Saturday, May 15, 2010

The story behind the Bible Lands Museum

BLAME CANADA, sort of. The story behind the Bible Lands Museum:
A love story of biblical proportions
14/05/2010 20:42

The Bible Lands Museum, Batya Borowski's passion.

Through one of those weird and wonderful mysteries of life, Toronto, of all places, was the reason behind the decision to establish the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, which is celebrating its 18th anniversary this month.

What’s more, Batya Borowski, the associate founder and former director of the museum, is celebrating her 80th birthday. She is the widow of Dr. Elie Borowski, whose unique collection of artifacts of the ancient Near East tracing the history of this region and the Jewish People lies at the heart of the museum.

“I met Elie for the first time at the bar of the King David Hotel in 1981,” recalls Borowski (then Weiss). “I was attending a gathering of 15 people who had come for the opening of the Joseph Ternbach exhibition at the Israel Museum and there he was, talking about his collection of ancient Near East artifacts, which was to be displayed at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. He showed us the catalog of the exhibition, and I realized at once what a magnificent thing it was. I asked him, tongue in cheek, ‘But where is Toronto? I have never heard of the place. My daughter Amanda, who accompanied me and immediately understood what I had in mind, answered, ‘Toronto? I think it is somewhere in the remote north, where the Eskimos live.’”

Borowski, who still laughs so many years later while recalling that scene, says that Elie Borowski – who died seven years ago – was so shocked at Batya’s hutzpa that he was rendered speechless.

Then he virtually screamed at her, “Who are you, and where do you come from?”

And she replied, “I’ve been to the west, to the south, to the east, but to the north, to Canada? I’ve never been to Canada. Why would I?” she continued.

She recounts that once some calm was restored around the table at the hotel bar, she asked him to lend her the catalog until breakfast the following morning.

“I knew by the way he was talking about his collection how important it was, yet I couldn’t understand – why was it in Canada? It didn’t belong there. I took the catalog and couldn’t put it down for most of the night. I said to myself, ‘You are going to marry that man and build a museum for his collection in Jerusalem,’” recalls Batya, who at the time had been divorced for many years.