Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem

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Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem
מוזיאון הסובלנות ירושלים
Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem Logo.jpg
The Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem under construction.jpg
The Museum of Tolerance under construction in 2014
FounderSimon Wiesenthal Center

The Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem (MTJ; Hebrew: מוזיאון הסובלנות ירושלים) is a museum, convention center and entertainment venue in downtown Jerusalem.[1]

The three-acre, 185,000 square foot campus[2] stands at the center of West Jerusalem between Zion Square and the neighborhood of Mamilla.[3] Construction began in 2004, but had to be re-designed due to planning objections.[4]

The complex will include a garden, a 1,000-seat outdoor amphitheater, a 400-seat indoor theater, two "museums of tolerance" - one each for children and adults -, further auditoriums and lecture rooms[1] including an 800-seat lecture hall, a 500-seat banquet hall,[5]The museum's construction site is controversially inside the precincts of the Mamilla Cemetery, a culturally significant burial place dating back to the era of the Crusades. Human remains were interred from their resting places during the construction.[1]


Two museums of tolerance, one for children and one for adults, will explore the concept of tolerance in Israeli society.[1] The museum is committed to topics like tolerance in sports and in the health and education systems, but has been criticized for its apparent reluctance - which it rejects - of dealing with local real-life problems, including the occupation, discrimination and human rights issues, a fact that has created for the as yet not inaugurated MTJ an image of a right-wing institution.[1]According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the museum will address "global anti-Semitism, extremism, hate, human dignity and responsibility, and promoting unity and respect among Jews and people of all faiths."[6]Unlike the Museum of Tolerance of Los Angeles, the MTJ will not deal with the Holocaust, as demanded by Yad Vashem, the dedicated institution based in Jerusalem.[1]

The MTJ was designed to revive the city center as a venue for theater and music performances, conventions, food and wine festivals, children's events and art workshops.[1]

Design and construction[edit]

The first design was originally designed by Frank Gehry[7] and was to include a museum, a theater, a conference hall, a library, and an educational center. The design had been seen as unique for Israel and, as such, has been met with many opponents and proponents.

The center was subsequently designed, on a more modest scale, by Israeli architects Bracha and Michael Chyutin, who themselves stepped back from the project allegedly over a "commercial dispute".[4] The rights to their design are owned by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who entrusted the completion of the project to the Hong Kong-based Aedas architectural firm in cooperation with the Yigal Levy architects' office in Jerusalem.[4]

Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger was invited to break ground on 30 April 2004.[8] As of June 2022, the center is planned to open within months rather than years, with the actual two museum exhibits being the last to be completed.[1]


Museum of Tolerance, relative to 1946 boundaries of Mamillah Cemetery. The hatched area and some of the solid blue area were already covered by buildings or pavement before the Museum of Tolerance was built.

Those who are in favor of the center, including former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, maintain that it will bring tourists to the city, while opponents (excluding the Muslim gravesite objection) argue that it will draw attention away from the traditional architecture of neighboring streets and that of the city in general. Former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti objected to the museum's "geometric forms that can't be any more dissonant to the environment in which it is planned to put this alien object."[9] Other objections are related to urbanism, and the contention that central locations are less suitable for conventions and "flashy events."[1]

The museum's footprint intrudes into the corner of the Ma'aman Allah (Mamilla) Cemetery, which dates back to the time of the Crusades and contains the graves of Islamic figures, as well as several Mamluk tombs.[10] It has been characterized as "the largest and most important Muslim cemetery in all of Palestine".[11] It was used as a burial site up until 1927 when the Supreme Muslim Council decided to preserve it as a historic site.[12] Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the cemetery and other waqf properties in West Jerusalem fell under the control of Israeli governmental bodies.[13]

Construction was halted several times by the courts which then allowed it to continue.[14][15] After controversy concerning its location on part of the land of a burial site came to head, the museum's construction was frozen by a Supreme Court order issued in February 2006.[16] In November 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court allowed construction to proceed, noting that this corner of the cemetery had been transformed into a parking lot "as long ago as the 1960s",[6] and that Jerusalem has been inhabited for roughly 4,000 years, and many ancient sites have been built over.[17][18] The decision faced criticism from many Palestinians, Muslims around the world, and some Israeli and American Jews.[19][20][21][22]

The groups who initiated the legal action had been undergoing mediation with representatives of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar served as the mediator.[16]

MTJ officials have been accused of hiding the actual purpose of the center, which will be that of a convention center and culture venue rather than a museum, the initial declared purpose for which the city had allocated the land.[1] MTJ representatives argue that the range of purposes was clear from the beginning.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Jerusalem's Museum of Tolerance has little to do with museums or tolerance". Nir Hasson for Haaretz. 12 June 2022. Retrieved 14 June 2022.
  2. ^ Official website: "Vision". Accessed 14 June 2022.
  3. ^ "Independence Day event held for first time at Museum of Tolerance". Jerusalem Post. 16 April 2021. Retrieved 14 June 2022.
  4. ^ a b c "Jerusalem's Museum of Tolerance remains a mystery". Guy Nardi for Globes. 4 April 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2022.
  5. ^ Noyman, Ariel (2022). "Bio: Architectural Projects". Cambridge, MA. Retrieved 14 June 2022.
  6. ^ a b Kershner, Isabel (10 February 2010). "Museum Creates New Jerusalem Divide". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  7. ^ "Frank Gehry steps down from Museum of Tolerance project", Haaretz, Jan. 15, 2010
  8. ^ "Schwarzenegger, in Israel, Pays Tribute to Holocaust Victims". Haaretz. 30 April 2004.
  9. ^ Meron Benvenisti, “A Museum of Tolerance in a City of Fanatics,” Haaretz, Dec. 5, 2002.
  10. ^ Asem Khalidi (Spring 2009). "The Mamilla Cemetery: A Buried History". Jerusalem Quarterly. 37.
  11. ^ Makdisi 2010, p. 520.
  12. ^ Asem Khalidi (Spring 2009). "The Mamilla Cemetery: A Buried History". Jerusalem Quarterly. 37. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  13. ^ Michael Dumper (1997). The politics of Jerusalem since 1967 (Illustrated ed.). Columbia University Press. p. 87. ISBN 9780231106405.
  14. ^ Hadassah on Museum of Tolerance Archived 2009-09-16 at the Wayback Machine[dead link]
  15. ^ Esther Zandberg, Haaretz article on lack of transparency. Archived 2005-05-06 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ a b "Supreme Court freezes construction of Tolerance Museum" Archived 2012-02-05 at the Wayback Machine, Walla!, February 23, 2006 (in Hebrew)
  17. ^ "SWC Press Release". Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  18. ^ "Israeli court OKs Museum of Tolerance's controversial branch", Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2008
  19. ^ "Encountering Peace: A city of tolerance, not a Museum of Tolerance", Gerson Baskin for The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 4, 2008. Archived November 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Bronner, Ethan (2010-08-13). "Gravestone Removals Add Fuel to Jerusalem Museum Dispute". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-10-31.
  21. ^ "Jerusalem Approves Revised Plan for Contested Museum of Tolerance Site". Haaretz. Retrieved 2021-10-31.
  22. ^ "Why Israeli-Palestinian conflicts over land turn epic". Christian Science Monitor. 2010-08-11. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2021-10-31.


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