Politics in the Museum

Yesterday I took my 11 year old son to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. We enjoyed the beautiful exhibits, wandered through the quiet halls and admired the ancient and modern art. My son was extremely enthusiastic when he noticed the Judaica section and even more so when he saw some signs with the name “Israel” on them (it is this age of strong local patriotism).

The different artifacts (Menorah, Shofar, etc.) had signs indicating their places of origin. I spotted Iraq, Iran, Morocco, NY, among other places, as well as Israel, of course. But then, another object caught my eye. The sign under it said “Jerusalem”. For a second there, I was puzzled. Jerusalem? But the other signs didn’t say “Haifa” or “Tel Aviv” or “Zefat”. They said “Israel”.  My son noticed that I was troubled and asked me what was wrong. I showed him the sign and, with a deep sigh, said that when you are an Israeli, or a Jew, you can’t run away from the political issues, even on a nice Sunday morning trying to enjoy a cultural quality time with your kid. I told him that I imagined the Jerusalem sign wasn’t a mistake, rather a political statement.

It doesn’t even matter what your personal opinion in regards to Jerusalem might be.  You may think that East Jerusalem will eventually be part of the future Palestinian state; or that Jerusalem should be internationalized and run by the UN; perhaps you strongly feel that the united city of Jerusalem must never be separated again. Living in Israel, Jerusalem is very much part of my daily life. In fact, my 3 months training to become a Shlicha took place in Jerusalem, many of my friends live there and a summer doesn’t go by without us visiting the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem at least once. I am very well aware of the complicated political issues involving Jerusalem (not just on the Palestinian front) but I never think of it as anything but a part of Israel.

This unexpected “incident” in the middle of a peaceful Minnesotan museum, was yet another (painful) reminder of the fact that often enough, there is no real distinction between our daily lives in Israel to the more difficult questions concerning the future of the country.



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