A Golden Shrine to Einstein to Shadow Over Jerusalem's Holy Places

A 25-story building shaped like a helmet and colored gold is slated to be built on Mount Scopus, in a project expected to stir controversy in the holy city.

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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A huge 25-story building shaped like a helmet and sheathed in a material that looks like gold is expected to be built on Mount Scopus, one of the highest points in Jerusalem, in a plan for founding a center dedicated to the heritage of Jewish physicist Albert Einstein. The building plans were submitted recently by the Jerusalem Development Authority to the regional building and planning committee.

The Einstein Heritage Center, which according to the plan would be visible from nearly everywhere in the city, is slated to be built following a government decision taken about two years ago as part of the framework for strengthening Israel's national heritage. The center is a joint project of the national heritage department at the Prime Minister’s Office, the President’s Office, the Jerusalem Development Authority, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Hebrew University, which also owns Einstein’s intellectual estate.

“The idea to establish a center that will make the treasures in the Einstein Archive at the Hebrew University accessible to the general public has been batted about for quite a while,” former Hebrew University President Hanoch Gutfreund said last year at the dedication of the project.

Recently, the initial plans for establishing the center were submitted to the regional planning commission in Jerusalem. It seems that several of the partners in the project shown the plan and have approved it, even though it is completely different from the accepted type of building in the area of the Old City basin and is expected to be controversial.

“The center will go up at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus and will overlook the Temple Mount and the whole city and will constitute a magnet for tourists from abroad and from Israel, Israeli youth, scientists and students," the explanatory material for the plan states. "The center will combine museum activities with other activities that will demonstrate in an experiential way Albert Einstein’s work and personality, with an emphasis on his connection to Judaism, Zionism and the state of Israel and his great contribution to science and culture in the past and in the present.”

The building is expected to be quite out of the ordinary in the Jerusalem landscape, particularly in the area of Mount Scopus. According to the documents shown to the commission, the building will dominate the area, especially the Old City basin and the historical surroundings. The building will also be prominently visible from the city center and from the distant Armon Hanatziv Promenade to the southeast. The building would be constructed somewhere between Churchill Street and Shayeret Har Hatzofim Street, leading up to the Mount Scopus campus.

The plan is likely to elicit international objections as the structure is located, at least in part, outside the area of the Mount Scopus enclave – that is, beyond the Green Line, Israel's pre-1967 borders.

The plan has been submitted by the Jerusalem Development Authority and was prepared by architect Galit Schiffman Natan, a partner at the firm of Baer, Shifman-Nathan Architects.

Plans for a new Albert Einstein center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus.Credit: Baer, Shifman-Nathan Architects
Albert EinsteinCredit: AP