Museums in Israel protect their works

Red painted walls in the Brueghel showroom at the Museum of Art in Tel Aviv are now empty; they resemble the scene of a daring art theft.


The Museum of Art Tel Aviv, concerned about the rocket attacks on the city, has moved nearly 200 pieces to a room the size of an auditorium that is secure against rocket explosions. Among the moved pieces there are around 100 paintings by family members of the Flemish Renaissance maestro Pieter Brueghel Senior.


“Even if there is a small possibility of damage, we are not playing games. We do not take chances, “said Doron Lurie, chief curator and museum conservationist about the art pieces. ” We safeguard them as we would our own children.”


Another Israeli art museum followed the example, to save its most important pieces of art in fortified vaults underground to protect them from the current escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas.


In the southern city of Ashdod, which has frequent rocket attacks due to its proximity to Gaza, Yuval Biton, curator of the Museum of Art Monart Center, removed 15 works of important contemporary artist Tzili Geva. The pieces are stacked in a four-story underground vault designed to withstand rocket and bio-weapon attacks.


“It is reckless to take risks with works of art,” said Biton. This is the first time the AshdodMuseum keeps its artwork in the vault since its opening in 2003.


Israel received several enemy attacks in the last decade: Hezbollah fired rockets into the country during the war in Lebanon in 2006, as well as rockets fired from Gaza into the southern part of the country.


During Operation “Cast Lead”, four years ago, the art museum of the southern city of Beer Sheva moved its art pieces to a reinforced vault at City Hall, said Idit Amihai, a government official in charge of museums.


However, most of Israel’s important museums in the cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have had little reason to protect their works of art in the past. Even in the current situation, not all museums rushed to guard their treasures. The EretzIsraelMuseum in Tel Aviv, showing Middle Eastern antiques and other art, left its pieces on display. “We do not go into panic to move parts off the windows,” said spokeswoman Miri Tzdaka.


Despite concerns about the risks, important works of art are frequently displayed in Israeli museums provided by institutional loans and collectors around the world.


A few rockets crossed Tel Aviv skies during the current conflict, yet the city is considered safer than others in Israel near Gaza. Therefore, museums allow southern Israelis to visit them freely to admire art while recovering from frights caused by explosions. There are free art workshops for children of such families, coordinated by volunteer artists.
Written in Spanish by Silvia Golan for 

Translated for World of Diplomacy in Israel by Bilhá Calderón

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