(Some) museums to reopen Tuesday in post-lockdown pilot

Israel Museum, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Eretz Israel Museum and Haifa science center given the go-ahead to open their doors after lobbying the government

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Visitors wear protective face masks at the Jeff Koons exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, June 3, 2020; the museum will reopen December 1, 2020 after being closed since September 18, due to the coronavirus (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)
Visitors wear protective face masks at the Jeff Koons exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, June 3, 2020; the museum will reopen December 1, 2020 after being closed since September 18, due to the coronavirus (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

A number of Israeli museums will be permitted to reopen their doors starting Tuesday, after the government gave the go-ahead for a pilot program meant to test how they cope with keeping pandemic guidelines aimed at curbing crowding and keeping indoor spaces from becoming virus hotspots.

The nation’s flagship Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv and Haifa’s Madatech — the Israel National Museum of Science, Technology and Space, will all reopen on Tuesday. Any visitors to the museums must order tickets online, and admission will be limited.

“We’re excited to open the gates of the museum again,” said Israel Museum director Ido Bruno. “Our museum galleries are spacious and allow for a careful following of the rules of social distancing and public health. We hope the reopening of the museum will bring forward the opening of all cultural institutions in Israel, because the need for arts and culture isn’t an extra but a basic need.”

Museums have been shut since September 18, when the nation entered a lockdown to clamp down on runaway infection rates. Restrictions have been gradually rolled back over the last several weeks, even as infection levels have begun to rise again.

The pilot program mirrors one employed for reopening malls that launched on Friday. After many shopping centers of the 15 okayed to open failed to cope with overcrowding, some have called for the program to be scrapped while others have insisted that the pilot itself inadvertently caused crowding by keeping all other malls closed.

Cultural institutions and venues, which are a relatively small slice of the Israeli economy, have not been prioritized on the schedule of reopenings by the government, leading some to protest the government’s decisions.

Bruno and several other museum directors have been writing letters to culture minister Chili Tropper since October, protesting the planned reopening of malls and some hotels before museums.

“It doesn’t make sense to put the reopening of museums at the bottom of the list, at a time when most of the economy will be allowed to function,” wrote Bruno.

Apparently, he won the battle.

The Israel Museum will reopen Tuesday with several new exhibits, including “Buried Treasure,” exhibiting gold treasures discovered in Caesarea two years ago but never displayed; “Salt of the Earth, Farmers and Fisherman in 19th-Century Holland,” showing the work of three Jewish artists who focused on the simple Dutch folk who worked the land and plied the sea; and “Mostly Pink,” an exhibit of artworks by Tamara Rikman.

From the Israel Museum exhibit ‘Salt of the Earth,’ featuring the work of three Jewish painters depicting simple Dutch farmers and fisherman, on display with the museum’s reopening on December 1, 2020 (Courtesy Israel Museum)

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art will reopen to the general public on Tuesday at 12 p.m., displaying its solo exhibitions of Israeli artists and the extended exhibition of Jeff Koons, in place until January 2021.

The exhibit, “Jeff Koons: Absolute Value, Works from the Jose and Marie Mugrabi Collection” opened in March 2020, just as the coronavirus pandemic began in Israel.

The exhibition is the first solo show in Israel by the world-famous American artist.

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art is also showing a photography exhibition focusing on modern architecture in the urban space by the artist Eli Singalovski, and a first museum exhibition for Melech Berger, a 94-year-old artist who mobilizes art in the service values, ideals and mission.

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