Ultra-Orthodox Jews dance at the Israel Museum
Ultra-Orthodox Jews dancing at the Israel Museum. Photo by Gil Cohen-Magen
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Gil Cohen-Magen
Ultra-Orthodox women visit the Hasidic exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Photo by Gil Cohen-Magen
Olivier Fitoussi
Ultra-Orthodox men in Jerusalem. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem will have separate visiting hours for men and women to its new exhibit about Hasidic Jews. For the first time, the museum decided to introduce separate visiting times, Haaretz has learned, in a bid to attract ultra-Orthodox visitors in the three weeks that yeshivas are closed during the summer.

The museum said the separate hours will apply only to the specific exhibit, "A World Apart Next Door: Glimpses into the Life of Hasidic Jews," depending on demand from ultra-Orthodox groups.

"It all depends on demand," said Shai Yamin, head of marketing at the Israel Museum, adding that the separate hours would not impinge on the museum's regular hours, and might be held after 5 P.M. when the museum closes, or on Tuesday mornings, when it is not usually open.

"A World Apart Next Door," which has been open for about a month, depicts Hasidic culture and features rare editions of Hasidic books, clothing, photographs and video clips of events in various Hasidic courts.

The Israel Museum, best known for its art and archaeology exhibits, has never particularly drawn a Haredi audience. But "A World Apart Next Door" has attracted the attention of the ultra-Orthodox unlike any other exhibit at the Jerusalem institution.

In April, the leader of the Karlin Hasidim, Rabbi Baruch Shochat made the first-ever official visit by a Hasidic leader to the museum, as Haaretz reported, which struck a chord in the Hasidic world.

An ultra-Orthodox firm has been handling PR for the exhibit over the past few weeks and has brought journalists and public figures from the Haredi world to view it. The visits have generated a number of approving articles, which have ignored the fact that the Israel Museum is open on the Sabbath.

The many Haredim who have visited the exhibit over the past month have not allowed issues of modesty or the museum's Sabbath hours to deter them. The Israel Museum's directors see this as an achievement, but now want to bring a wider Haredi audience to the exhibit, taking advantage of the period known as Bein Hazmanim when yeshivas are in recess.

The museum's head of marketing, Yamin, said the move would not affect other visitors to the museum. "It's like the way we open the Shrine of the Book to groups of pilgrims," he said, referring to the practice of opening the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit to visitors when the rest of the museum is closed on Tuesday mornings.

"We hope the exhibit on Hasidim will be the beginning of Haredim getting to know the museum as well, and perhaps they will come to the section on Jewish art and see the old synagogues, or archaeological displays or the Aleppo Codex," Yamin said. "This is an opportunity to draw in groups that would not otherwise visit; another opportunity to extend a hand and say 'please come.'"