Day 13: Israel Museum, Chain of Generations

Trip Start May 04, 2012
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Trip End May 27, 2012


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What I did
Chain of Generations Center

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

This morning we're off to Jerusalem where we will first leave our luggage at our hotel and then return our rental car. As we are driving away from the hotel, I remember that I have packed the paperwork for the car in the luggage – that’s a problem because those papers are needed for the car return and they would have been at the Jerusalem hotel inside our luggage!  I am relieved that I remembered now and not when returning the car.  On this trip, there have been quite a few times when my responses or memory haven’t been the way it has been when I was younger. I wonder how Harvey is responding and think he must be annoyed that here is just another of those lapses that seem to be increasing in frequency and negative repetitive thoughts stream in my mind.  When I got the papers from the luggage and the car is moving again I talk about my reaction and that I was most concerned about his reaction.   Harvey responded that it was all buba mitza and that he loved me.  He said if as we age we have to do things multiple times or whatever, that’s what we’ll do and take it in stride, but not get snippy or impatient with each other.  It was Harvey’s tone and how he said it that took away my edginess as I felt his love and acceptance.   It is an unforgettable moment.    Being in Israel and walking through archaeological sites that are over 8,000 years old does a lot to revitalize our awareness of just how short our lives are and what is really important.  It’s that sense of perspective to our lives that is one of the gifts from Israel to someone who comes with an open heart.  

Driving north on Route 90 from Ein Gedi, we are on the lookout for a turn-off for a great view of the Dead Sea that was suggested by a TripAdvisor on the Israel forum (www.tripadvisor.com).  There is an Army checkpoint on Route 90, south of the junction with Route 1.  Just after the checkpoint there is a road on the left with a brown sign that reads "Mezuqe Deragot" and “Wadi Darga”.   As we drive up the mountain’s hairpin turns Harvey says he’ll do anything for a photo for me.  We pass a sign indicating camels are on the road.  Okay.  Now we see two young women hitch hiking.  We wouldn’t normally pick up hitchhikers, but they look cute, so Harvey stops.  As it turns out they are from Calgary and Wisconsin spending their gap year in Jerusalem on a Young Judea program.  With no backpacks or hats, they’re going to do some hiking in Wadi Darga.  Quite adventuresome young ladies!  We give them a ride up to the helipad and parking lot at the top of the mountain.  We take some snapshots of each other.  We gaze at the whole Dead Sea splayed out in front of us!  The hills of Jordan are a haze in the distance.   The scene looks like a watercolor painting.

We could spend days at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.  It was undergoing a major renovation on our last trip so there is much to see.  We have approximately three hours, so we need to make some choices.  One approach would be to stroll through all the collections as if on “drive-by mode”.  Even with 3 hours, I’m not sure we could cover the entire 20 acre campus that houses collections of works from prehistory to the present day archaeology, the fine arts, Jewish art and life, as well as special temporary exhibits, a serene art garden, model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period and the Shrine of the Book, home to the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls.  Does it sound overwhelming?  We opt for the model of Jerusalem, Shrine of the Book and Archaeology collection.  The first two are revisits, the latter is one of the new galleries which I will comment on here.  We skimmed the surface of the Archaeology collection with an audio guide that expounded upon the life and times from the artifacts, making the exhibits much more meaningful.  I would love to return and spend a day just here.  There were two highlights for me:

A figurine of a female dated to 233,000 years agoThe description reads: “The feature that distinguished humans from the rest of the animal world more than any other is our ability to create verbal symbols (language) and visual symbols (art).

This female figurine, created almost a quarter of a million years ago, is the oldest artwork in the world.  It shows that the origins of art were in fact hundreds of thousands of years earlier than we had previously believed.” 

A brief overview of the invention of the alphabet early in the 2nd millennium BCE describes how it was a revolutionary step in the spread of literacy as the previous writing systems were too complicated to be mastered except by specially trained individuals.  I found it fascinating to learn how the alphabetic system adopted by the Greeks and Romans passed to all the nations of the Western world.  The development of early Hebrew was a branching off from the Phoenician script sometime in the 10th or 9th century BCE, developing independent features. 

Across this gallery was an exhibit case with the large letters “priestly benediction” that caught my eye.   I wanted to keep reading the language development displays, but I felt a strange pull drawing my attention across the gallery to this “priestly benediction”.  Harvey was far ahead of me in the gallery and I considered bypassing it, but the only way I can describe it is as an “energy” that was beaming out drew me to the display.   Here are “two silver amulets that bear the oldest copies of biblical text known to us today.  They are 400 years older than the Dead Sea Scrolls.  The amulets, inscribed in the ancient Hebrew script, were found rolled into tiny scrolls in a burial cave in Jerusalem.  They were incised with a sharp, thin stylus no thicker than a hair’s breadth, and thus deciphering the inscription was difficult.  The lower part of the inscription has been identified as a version of Numbers 6:24-26:  “The Lord bless you and protect you.  The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you.  The Lord bestow his favor upon you and grant you peace.”  This formula, which forms part of Jewish liturgy, is known as the Priestly Benediction.” 

As I read these words and feel the energy of the amulets, I wish I could just sit here and meditate or imagine if I could be there alone with the exhibit after the museum closes!  Both aren’t going to happen this afternoon!

It was extraordinary to be at the Western Wall during the evening of Jerusalem day, the celebration of the unification of Jerusalem after the ’67 war.  The funny thing is that we would not have gone there because of the anticipated crowds (we really don’t like to be in crowded places) but we had tickets to the Generation Center at 6 PM which was located right next to the Western Wall.  When we came out the celebration was in full swing!  About 50,000 people were in the Western Wall/Kotel area and they just get streaming in through security.  We have never experienced so much communal happiness and celebration.  We read in the newspapers about political statements that were anti-Arab, but in the Kotel area and from what we could understand, it seemed everyone was just so happy to be there.   Period.  We have never experienced such exhuberant communal high spirits!  Incredible!

We rest our feet by gazing at the Old City walls from the outdoor balcony of the Lavan Café Restaurant next to the Cinematheque at 11 Hebron Road.  We had a light dinner and watched the fireworks display over the old city.  What a way to end the day!  One of those “only in Israel” days.

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