An artifact exodus in the Museum of Islamic Art

One of the museum’s neighbors has been closely following the reluctant disposal of tapestries, utensils and watches.

Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem  (photo credit: ISRAEL'S FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTRY)
Museum for Islamic Art in Jerusalem
All museums are currently facing financial pressures due to lack of viewer traffic during the coronavirus lockdown coupled with the severe downsizing of financial donations. The Museum of Islamic Art, which was founded in 1974, was in such dire financial straits that it turned to Sotheby’s London branch to auction off dozens of precious items from its collection. Proceeds from the initial sale on October 27 and 28 will give the museum some breathing space and will partially relieve museum director Nadim Sheiban of worries that the museum might have to close.
One of the museum’s neighbors has been closely following the reluctant disposal of tapestries, utensils and watches.
Attempts were made to stop the sale. Pained by the potential exodus of some of the museum’s most valuable treasures, President Reuven Rivlin, whose official residence is around the corner from the museum, last Sunday night released a statement in which he said: “I am following with concern the issue of the sale of collections from the Museum of Islamic Art, including items of greater worth and significance than their monetary value. We must find the means available to the State of Israel in the legal and international spheres to prevent the sale of these cultural assets from the region as a whole.
The Museum of Islamic Art, as well as the other museums in our country, are the repositories of enormous spiritual and material assets for the State of Israel and the Middle East and we must do all we can to keep them in Israel.”
Rivlin expressed his thanks to Culture and Sport Minister Hili Tropper, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and the State Prosecutor’s Office for their assistance in urgently examining this issue.
■ ALTHOUGH TEL AVIV is reputedly the business capital of Israel, it’s interesting that the two venture capitalists in the forefront of creating business connections with the UAE are Jerusalemites Jon Medved and Erel Margalit. Though in competition with each other, each is essentially interested in boosting Israel’s economy.
In mid-October, Medved, founder of Our Crowd, had an online meeting with Emirates Angel Investors Association that gave Israeli investors and entrepreneurs an initial glimpse of tech opportunities available in the United Arab Emirates, and UAE Tech Investors an introduction to the Israeli ecosystem.
This week, Erel Margalit, founder of Jerusalem Venture Partners, led an Israeli delegation to the UAE to hold high-level talks with senior officials as well as with innovation and investment counterparts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The delegation spent four days in the UAE, and one suspects that for Margalit this will be a frequent commute.
■ POSSIBLY BECAUSE it’s on the verge of marking its 30th anniversary, Hillel, the organization founded in Jerusalem in 1991 to help young people leaving the ultra-Orthodox world to make the transition into mainstream secular society, has mounted a large-scale advertising campaign.
Although there are now several organizations that assist such people in terms of accommodation, mentoring, social, moral and even financial support, when Hillel began operating, there was no such facility. Many young men and women did not know where to turn, and in their despair, some became drug addicts or alcoholics, and in the most desperate cases, even engaged in prostitution in order to have a bed for the night and food in their bellies.
The social connection is very important, because everyone in any given social circle of people who have abandoned religion, knows how hard it is to leave family and community. For this reason, they often have Shabbat dinners, for which they prepare traditional Sabbath meals, make kiddush and sing Sabbath songs. But they might also smoke, and their cellphones are on the table.
The full-page tabloid advertisements tell readers success stories about two young men and a girl, who were helped by Hillel to catch up with core studies and to find professions. In a letter on Hillel’s website, which also features the advertisements, Hillel CEO Yair Hass explains the enormous difficulties in bridging gaps between the world they left behind and the new world that they are entering, and also notes that in many cases, if they leave their communities, they cannot return. He spells out what Hillel does to help them. What he doesn’t say is how many suicides there are among such people who feel as if they no longer have a foot in either world.
In the recent television series Unchained, about a young married man in the ultra-Orthodox community who works to secure a religious bill of divorce for women chained in empty marriages, viewers are introduced to members of the ultra-Orthodox community who have lost their faith, but who nonetheless for appearances sake, remain within the community, and outwardly do not betray their feelings. But they know about each other and meet in an apartment where they eat non-kosher food, and engage in mixed gender socializing and dancing. Apparently their families know, but so long as they behave discreetly, no-one does anything to either stop them or expel them.
Some come from the finest of ultra-Orthodox families, and seem to have the best of both worlds.
■ JERUSALEM PRESS club founder and director Uri Dromi is pleased by any opportunity to promote Israel and it came via the Brussels Press Club, which invited the JPC to participate in the first-ever global press conference hosted by the World Press Club Alliance for Climate Change.
“We grabbed the opportunity to put together and showcase the innovations of 25 Israeli companies in the areas of sustainability, energy, food and agriculture,” said Dromi. The online conference ran last Friday morning and generated a lot of enthusiastic feedback from around the world.
Dromi added that he was very proud of JPC’s staff, especially Talia Dekel, who moderated the Israeli segment of the program and Aviya Asner, who single-handedly edited it.