Forming New Friendships For Israel’s Museums
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Forming New Friendships For Israel’s Museums

Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.

Something else to celebrate on Israel’s 67th birthday: Israel has the highest number of museums in the world per capita, with more than 200 museums operating throughout the country.

This season, a new organization is launching, American Friends of Museums in Israel, to raise new funds and public awareness for nine of the country’s lesser-known museums.

“This is the first time that these museums have representation in the United States,” explains Enid Shapiro, executive director of American Friends of Museums in Israel.

The nine museums are wide-ranging, from the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art in Haifa, opened in 1960, with one of the largest collections outside of Japan –- and the only museum in the Middle East dedicated to Japanese art — to the Museum on the Seam in Jerusalem, which showcases international contemporary art, with exhibitions connected to themes of social and political change, encouraging tolerance. Established in 1999, the Museum is located on the “seam” between Arab and Jewish sectors of Jerusalem.

Additional museums that are part of the new collective are the Design Museum Holon, Haifa City Museum, Haifa Museum of Art, Hermann Struck Museum, Mané-Katz Museum, National Maritime Museum, and Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem. All of the museums are described on the new organization's excellent website.

American Friends of Museums in Israel is holding its inaugural fund-raising event on Monday evening, April 27th at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, where the directors of the nine museums will present the work of their institutions. The program includes a live and silent auction of artwork by contemporary artists including Ron Arad, Arman, Miriam Cabessa, Richard Meier, James Rosenquist, Michal Rovner, Laurie Simmons and others. (The works can be viewed online, and bidding is possible).

Italian photographer Massimo Vitali, who was selected as Artist-of-the-Year, donated a limited edition print created for the event. Shapiro says that Vitali was enthusiastic about the fact that they are supporting multiple museums.

“The founding fathers of Israel made sure from the beginning that there would be museums,” Shapiro says. “Museum directors tell me that when there are tensions in Israel, more people visit museums as a comfort.” She explains that supporting these museums helps to bolster their educational programs, many of which bring together Israeli and Arab children together in a setting that’s about art not politics.

“Culture is important. It feeds the people, it feeds their souls,” she says. “When you think of civilizations, what do you remember? You remember their art. Nothing is more important than that.”

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