Arab Director of Jerusalem’s Islamic Museum Removes Muslim Weapons Exhibit; Says ‘Make Art, Not War’
With Palestinian attacks against Israelis being a daily occurrence, the Arab-Israeli director of Jerusalem’s L.A. Mayer Institute for Islamic Art has placed an exhibit of Muslim weapons in storage, the Israeli site nrg reported on Sunday.
The extensive exhibit, which took up a large room, included collections of swords, spears, daggers and a variety of guns – some of which were decorated with passages of the Quran in flowery calligraphy. The highlight of the display was a rare 8-foot rifle from the 17th century.
Today, the room is void of these items. In their place are paintings of 19th century Palestine by Scottish artist David Roberts.
All the war-like displays are now in storage.
“I don’t believe in weapons,” museum director Nadim Shiban told nrg, adding that his message is, “Talk art, not war.”
According to nrg, Shiban’s appointment in August 2014 as head of the museum that has graced the capital’s Talbiyeh neighborhood — across the street from the Jerusalem Theater and around the corner from the President’s Residence – caused media “sensationalism.”
Though he was referred to in the Hebrew press as “the first Arab to manage a museum in Israel,” nrg said, the “drama” was exaggerated. Shiban, in fact, had spent decades engaged in public and private enterprise, and had already held management positions in a number of cultural institutions in the country.
Aside from removing the weapons exhibit, nrg said, Shiban – a Christian Arab from the northern Israeli village of Rameh — built an educational department, which leads programs in tolerance, equality and democracy, geared towards students from all sectors of Israeli society.
“I believe that education creates more respect, understanding and acceptance towards the other side,” he told nrg, recounting that he assumed his position in the immediate aftermath of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, and was surprised to encounter a religious Jewish family with a lot of children visiting the museum.
“I thought to myself, ‘War, missiles flying; what is this family doing in a museum about Islam?’ So I asked them if they weren’t put off by that. They said: ‘On the contrary, we can’t wait to attend the workshops here every summer.’ The fact that in spite of the situation, there is no across-the-board boycotting gave me strength,” he said.