Revealing the central role the Israel Museum in the complicated narrative of the nation
Israeli SocietyLife and EnvironmentAnthropology
Sitting high on the brow of a Jerusalem hill directly opposite the Knesset, the sprawling institution—now more than half a century old—contains nearly half a million objects, from the Dead Sea Scrolls to Crusader armor to masterpieces by Rembrandt and Marc Chagall. A less ambitious film would provide a hit parade of the museum’s contents. Instead, The Museum is wisely constructed as a set of loose encounters with its human inhabitants.
We eavesdrop on the curators, museum guards, archaeological conservators, visiting schoolchildren, and even the resident rabbi, who together form a kaleidoscopic picture of the way art, history and national destiny intersect in the galleries. Director Ran Tal (Children of the Sun), while showcasing the deep artistic and educational values that underlie the museum’s work, also gently exposes its ideological fault lines: we watch an Army docent use the museum’s archaeology to indoctrinate her trainees, while Arab and Jewish curators wrestle with the moral implications of displaying Palestinian artifacts. Through it all, the Israel Museum emerges as a shining example of a nation’s highest aspirations for itself.