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 Simon Wiesenthal Center-planned complex due to be used from 2022 onwards as a convention center, entertainment venue, and town square, with a secondary use as a museum of tolerance in Israeli society.[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 started in 2004, but ran into various problems and the MTJ had to be re-designed on a more modest scale than originally planned.[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] a gender-separated religious study hall,[clarification needed] as well as other accommodations.[1] Museum officials admit that calling the MTJ a "museum" is to a certain degree misleading, it being intended to "revive the city's center" by hosting performances, conventions, movie screenings, food and wine festivals, children's events and art workshops.[1]

The museum is built on an ancient Muslim cemetery and skeletons were removed from the ground during its construction.[1]


Museum proper[edit]

Two museums of tolerance, one for children and one for adults, will address 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 has the purpose of addressing "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 is designed to "revive the city's center" by serving as a venue for theater and music performances, conventions, food and wine festivals, children's events, art workshops, and as a cinema.[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]

Pro and con arguments[edit]


Those who are in favor of the Center, including former Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski, maintain that it will bring tourists to the city, while its opponents (excluding the Muslim gravesite objection) argue that it will stand out and draw attention away from the traditional architecture of neighboring streets and that of the city in general. Former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti has 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] The question has also been raised of whether the central location is suitable for conventions and "flashy events"[1] (compare with the location of the existing International Convention Center).

Muslim cemetery controversy[edit]

The museum's building on a part of the ground of what was once the corner of a Muslim cemetery, but which since the 1960s has been a parking lot, faced criticism from many Palestinians, Muslims around the world, and some Israeli and American Jews.[10][11][12][13] The Mamilla Cemetery, of which a part of the project will be built over, contains the graves of Islamic figures, as well as several Mamluk tombs.[14] The SWC asserts that the cemetery was long ago deconsecrated by Islamic leaders, and that secular Arab leaders prior to the creation of the State of Israel had planned various development projects there.[15]

After controversy concerning its location on part of the land of a burial site came to head, its construction was frozen by a Supreme Court order issued in February 2006.[16] In November 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court decided to allow construction to proceed, noting that this corner of the cemetery had been transformed into a parking lot[6] "as long ago as the 1960s" and that Jerusalem has been inhabited for roughly 4,000 years, and many ancient sites have been built over.[17]

Construction had been stayed several times by the courts before allowing it to continue.[18][19] In autumn 2008, the Israeli Supreme Court cleared the way for the project.[20] The Muslim groups who initiated the legal action which resulted in the Supreme Court order to freeze all construction had been undergoing mediation with representatives of the Center. Former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar served as the mediator.[16]

Shifting purpose[edit]

The 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 l m "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. ^ "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
  11. ^ Bronner, Ethan (2010-08-13). "Gravestone Removals Add Fuel to Jerusalem Museum Dispute". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-10-31.
  12. ^ "Jerusalem Approves Revised Plan for Contested Museum of Tolerance Site". Haaretz. Retrieved 2021-10-31.
  13. ^ "Why Israeli-Palestinian conflicts over land turn epic". Christian Science Monitor. 2010-08-11. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2021-10-31.
  14. ^ Asem Khalidi (Spring 2009). "The Mamilla Cemetery: A Buried History". Jerusalem Quarterly. 37.
  15. ^ Gil Zohar and Gail Lichtman (February 21, 2008). "Jerusalem deconstructed". Jerusalem Post.
  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. ^ Hadassah on Museum of Tolerance Archived 2009-09-16 at the Wayback Machine[dead link]
  19. ^ Esther Zandberg, Haaretz article on lack of transparency. Archived 2005-05-06 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Israeli court OKs Museum of Tolerance's controversial branch", Los Angeles Times, October 29, 2008

External links[edit]