$80 Million Later, Neighbors of Israel Museum Still Itching

As the Israel Museum gears up for concerts to celebrate its reopening later this month, neighbors of the Jerusalem institution are complaining that some of the $80 million in renovation costs wasn't used for a part of the museum that visitors don't generally see.

Neighbors of the museum.
Tomer Appelbaum

The machines that generate power for its heating and cooling systems have yet to be upgraded, and residents of the Nayot neighborhood who live near the museum say they have been bothered for decades by noise and air pollution. They complain of foul odors, coughing, shortness of breath, headaches and eye irritation.

"They have been promising for years already that it would be replaced and nothing is happening," said Orly Doron, one of the neighbors. "We love Jerusalem and the museum is important to us. During the renovations, there was noise here seven days a week, but we didn't complain because we knew it was important. But they just don't care about us."

The museum said it was heeding regulations and moving over to a better heating system. "The museum operates according to regulations under the oversight of the authorities and is attentive to its neighbors," it said in a statement. "Currently, the museum is completing the transition to a gas heating system, which is a higher quality system that will improve the current situation."

In the meantime, the stench from the facility is "intolerable," said Doron.

"You can't leave the house," she said. "When the [machine] is operating, we either take the children and get out of the house for a few hours or close all the windows and suffocate inside. If by accident a window is left open, we have to leave the house because the smell is unbearable."

It's "ruining our lives," she said.