I write to you today as the new Director of the BLMJ in Jerusalem. I moved to Israel just 9 months ago to assume this position and now find myself struggling, as we all are, to comprehend the trajectory of events that began in Israel on Oct 7th 2023.

Our staff are grieving at the terrible losses, and are united in hoping for the return of all those who are kidnapped or missing, and we pray for the full recovery of the wounded.

A week after the terrible tragedy, we, as a team, decided to open our museum to the public. Our hours are shorter (Sun-Thur, 10-3); some objects have been removed from display to be stored for safekeeping; and our admission to the Museum is free for all who wish to attend.

In an effort to help in dealing with the trauma suffered by so many, we are running programming for displaced families of the south and north in collaboration with the talented and passionate artists and musicians of the Sam Spiegel Studios. We have already had a number of sessions and have seen first-hand, the importance that these programs have for those who have lost so much.

Our opening to the public in this way sends an important message regarding our view of the Museum and its role in our communityas a vehicle for social cohesion, education, and life-long learning. We are not just a place for the care and storage of important objects, but rather, a place of active learning, participatory dialogue and a place for connection and collaboration with the communities we serve.

Israel is a cultural crossroads. It has always been this way. On this small sliver of land located between the Arabian desert and the Mediterranean Sea, the beliefs and material culture of locals, nomads, and invaders have intermingled for millennia. The collections of the BLMJ highlight and illuminate this region as important hub of ideas, arts and technologies. Our geographical location and our relations with neighboring lands (both ancient and modern) alongside our access to natural resources and to the sea has always influenced our historical trajectory. In Israel, history is indeed a national asset.

Yet the importance of our Museum goes far beyond our collections and exhibitions. We can ignite contemplation, insights, and understandings of our heritage and those of our neighbors. Any one object loses its original meaning, or its voice, when it is placed on display and becomes part of the museum’s larger collection. In the Museum we try to listen to the whisper of voices long gone through the things left behind. It is our job to construct or reconstruct these voices or narratives to transform our space into a hub of knowledge systems, beliefs, values, and attitudes. Here we can cultivate and innovative methods for community and societal discussions.

And so, we are open.

None of the special activities or the free admission we have outlined above were planned for in our budget. We are fulfilling a real need on the part of our struggling communities. That said, we remain committed to opening our Museum as a place of conversation, comfort and creativity for as long as remains necessary.

We hope for better days.

Please consider supporting our efforts…

Dr. Risa Levitt

Director, Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem