Thursday, October 20, 2005

Negation of the diaspora?

Bet Hatefutsot (the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora / Jewish People) is building a new wing, presumably as one way of addressing the institution's ongoing decline. Last week, apparently, a group of museum officials and academics got together to discuss what should actually be displayed in this new building.
To my surprise, most of the ideas seemed fairly constructive, and set about to redress, in some small way, Israelis' complete ignorance about the Diaspora today; to educate them about the major Jewish streams which most Diaspora Jews belong to, but which Israelis know nothing about; and to present the Diaspora's narrative in a fair manner, and not out of 'shlilat hagalut' -- the negation of the Diaspora, which so often leads Israelis to look down upon and to scorn Diaspora culture and Diaspora history. While the ideas are still extremely preliminary, it is encouraging to see that there are senior Israelis out there who seem to truly realize that it's time for a change in the way Israelis relate to their Diaspora cousins.
One suggestion: Considering the number of foreign tourists who visit Bet Hatefutsot, and considering the unique opportunity to present a picture of modern Diaspora life, with all its pluses and minuses, for a new Israeli generation, I hope the committee deciding on the future of the new wing actually includes some representatives from the Diaspora. Judging by the report in Ha'aretz, the voices so far were strictly local-Israeli -- and it would be a pity (...and a total waste of time) if the Diaspora was not given a chance to contribute to its own story on its own terms.

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