Jerusalem Exhibition

Can we have hope or certainty in East or West or anywhere but in the one land full of gates that face the open gates of heaven?
—Judah ha-Levi (1075–1141), Jewish poet and philosopher

This Sunday I finally made it to the Jerusalem Exhibition at the Met  with the best group of people – my family including the youngest, most charming and most curious ladies. Today, when the Holy Land is still burning, it feels appropriate to spend the day contemplating the uniqueness of The Eternal City.

The exhibition is devoted to coexistence during “one of the most creative periods in its history” due to the fact that during 1000-1400 “Jerusalem was home to more cultures, religions, and languages than ever before”.

The exhibition, of course, tries to neutralise the pain and suffering of the people that did not have the ruling power in the city – Christians and Muslims at times of their respective downfalls, Jews – throughout the period.

I am not going to describe the exhibition, Met’s website will do it better for you if a bit one-sided to my taste. Just some observations that were interesting for me:

This is a lentil pot used specifically for cooking lentils in the area. I wonder if something like this was used by our pra-father Jacob to cook the famous lentil stew for which his brother Esau sold his firstborn rights:

לד  וְיַעֲקֹב נָתַן לְעֵשָׂו, לֶחֶם וּנְזִיד עֲדָשִׁים, וַיֹּאכַל וַיֵּשְׁתְּ, וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלַךְ; וַיִּבֶז עֵשָׂו, אֶת-הַבְּכֹרָה.

34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way. So Esau despised his birthright.

Another interesting object was the Tanach open to this very strangely printed page

If I remember correctly, this is a piece from the Book of Kings. I am just curious regarding the print, and I didn’t see any explanation. Wondering if any of my readers knows the story of this particular print.

I did not pay too much attention to Christian objects. One, however, caught my eye – the original Psalter of the Queen Melisende, the only (I think) Christian female ruler of “The Kingdom of Jerusalem”. I have read a fascinating book about her a while ago.Supposedly, she was very pious and much loved by all the people of Jerusalem of her time.

Many beautiful objects belonging to the three religions are on display. If you can, do visit the exhibit before January 8, 2017.

The huge pictures of the city on the walls of the museum halls reminded me of the times I have walked these streets. And of the emotions, this city stirs within me. This time it was the, now more subtle, pain of loosing someone precious as his 19th yahrzait draws near:

When I stepped on these stones, where laughter and joy were once heard

When I walked through the streets, where merchants once sold their fare

When I looked at the coins once used as the tax for the Temple

When I saw the mosaics that cover the floors of the houses burnt by the Romans

When I gazed at the pool underneath the magnificent tunnel

When the water reflected my thoughts that I’ve almost forgotten myself

When the tears of thanks to HaShem that permitted me see all this beauty streamed down my face

Other tears, of sorrow, then followed with questions of “why” –

Why are you not with me, I was asking again and again.

Why your soul had to leave me so early?

Then I knew – you were always with me in this city,

Where righteous souls stay with people they loved in the world that is ending

And the one that is coming one day.

Does that mean that it’s all for the best?

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P.S. Here is an interesting account of the culinary aspects of this exhibition. I am posting it here purely for culinary interest as I am totally against some of the political statements in this New Yorker article.

 

 

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