When New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opened Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven, the exhibit was greeted with tremendous fanfare. It dazzled the eyes and summoned a seductive image of medieval Jerusalem as an exciting hub of diverse cultures and religions. But is this picture of the Holy City true to history? Or was the Met trafficking in myths that anchor multicultural hopes for Jerusalem’s future in a fictitious past? Did the Met help its visitors see Jerusalem as it was, or as the exhibit’s architects wish it to be?
In “Jerusalem Syndrome at the Met,” published in Mosaic soon after the close of the exhibit, Wall Street Journal Critic at Large Edward Rothstein debunks Jerusalem 1000-1400’s fictions. He shows that the exhibit’s sumptuous beauty was actually founded on historically tendentious apologetics. In this podcast, Rothstein joins Tikvah Executive Director Eric Cohen to discuss his piece. Rothstein discusses how the exhibit distorts Jerusalem’s complex history, whitewashes the violence and intolerance of the city’s Muslim conquerors, and downplays the Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest city. In doing so, he illustrates how the Met exemplifies the some of the most troubling trends afflicting museums in the West.
Courtesy of Pro Musica Hebraica, musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim, and performed by the ARC Ensemble.