Saturday, April 09, 2005

Temple Scroll on Display in Germany

Ha'aretz has an article on the "The New Hebrew. One Hundred Years of Art in Israel" exhibition in Germany:
Tumarkin is not the only one missing from the list
By Dana Gilerman

The German government has so far invested $3 million in the "The New Hebrew. One Hundred Years of Art in Israel," an exhibition to open in Berlin in mid-May. The exhibition will be held at the Martin Gropius-Bau museum, one of Germany's important exhibition sites, as one of the events marking 40 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between Israel and Germany. Curator Dorit Levita, who lives in Berlin, and Yigal Zalmona, the Israeli Museum's chief curator, are working together on the exhibition.

The exhibition will feature the works of 103 Israeli artists from the early days of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design to the present. Perhaps this is why, even before the opening of the exhibition, criticism of the choice of artists is already being voiced, mainly regarding those who were not included.

"The list is outrageous," says Meir Loushy of the Loushy Gallery in Tel Aviv. "If this were a conceptual exhibition, I would have no problem with it, but this is a subject exhibition that presumes to present 100 years of Israeli art. It is unacceptable that artists such as Erez Israeli and Michal Shamir are represented, while important artists such as Yigal Tumarkin, or Philip Rantzer and Uri Katzenstein, two artists who represented Israel at the Venice Biennale, are not. It is unacceptable that someone who has been living in exile in Germany for 30 years and is unaware of what is happening here, should be curating an exhibition of this scope."

I'm afraid I know nothing about modern Israeli art and I have no idea if the criticisms of the exhibit are fair. But the following bit, far down in the article, caught my eye:
Another unusual object on display will be the Temple Scroll, written, according to archaeologists, by the Essenes, a Jewish sect that lived in the Judean desert over 2,000 years ago. The scroll was found in the Qumran Caves and describes the Temple in Jerusalem.

"The scroll represents a type of utopia," says Levita, "which is why I included it in the exhibition. Ever since the scroll was brought to Israel, after the 1967 Six-Day War, the scroll has provided secular Jews with a kind of legitimization of Israel's hold on that place."

Actually the scroll wasn't exactly "brought to Israel." It was found at Qumran and the antiquities dealer Kando had it hidden in his house in East Jerusalem until Yadin recovered it during the Six-Day War. (Kando was paid $105,000 for it.)

The Temple Scroll (11Q19) is the longest and perhaps the best-preserved of the Dead Sea Scrolls and I was quite surprised to hear that it had been let out of the country, let alone let out for an essentially unrelated exhibition. At first I wondered if it might not just be a facsimile, but according to this press release and this article in it's an actual scroll -- given its size, apparently 11Q19. That's quite a coup for the Martin Gropius-Bau museum. The latter article has the following additional information:
The Temple Scroll, selected from among the Qumran scrolls found in caves near the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956, is presented along with other major archaeological finds as an introduction to the exhibition. Serving as a bridge to the Jewish past, this archaeology links Biblical forefathers and modern-day Israelis. The Dead Sea Scrolls and their discovery-an event of global significance at the time-had a major impact on the fashioning of new Israeli culture, giving legitimacy to its identity and generating a sense of continuity from ancient to modern times. A three-meter section of the Temple Scroll is currently undergoing restoration for the exhibition, where it will be shown in Europe for the first time.