The museum to commemorate Jewish soldiers who fought the Nazis stands unfinished because the nonprofit group behind the project has been unable to find donors.
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In 2002, the cabinet approved the construction of the Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II. The government has provided its share of the funding, but the nonprofit group has failed to find donors, Zeev Elkin, the minister of Jerusalem affairs and heritage, told Haaretz.
The museum, however, says the government has refused to renew its cooperation agreement on the project, thus scaring off potential donors. Jewish World War II veterans, whose numbers are dwindling, are protesting the delay in opening the museum that many of them will not live to see.
The construction of the museum was delayed many times and only in 2007 did the government sign an agreement with the nonprofit group, the Association for the Establishing the Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II.
The project’s budget was originally set at 32 million shekels ($8.8 million). The government committed to half the amount and the other half was supposed to be raised by the association through donations.
Elkin says the state provided even more than its agreed-on share, while the museum’s director, Brig. Gen. (res.) Zvi Kan-Tor, says the government has yet to transfer its full share of the money.
The museum at Latrun near Jerusalem stands empty, and the association has halted its operations. Many of the exhibits for the museum have already been prepared, including a database of the names of fighters along with videos telling their stories.
Many of the soldiers were officers in senior roles for countries fighting the Nazis during World War II.
“It’s a shame that the Jewish state has handed the matter to a bunch of clerks instead of cultivating the Jewish heritage of the fighters’ heroism,” Kan-Tor said.
Kan-Tor says the association has raised 10 million shekels so far and wants to raise more but can’t because the government has not renewed its cooperation agreement. He estimates the total amount needed to complete the project, including the money raised so far and the government’s share, at 55 million shekels.
“We came of our own initiative, the members of the association, to do something that the state should have done – and they come to us with complaints?” Kan-Tor said.
Elkin called it "sad" that the museum has not been finished and said the government was willing to increase its budget for the project, but the association must keep to its pledge to bring in donations. The government’s hands are tied because the association owns the land and building, Elkin said.
“If they tell us they can’t complete the project, we’ll consider taking it on or finding another body,” Elkin said. “But we haven’t yet received such a request.”
The chairman of the association is Maj. Gen. (res.) Chaim Erez. Members of the museum’s public council include Moshe Arens – a former defense minister and a Haaretz columnist.