Today, the Levys’ dream has become a reality. The place attracts more than 1,000 visitors a month who come to see, and hear, what it’s all about. They’re immersed not only in the history of Jewish music, which has taken so many guises depending on place and time, but also how it ties back to the music of the two ancient Temples, one of which stood not far from their location.
Inside the museum, 260 musical instruments, from seven lands where Jews have lived in the Diaspora, are spread throughout seven rooms. Each room is decorated sumptuously in the style of the country it represents: Yemen, Morocco, Central Asia, Iraq, the Balkans. In a room develoted to Israel and Europe (don’t miss that gorgeous hand-painted ceiling), there’s a harp much like the one King David played while composing his Psalms.
Dating back much further is Jewish life in Iraq. There’s a faithful replica of the kind of Babylonian harp Jews played there 3,000 years ago. The original instrument was excavated by Germans archeologists, who’d been conducting digs in Iraq in the early 20th century.
“As amazing and beautiful as [the instruments] are, the real story is what’s behind the instruments,” Levy adds. “They were each an expression of Jewish life in these places.”
By far the highlight for most visitors is the temple room that features a large model of the Second Temple, which stood on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount for 420 years before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. Patrons put on virtual reality headsets, which took three years to develop and program, to gain an inside view of a recreation of the service going on inside the Holy Temple. This is the place to hear a seemingly universal word escape the lips of young and old alike, “wow!”
Monday, September 12, 2016
The Hebrew Music Museum
IN JERUSALEM: 2 Levys bring Hebrew Music Museum to life (Deborah Fineblum, JNS.org/The Jewish Star).