Israel Museum: A Museum to Get Lost In, and How Israel Is Fixing It

Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits

THE Israel Museum is one of the finest in the Middle East — if you can figure out how to get in and find the art.

Founded in 1965 by Teddy Kollek, the long-serving Jerusalem mayor, to ensure that Israel would have a national museum of world rank, the museum was a vital symbol of the new nation. Mr. Kollek wanted, and got, “a modernist temple to culture” surrounded by other symbols of Israel’s modern statehood, like the Knesset, the Supreme Court and the National Library, said the museum’s director, James S. Snyder.

From ancient artifacts to contemporary art, the museum seeks to anchor the archaeology, material culture and ethnography of the world’s Jews within a broader global context, both Western and non-Western. It boasts a dominant site at the entrance to Jerusalem, a widely admired sculpture garden and, of course, the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Yet its entrance is an uninspiring parking lot and ugly ticketing building, and the portal to the actual exhibits is 270 yards away, requiring a hike up a hill, often in the blistering sun. It’s also hard to find your way from one collection to the next.

[And now they are trying to fix all that.]

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