The Aliyah Museum

Israel has some cool history museums. There’s the Palmach museum in Tel Aviv, or the Menachem Begin and Herzl museums in Jerusalem. These museums don’t focus on information or artifacts, but on an experience. The tour tells a story, with each room featuring an elaborate set, multimedia, and special effects, to transport you through the history of Zionism.

Here’s an idea for a museum I’d like to experience: The Aliyah Museum.

In each room, you relive another wave of immigration from the history of Israel, learning about its motivations, challenges, and contributions. You walk through a convincing set, hear the immigrants’ voices, and imagine that you were there with them.

The first rooms introduce you to pre-Zionist loyalty to the Land of Israel, from biblical figures like Abraham, Moses, and Ezra, to Common Era figures like Rabbi Yehudah Halevi and the Perushim. You get an idea of what our national anthem means by “the two-thousand-year-old hope.”

Next, you meet pioneers of the First and Second Aliyah. Hear about the suffering they faced establishing the Yishuv, including drought, epidemics, and poverty.

Visit a displaced persons camp and hear teenage Holocaust survivors talk about their determination to restart their lives in Palestine. Follow them as they seek visas from the British Mandate, join the Haganah, and eventually fight in the 1948 war.

See a montage of riots against Jews in Arab countries following Israel’s independence, and then the mass exodus of those Jews to Israel. Meet a wealthy family who left all their property behind in Egypt.

Meet a Yemenite family living in a 1950s absorption camp in Israel. See some clips from Sallah Shabati.

Follow Ethiopian children as they trek for days through the desert before meeting an Operation Solomon airlift, and share their first encounter with a developed country.

Meet a family of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and hear about their appreciation for Israeli democracy.

The final room would be a small movie theater, where you watch the tear-jerking Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flights video.

Then you buy stuff in the aliyah gift shop.

Israel already has a number of museums that relate to aliyah, such as the First Aliyah Museum in Zikhron Ya’akov, the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in Or Yehudah, and so on, each worth a visit. But they are more traditional museums that focus on individual communities. This museum tells the overarching story, and in a way that puts the visitors inside the story.

Where to build this museum? How about right outside the airport? The many thousands of North American Jews who visit every year could make it the last stop on their trip, just as they’re wondering when they’ll see this wonderful country again.

How to fund the museum? I think it might be a worthwhile investment for the Jewish Agency. If the museum sways a number of interested people to make aliyah each year, in the long run it would be worth millions of shekels to the national economy.

That’s not to say that this museum should preach to diaspora Jews about aliyah, or to anybody else about anything. I want to see it too, and I’ve already made aliyah.

This museum should simply tell the incredible story of an ancient people returning to its homeland.

I have no plans at the moment for pursuing this idea beyond writing this post. I’m just doing what so many Zionists have done before me – dreaming.

Thanks to David Bratspis – Tour Educator for his input.

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