Despite the sensitive security situation prevailing in Israel in general and in Jerusalem in particular, the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem (BLMJ) recently held its annual museum education conference that was attended by 150 female kindergarten teachers from East Jerusalem, including supervisors and officials from the Education Ministry.
For the past four years, women educators from East Jerusalem have participated in the professional conference intended to broaden knowledge, deepen understanding, and expose participants to new projects such as the Future Meets Past program, where kindergartens from East Jerusalem visit the museum. These projects are made possible via support from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, which supports various projects in the Middle East.
Simple tools for kindergarten teachers
One of the speakers at the conference was Ms. Basma Halabi from the University of Haifa, Israel's only Arab academic who deals with the subject of literacy in museums. During her lecture, she demonstrated simple tools that kindergarten teachers can use to make the museum space practical and relevant. Additionally, Inas Natur gave a lecture on the language, cognitive and emotional capabilities of kindergarten-age children in order to best get across content at the museum.
Teachers at the conference also participated in workshops on subjects such as drama, music and crafts, went on a tour and took part in a jewelry workshop inspired by special exhibits at the museum. Since the Future Meets Past project began ten years ago, the BLMJ has hosted thousands of kindergarten children from East Jerusalem who have experienced the museum and its content in an experiential way adapted to their ages.
Fadwa Abed Rabbo, a kindergarten supervisor in East Jerusalem, explained that, This conference is a unique opportunity for kindergarten teachers from East Jerusalem to experience a significant understanding of artistic creativity that is adapted to the heritage and culture of Arab society. Amal Darwish, who supervises kindergartens in East Jerusalem, added that, Through the organizational style and high level of the content, you show great respect to the kindergarten teachers. The teachers were enriched and satisfied.
Rana Zidan, who is in charge of the Museum's Future Meets Past noted: The teachers also participate in professional training throughout the year, along with educators and academics who are invited specifically to deliver appropriate content, such as Dr. Shafiq Masalha from the Hebrew University, who teaches on the subject of the museum visit from an emotional point of view – exposure to a new place. This training is conducted in coordination with pedagogical supervisors of East Jerusalem kindergartens, and in conjunction with the pre-primary division of the Ministry of Education and JEA, the Jerusalem Education Administration in East Jerusalem.
Innovative educational programs
The reactions to the project are impressive and heartwarming, reports Amanda Weiss, Director of the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem. We are proud to be the initiators of this innovative project. Imparting a level of professionalism and providing real, hands-on tools that add to the enrichment of female educators in general and East Jerusalem educators in particular, is a tremendous achievement. Each teacher goes back to her school today with a special toolkit for their classroom. The East Jerusalem kindergarteners who visit the Museum as part of the Future Meets Past project, are introduced (many for the first time) to culture, aesthetics, creative thinking and a new experience that is quite different to what they are used to.
The fact that despite the security situation plaguing Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular this project is bringing hundreds of professional educators to BLMJ to learn how to touch the hearts and minds of young children through culture and the arts, is a revolutionary concept! One of the top priorities for the Future Meets Past project is to impact the quality of education in East Jerusalem; in order to build a better society for all, we must begin with the children. They are our future, and I am hopeful that we can continue to keep this and our many innovative educational programs here at the Museum, up and running for years to come.
The only museum of its kind
The dedicated staff of the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem (BLMJ) constantly finds new ways to appeal to visitors of all ages, religions and nationalities – inspiring people who often have little previous background in biblical history or archeology. In fact, thanks to its creative, contemporary approach, BLMJ succeeds in making the field of biblical history accessible – and fascinating – to a large and diverse audience.
The museum, which was founded in 1992, is an interactive time capsule for its diverse visitors, who enjoy touring the galleries and discovering the wonders of the ancient cultures. The museum has earned international acclaim as a universal center for cultural and educational programming, notes Amanda Weiss, BLMJ's energetic director and driving force. It is the only museum of its kind in the world where the civilizations of the Ancient Near East are brought to life from the dawn of civilization to the early Christian era.
BLMJ's superb permanent exhibition spans more than 20 galleries, taking visitors through the chronological history of the Bible Lands, unlocking the key to the origins of writing and revealing the daily lives and religious rituals of our ancestors. History unfolds through artifacts such as figurines, mosaics and sculptures, enabling visitors to discover the remarkable wealth of these ancient cultures.
For more information about the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, go to www.blmj.org.