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0202 – Points of View from Jerusalem

News Digest: Evolution Exhibition Cover-Up


"Science museum covers evolution exhibit. Scientific community in uproar.

Secular visitors visiting the Museum of Nature in the German Colony [1] neighborhood of Jerusalem, claim the museum's workers placed a curtain over a carnivore exhibit.

According to Ynet, they were told that the museum was responding to requests from groups of ultra-Orthodox Jews who visit the museum occasionally, especially during the Passover festival [2]. According to an article published on the Times of Israel website, a staff member even asked one of the secular visitors to leave the museum after a complaint about censorship…

…This is an exhibit that details the evolution of the world according to the theory of evolution, which, as we know, attributes the origin of man to the monkey… [3]

Yomiran Nissan, the director of the 'Little, Big Science' [4] organization, told Ynet that the Museum's consideration of the feelings of the ultra-Orthodox critics [is antithetical to the role of a museum.] 'In my opinion, the most terrible thing is that the museum is not fulfilling its duty. The Museum of Nature must present scientific findings as they are, and make them accessible to the public in an interactive and understandable manner. Of course the museum has a choice of what to present and how to present it, but once they have decided which exhibits to display, they can not hide them because of certain groups' [sensitivities]. It does not make sense'.

'If they can not present the exhibition to everyone, they should be kind enough [to the lend the exhibition to another museum]', he concluded. 'They are not the only museum in Israel that exhibits an evolution exhibition.'

A similar protest was voiced by Professor Jerry Quinn, an evolutionary researcher at the University of Chicago who heard about the concealment of the exhibition and sent a letter to the museum. Quinn claimed that the museum could not hide information because of 'the feelings of the ultra-Orthodox'.

However Dr. Yevgeny Rosenitzky, the Education Coordinator at the museum, told Ynet that [the museum is solely supported by visitors. The museum does not receive any funding from municipal or government grants.] 'When they arrive, we hide the exhibition at their request.'

'If there is a demand from a critic or group to hide something for the sake of the visit, I, as an educator, think it's worthwhile,' he said. Regarding the claim by some visitors that the exhibition was covered during the entire holiday, even when there were not any Haredi groups, the Education Coordinator responded,"this is a technical problem, we do not have enough manpower'".

– Kikar Hashabat


"Jerusalem Museum Covers Exhibit on Evolution and Dinosaurs When Ultra-Orthodox Students Visit.

Haredi Jewish schools decided that they would visit the museum on the condition that the exhibit would be covered up. The museum's Educational Director agreed to their request.

The Natural History Museum in Jerusalem covers up an exhibit on evolution and dinosaurs during visits from ultra-Orthodox students. The museum says it only covers one specific exhibit with a curtain when groups from Haredi schools visit, as part of an educational program of the Jerusalem municipality, and when they request to do so in advance.

The permanent exhibit on “the beginning of human evolution and culture” was covered by a pink sheet, as reported and photographed by Michael Bachner from the Times of Israel. […] A visitor to the museum who asked about the curtain and then complained when she was told that Haredim do not like to see such things, was told by a museum employee that she could leave, according to the Times of Israel story.

Since the beginning of the school year, 12 groups from Haredi schools visited the Natural History Museum as part of the city’s “Jerusalem Advantage” educational program [5]. This is the first year such visits to the museum have been subsidized by the city.

The museum’s educational director, Dr. Evgeny Roznitsky, said schools made their visits conditional on the exhibit being covered up, and he decided to agree to their request. 'The agreement is that when such a group arrives we close the curtain and the guide does not explain those parts of the exhibition. When they leave, we open the curtain,' he told Haaretz.
'It has happened 12 times and we would be happy for more. Before this year, few Haredi schools visited the museum, and only in a few private frameworks. This year, groups come from [Haredi] schools in an organized manner, so I still think this is an achievement,' said Roznitsky.

It is preferable to expose the students to the rest of the worlds the museum has to offer, than to refuse their request and have them cancel completely, he says. “My dilemma was either to refuse to close [the curtain] and not agree to the request, and then not to receive these groups and not to expose them to the beauty of the other exhibits. Or, to temporarily close something that is 0.3 percent of all the museum’s space and expose them to the rest […] These are children who have never seen an animal in their lives. […] So on behalf of pluralism and education, I close this curtain,” said Roznitsky. He completely denied that a visitor who criticized the curtain was told she could leave.
The Jerusalem municipality said: “The city’s Education Administration initiated the ‘Jerusalem Advantage’ program in which all the city’s students from all communities are entitled to visit a wide variety of museums in the city, within the framework of their studies. Within this program, thousands of students visited the Natural History Museum in the city and enjoyed the exhibitions and exhibits there. As opposed to what has been claimed, the aforementioned exhibit is open regularly to all groups visiting the museum.”

The city said that out of a desire to attract groups from the Haredi community, the museum decided to agree to the request from Haredi schools and cover a specific exhibit during the visits. […]"

– Haaretz newspaper

[Selected Comments:]
– “What exactly is the issue here? […] [They’re] being considerate of a specific group of visitors. Ha’aretz reporters, if we were talking about a group of Arabs or asylum seekers – the article would read differently."
– "My feelings have been hurt, by their surrender, their compliance, their mockery of [human] intelligence. By the fact that the director of the museum chose to describe the decision as an act of 'tolerance.' My feelings have been badly hurt, but because there is no party to represent my feelings, they continue to be treaded upon mercilessly."

0202 Editor's Notes:
[1] The German Colony, so named because of its founding by the German Temple Society in the 19th Century, is an upscale neighborhood in Jerusalem. The neighborhood houses many cultural centers including theaters and the Shalom Hartman Institute. Its main street, Emek Refaim, has many shops and is a popular spot in the city.
[2] The Passover festival celebrates the Israelite's liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. During the week long holiday, many members of Haredi society go on day trips to places like museums, zoos and hikes.
[3] Many members of Haredi society are opposed to evolutionary biology as it contradicts the biblical account of man's creation.
[4] Little, Big Science (Heb. מדע גדול, בקטנה) is a not for profit organization that aims to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the general public. They report significant discoveries and scientific stories in layman's terms so that the average person can understand.
[5] The Jerusalem Advantage program connects educational organizations such as schools, with Jerusalem's cultural institutions. This is administrated by the Education and Culture department of the Jerusalem Municipality | עיריית ירושלים.

#Religion #Education #Jerusalem_Municipality #Culture