well as the inside of the museum,” she says.
Aside from the Passover events, visitors are welcome to peruse the rooms of the tower where a time line of the city of Jerusalem is laid out from the First Temple period all the way up until the creation of the State of Israel.
Although the museum’s structures have been standing for much of the Old City’s long and varied history, the 25-year mark for the medieval fortress as an educational institution is a landmark for the museum as well as its director, Eilat Lieber. Not only has she been the Tower of David’s director for nearly two years, she started out as a tour guide in the museum when it first opened.
“I served in the army as a tour guard in the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel. They had a center here on Jaffa Road and we used to do tours here,” says Lieber. “As a student I remember I found it very interesting, it was right before the opening and it was like a new school for me to learn about museology, and it was really exciting to be a part of this team that made up the museum.”
On staff even before the museum opened, Lieber recalls working with graphic artists to design the glass plaques that still hang in the museum. After studying to be a curator in Tel Aviv, she returned as director of the Tower of David. Having been with the museum since its inception and witnessing its development – or lack thereof – Lieber has many ideas about its future.
For most of the its existence, the museum has been unusual in that there are no original artifacts among the exhibits. Time and history are displayed with ease and clarity for visitors using holograms, models, replicas and images, but there is a distinct lack of anything antique, apart from the building itself. Lieber says that is about to change.
“We are building this collection. The Israel Antiquities Authority has a lot of objects in their collection,” she says, adding that she is interested in revealing “what kind of life people had here inside the citadel; so it’s a different kind of museology, to put the objects inside the real site that tells the real story.” She says historical artifacts “will color the citadel” and “give more meaning to what we are doing here now.”
With the addition of original artifacts there will be another big change to the museum: more contemporary art brought into exhibitions as a juxtaposition of old and new. No matter what may come and go through the walls of the citadel, it is sure to endure as an eternal part of the city, and there’s no better time to explore it than during Passover.
“This city is like a treasure and we want to show the public the real culture of the city, the real stories,” says Lieber. “We’re the right place to do it because we’re here. Like the gate to Jerusalem, we stand in the middle, between the old city and the new city.”