AP NEWS

Maltz Museum exhibit ‘Israel: Then & Now’ tells of the state’s history, culture, relevance

October 5, 2018

Maltz Museum exhibit ‘Israel: Then & Now’ tells of the state’s history, culture, relevance

BEACHWOOD, Ohio -- When someone turns 70 years old, you have a good, general idea of who that person truly is.

But, this year, as the state of Israel turns 70, many Americans -- if they judge solely by what they see in the media -- may not know who the state is and what it’s all about.

The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, 2929 Richmond Road in Beachwood, recently opened an exhibition titled “Israel: Then and Now,” which seeks to tell of its past and to paint a realistic portrait of the country at 70.

“When some people think of Israel, they see sand, concrete barriers and barbed wire,” said the museum’s managing director, David Schafer. “But that’s not what it is at all.”

Schafer, who lived in Israel for two years in the 1970s as a professional basketball player and student, said the reality is much more varied and beautiful.

“There are snow-capped mountains, the ancient mines of King Solomon, wild animals and modern buildings,” he said.

Roughly the size of the state of New Jersey, Israel does, in fact, offer all those things of which Schafer speaks and more, including a diverse population that brings with it its own customs and culture.

Running through the exhibit is an Israeli timeline with artifacts highlighting its struggles, notable events and people from throughout its history.

Visitors, at the timeline’s beginning, can see an authentic 19th-century postcard featuring Theodore Herzl, the founding father of Zionism (begun in 1897 as a movement to re-establish a Jewish homeland). Moving along into the 20th century, there is a signed Andy Warhol lithograph of former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir (1969-74).

“She broke the gender barrier long ago,” Schafer said of the nation-state’s fourth prime minister.

The timeline moves right up to the present, with a large photo of Israeli actress Gal Gadot and examples of the 1990s Israeli invention of the PillCam, which, when swallowed, gives doctors a good look at what is happening within a patient.

In addition to the timeline, the exhibit includes sections devoted to the many immigrants who have come to live in the country, Israel’s culture and its coming together in the early 20th century through the Hebrew language -- a rare instance in which a language that had nearly ceased to exist among the populace coming back to serve as a necessary common thread, along with the Jewish religion, to a nation full of immigrants.

The diversity of Israel’s population is made evident in an interactive map that clearly shows the region’s history and shifting populations over the past 500 years. The map serves as a crucial part of the exhibit, as it spells out the many ethnicities and religious backgrounds of the people who called home, and still call home, what is now Israel.

From images of 1940s and ’50s immigrants living in tents, one is struck by how the country has advanced to its current, modern level.

“Today, Israel is called the Start-up Nation, because it is known to have the largest number of start-ups per capita in the world,” said the museum’s director of external relations, Dahlia Fisher.

“Israel: Then & Now” is a first-of-its-kind exhibit that pulls together milestone moments, historic images, film and more to tell the story of a country’s progression.

Schafer said the idea for the exhibit came right from the museum’s founder, Milton Maltz.

Maltz was in Israel contemplating the past -- from the Ottoman Turks’ 400-year rule over what is now Israel to the country’s founding in 1948 to today. Schafer said, “He looked out the hotel window and saw skyscrapers and bumper-to-bumper cars and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to look at Israel from the paradigm of then and now?’”

Through the decades, Fisher points out, “The challenges Israel faced served as opportunities to innovate.” Those challenges and innovations are spelled out within the exhibit.

“Israel: Then & Now” includes a feature in which people now living in Israel are shown on video answering, with opposing views, answers to questions facing the country. Exhibit visitors can interactively agree with one person’s view or the other, and see instant results as to how other exhibit visitors have weighed in on the questions.

Formed in collaboration with the world-renowned exhibit design company Gallagher & Associates, “Israel: Then & Now” closes with a nod to the Western Wall, where hopeful people leave messages in cracks in the ancient wall, believing they are messages to God. Exhibit visitors can leave their own messages before they leave, with the promise that the museum will have them delivered to Israel and the wall.

Gallagher & Associates also produced an eight-minute film that, when viewed before entering the exhibit, gives visitors information that enhances the “Israel: Then & Now” experience.

“Israel:Then & Now” runs through May 12. During the course of its run, the Maltz Museum has teamed with Case Western Reserve University’s Laura & Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program to produce a series of events and programs that will serve as complements to the exhibit.

For more information on these programs, visit maltzmuseum.org, or case.edu/lifelonglearning.

AP RADIO
Update hourly