Tale of Two Museums: Tel Aviv Museum and Israel Museum

Tel Aviv Museum
Tel Aviv Museum, May 2013

In late May when I visited Israel, I had the opportunity to visit two museums: Tel Aviv Museum and Israel Museum. Enjoyed both. This post is a review of those visits, and then some questions for readers about museum visiting.

Tel Aviv Museum

If you like 20th century art and/or you are interested in the history of the modern State of Israel, the Tel Aviv Museum has collections of artists from the pre-State era to contemporary times. When we (I went with Hannah Katsman) visited in late May, there was an exhibit of paintings by Angelica Schatz, the estranged daughter of the founder of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. She had a difficult life; she was Boris Schatz’s daughter by his first marriage, and his first wife took Angelica with her when she left Boris for another man. Her paintings were influenced by European painters of the 20th century. Angelica moved to Israel after her father’s death; she never really knew him.

A huge benefit of the Tel Aviv Museum that the Israel Museum did not have was the TA Museum has free wifi. So I was able to read about the exhibits online as we viewed them. Free wifi is a big plus for a museum.

Israel Museum

The Israel Museum is located in the center of west Jerusalem. It has more variety than the Tel Aviv Museum, and it is close to the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament building).

If you like studying prehistoric times or the times of the Tanach (the Jewish bible – stands for Torah – Neviim (Prophets) – Ketuvim (Writings)), the Israel Museum has a lot to offer. I remember seeing the bones of a woman from – how long ago? There are also exhibits of Judaica from around the world, such as the sukkah from Cochin, Southern India that was dis-assembled and re-assembled in the museum. There was a special exhibit about Herod, but as there was so much to see in the regular exhibits, we felt no need to wait online for the special exhibit. As I am using the Israel Museum website to research this post, I will add it could use some better details of regular exhibits and better navigation. It took me a while to find information about the sukkah from Cochin.

hallway inside the Israel Museum
hallway inside the Israel Museum

The previous time I had been in the Israel Museum was in 1980 – the museum has grown a lot since then. What I remembered from 1980 was the sculpture garden. Unfortunately, the link on the website for the Billy Rose Art Garden gives an error. A big #Fail on this museum website! I had done some drawings in 1980 in the sculpture garden, in particular one of a woman fallen (Isha Nofelet). I can’t find anything about this sculpture in the excellent Wikimedia page on the garden. Here is one photo of part of the sculpture garden:
Israel Museum sculpture garden

Batya wrote about the Israel Museum on this post. You can find out what caught the eyes of Mrs. S. and family on their 2012 visit.

What I Would Do Differently

I would probably review the exhibits on the museum’s website the night before, to know what to expect, to make better choices and to get an idea about the details of the exhibits. When you are going to a museum with another person, each of you has your own ideas about what is worth seeing. If you know in advance you want to see or linger in a certain collection, it’s easier to say so if you have more information about the exhibits.

Tell us your experience with museums.

What is your favorite museum? Best features? Why would you recommend a museum?

17 thoughts on “Tale of Two Museums: Tel Aviv Museum and Israel Museum

  • I enjoyed your photographs and blurbs about the individual museums.

    I am a museum lover, whether Jewish-related or otherwise. I am an art museum frequenter. My favorite, local, Jewish-related museum is the Skirball Cultural Center in Beverly Hills, CA.

    I enjoy the Getty Center for art, as well as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA, the Huntington Museum and the Norton Simon Museum.

    There are many resources for children, I have used over the years for my own children, and my grandies like them as well…The Science Center, The Children’s Museum, and so much more.

  • Interesting post… I have wonderful memories of going to our local museums of history and science with my grandparents who were both high school science teachers…. Michelle

    • How special, to go with grandparents! My maternal grandmother liked going to museums, so often a trip to NYC included a visit to an important art museum like the MET, the Guggenheim or the Modern Art Museum.

  • As you know from Facebook, Leora, I recently got a senior membership in the Israel Museum. Now that I can go there whenever I want I am getting a lot more out of it.

    For one thing, I take the audio guide (free for anyone) and it gives quite a bit of information. I agree that free wifi would enhance the experience, but I have learned a great deal about contemporary Israeli art (where I have spent a lot of time recently) and hope to get better acquainted with this.
    let am waiting for the fall to ‘do’ the stature garden with the guide.

    As children my mother used to take us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on Sundays. My brother and I enjoyed the Children’s Wing which was very different than what there is today. We also were fascinated by the Pyramids and the reconstructed early American rooms. We used to bring sandwiches and buy drinks in the cafeteria. We did this once or twice a month especially when it wasn’t warm enough to be outside. I have very fond memories of ‘the’ museum as we used to all it. When we got older we used to go alone (meaning without Mom but with friends) and would walk along 5th Ave up to the Guggenheim which by that time I loved (but was not free like the Met was at the time.)
    In general I think museums are best when you can go back often and become really familiar with their character.
    I was in the Louvre once and really felt like I wasn’t there at all. (Besides I’d already seen the Mona Lisa at the Met when she toured the US (in the 60’s if I remember correctly);-)

    I guess I really like to talk about museums. G-d willing maybe we can go to a museum together next time you’re in town! 🙂

    • That’s fun, when you can go a lot. I used to go to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for free as a college student. I really enjoyed my visits and got to know the museum well. I was telling my daughter that I remembered when the Metropolitan Museum in NYC had the fountain with pennies, made famous in The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler. Now there’s a cafeteria instead of the pennies and water. More money for the museum.

  • Leora, too bad I couldn’t meet you at the Israel Museum. (thanks for the link) I love it. Risa is right that it helps to keep on returning. I hope you’ll be back soon.

    • I enjoy visiting Israel as well! Wish I could come more often. I told my friend in Ma’alot that I want to go to the Hula Valley to see the birds – any chance you could meet us there? 😉

      Maybe if I come with my daughter we will bring sketch pads for the sculpture garden. Weather permitting.

  • I’m gradually visiting the main art museums in the various cities I travel to. So far, I’ve most enjoyed the new museum that has replaced the old museum at the base of the Acropolis in Athens. The new museum is actually built to mimic the walk up to the Acropolis, and in one area it also reflects the scale of the Parthenon, but with a modern flair. A visitor can be walking around the base of the recreation and then look out at the read Parthenon sitting on the hill. The natural lighting used at the Acropolis museum struck me as some of the best I’ve come across, but alas, they did not allow pictures… and so many museums do now. It was also striking how spots for certain artifacts have been left blank and lighted to draw attention to relics that are still in Britain.

    • They were both enjoyable – but you have to know what to expect and what you want to see. You can’t see everything (thoroughly) in one visit.

  • I really like the idea of museums offering free WiFi! And what good advice to check a museum out on the Web before visiting it. Yes, going with another person can be fun but somewhat frustrating. 😉

    • I found it interesting that the Tel Aviv Museum seems to do a better job on its website than the Israel Museum. Tel Aviv seems more technologically conscious.

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