The city that is sacred to all – “welcome to jerusalem”

The city that is sacred to all - 'welcome to jerusalem'

Rarely does an exhibition of art fit so precisely with a turning point in world politics.

Just days after u.S. President donald trump’s controversial jerusalem decision, an exhibition is opening at the judisches museum in berlin that explains the centuries-old conflict between jews, christians and muslims over the holy city in a sensitive and understandable way. "Welcome to jerusalem", written equally in all three languages, is the motto of the show.

"We did not ask the american president to time his decision this way," museum director peter schafer said at a press briefing on friday. "Our exhibition does not aim to offer solutions, but it can awaken understanding of the special situation of jerusalem and help visitors form their own judgments."

On around 1000 square meters, the history of jerusalem is told on the basis of selected themes – from king herod to the present day. With historical exhibits, artistic reactions and current video material, the exhibition organizers show how everyday life, religion and politics are intertwined in this cultural melting pot.

The sanctuaries of the three major religions illustrate why each side feels so right in its claim to the city. The muslim district of the al-aksa mosque and the rock dome can be seen in the central room in a monumentally detailed model (1879) by conrad schick, which exists only three times in the world – on loan from the amsterdam bible museum. From the cathedral museum in trier comes a model of the church of the grave, venerated by christians as the place of jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

And the wailing wall, reminiscent of the destroyed judaic temples, curators love to recreate in cork according to the latest scientific findings. In addition, there is for the first time a huge model of the last jewish temple, built by the roman emperor titus in 70 n.Chr. Destroyed. "Like no other city, jerusalem stands simultaneously and contradictorily for peace and extinction as well as for hatred and violence," write curators cilly kugelmann and margret kampmeyer in the catalog.

The selected topics will be linked by a "film track" created from the documentary "24h jerusalem" by volker heise and thomas kufus. They capture everyday life in the city – and with it the self-effacement with which, in spite of everything, there is also always a togetherness.

The most difficult chapter – "conflict" – has its own media installation dedicated to it. In 20 minutes, historical images, film clips and commentaries on the middle east conflict are compiled and run in an unstoppable loop around the room, a symbol in itself.

"There are numerous faux pas when you make an exhibition like this," says curator kugelmann, recounting how difficult it was to decide on the order in which to name jews, christians and muslims alone. Or what a headache it was that the models of the saints shown were of different coarseness.

According to kugelmann, the main aim was to show jerusalem as a "multicultural city". Whether all three religions have a future in their place of desire and longing? "They had a past. Why shouldn’t they have a future?" She says, adding after a moment, "but without access to the holy places for everyone, nothing will work at all."

For the museum itself, too, the exhibition in the old building of the house is a major step forward. The opening on sunday evening also marks the end of the permanent exhibition in the new building. It will be fundamentally revised in the next year and a half. Daniel libeskind’s spectacular architecture is also to be showcased once again. After all, the house is one of the most visited museums in berlin, with around 700,000 visitors a year.

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