by Rabbi Tzvi Graetz
During the recent Passover holiday, my children and I had the opportunity to visit the Herzl Museum and the Education Center which stands alongside it on Har Herzl. The Museum is wholly interactive and very hi-tech, making use of all of the bells and whistles of modern technology to tell the story of Herzl’s journey from dreamer to ideologue. My three kids were completely engaged at each stop along the way and they learned a lot about how Zionism came to be. We saw Herzl’s original desk in a reproduction of his study and we “attended” the First Zionist Conference, which was brilliantly staged.
Following the visit to the Museum, there were multiple activities on offer at the Education Center which, in a fun way, reinforced the messages of the Museum. The hands-on activities included learning about how the Israeli flag was designed; creating a postcard or T-shirt that we could email to ourselves; and comparing Herzl’s dream of the Altneuland and the real State of Israel today.
One of the highlights was the tour of Har Herzl itself. At each stop we were told the story of an important Zionist personality, such as Golda Meir and Ze’ev Jabotinsky, by the traveling acting troupe that met us in each place. In a short sketch they re-enacted the person’s life using humor and drama. By the end of our visit I really felt that my children had learned significant things about the history of Zionism and the important role that Theodor Herzl played in founding the State of Israel.
The Museum was built by the WZO eight years ago with the help of Mercaz Olami’s own Dr David Breakstone, a life-long Herzl scholar and Vice Chairman of the WZO. David conceived of the project and oversaw its development. His involvement with the Museum and the WZO helped to ensure that the vision of the exhibitions was pluralistic and all inclusive. There is a video presentation that includes a woman wearing tefillin and narration that speaks about religious pluralism in Israel and how to be a Zionist inside and outside of Israel.
I am hoping that everyone will take the time when they are in Israel to visit and support the Herzl Museum and Education Center (and that every Israeli youth visits too). Encourage your local Federations, JCCs and youth groups to include this on their itineraries as it is really one of the best things that Israel has to offer as far as narrating the vision of Zionism, with all its past and current challenges. Don’t miss it!!!
Rabbi Tzvi Graetz is Executive Director of Masorti Olami and MERCAZ Olami.