Jerusalem Antiquities in the Israeli Parliament –
A Case Study
The Israel Antiquities Authority, by its very role as a collector and exhibitor, is a policy- making institution, which takes a stand on several issues. With increased archaeological excavations in Israel during recent years, our main concern is to preserve the artifacts of cultural heritage value and to use them for research and exhibitions. We hold the collections for the benefit of society and its development. Our mission is to get a wider audience from the community. Therefore, our target is to promote museums and at the same time to develop exhibitions in public and educational institutes.
The archaeological exhibition at the Israeli parliament provides a glimpse into the history and architecture of Jerusalem through the ages. The nature of the city and its importance forever fluctuate according to political, social and religious conditions. Many traditions have been associated with Jerusalem, but its sanctity creates its unique status. The architectural artifacts illustrate the monumental building activity in Jerusalem, part of which is also documented in written sources. These tell the story of the ancient buildings, which are an integral part of the city's fabric today.
As you probably understand, the Parliament space is not a museum but constructs a museum environment in some halls and gardens. The exposure of an exhibition in a public area activates cultural memory by a fresh and creative approach. The exhibition consists of six sections covering the Second Temple Period through to the Ottoman Period. There is a constant dialogue between the topics and the design. The antiquities are exhibited in a way to extend their social and educational value. Each section has its own dominant color and shape. In addition, deferent plants were chosen to emphases the character of the era and context.
Several methods and techniques were combined to demonstrate the main ideas, such as:
The human and personal touch
An example of building techniques in Jerusalem is the masons' marks from the Crusader Period (1099–1187CE). The Crusaders inherited the Islamic city and then it was transformed into a Christian city. Most of the work was conducted by local craftsmen. A mason's mark is an incised sign or engraved element in a dressed stone. The marks were used to guide the mason to place the stones in the correct position in the walls, or to count the dressed stones for payment. The stones on display bear marks of various masons. Even today, masons' marks can be seen on many stones in later buildings in the old city.
Representations of various nations to emphasis the universal nature of the city
During the Byzantine period (324–638 CE) Jerusalem became a unique pilgrimage center and the development of holy Christian sites was accelerated. Various inscriptions were included on the mosaics pavements, such as phrases from the holy scriptures, historical events or dedications. Morasha Mosaic presents a segment of a church mosaic floor with a Greek inscription which belonged to one of the oldest Armenian monasteries discovered in Jerusalem. The mosaic from Mount Scopus bares a Greek dedication inscription which was part of a mosaic floor of a large monastery. The inscription commemorated the monks during whose lifetime the work was executed. This monastery included an inn that served pilgrims and tourists who traveled the Jerusalem–Jericho road during the Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods.
Mamilla Mosaic floor belongs to a small house of prayer. The inscription contains the phrase: "For the redemption and salvation of those, God knows their names." During the Persian invasion in 614 CE to Jerusalem thousands of Christians were killed and buried in mass documented graves. This shrine was erected in the 7th century CE, near the graves. An ancient Georgian stone inscription was found in a crypt of a monastery at Umm Leisun, southeast of Jerusalem. The inscription was dedicated to a priest of Georgian origin. In short, the inscriptions teach us about the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the relationship between communities during the Byzantine period.
New architectural installations made by various materials instead the real "thing"
Many of the ancient buildings are still an integral part of the city's fabric today. Therefore a new approach was adopted to create a special atmosphere by using photos of the originals (1:1) which were integrated into ceramic tiles by a unique firing technique.
Sabil Bab al-Silsila was erected in 16th century CE, during the days of Sultan Suleiman 'the Magnificent' and its workmanship was superb. A Sabil is a drinking installation - a functional architectural element. They were built in Jerusalem during the Mamluk and Ottoman Periods when the authorities improved the water supply for its citizens. Sabils were located in densely populated quarters and along main roads. The water installation in the exhibition (on the left side) is also used by the visitors for drinking as it was in the past.
This paper is a brief sketch of the changing commemoration. Visual presentation gives rise to a world of mental associations and transfers sophisticated knowledge to the public. This archaeological exhibition tells stories which were not exposed in other exhibitions about Jerusalem. Another important achievement is that we provide opportunities for the public by bringing the museum to them. Museums have come a long way from their original role as places where old artifacts were displayed. The approach of the education in the museum is imperative, including a center of reaching out from the museum and back inward to the museum.
Dr. Hava Katz
Israel Antiquities Authority