Museum Media

Results 1 - 10 from 12 | Total pages: 2

Abbas opens Swiss museum exhibition on Gaza history
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas opened an exhibition of ancient artifacts from Gaza on Thursday, but refused to answer any questions about the political situation in the Middle East. Speaking to reporters after a tour of the archaeological treasures on display at Geneva's Museum of Art and History, Abbas declined to field questions from reporters about the viability of the Fatah-Hamas unity government, or the fragile state of a cease-fire agreed with Israel in the Gaza Strip. Focusing on cultural issues, Abbas announced that his government was looking to build a new museum of Palestinian history in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. He said the project would complement a US$30 million archaeological museum planned in Gaza, where the objects currently on show in Geneva will be permanently housed. Most of the artifacts, ranging from a more than 4,000-year-old bone dagger handle to Roman-era statuettes, belong to the collection of Palestinian businessman Jawdat Khoudary, whose construction company unearthed the objects during building works in Gaza. Abbas said the exhibition was testament to the importance of promoting cultural dialogue, "instead of searching for conflicts among civilizations." The exhibition did not include any objects held in Israeli collections. Abbas planned to meet Switzerland's President Micheline Calmy-Rey later Thursday. Earlier this week, Hamas launched dozens of rockets at southern Israel, causing no serious damage or injuries, but threatening a tenuous Gaza cease-fire that has been in place since November. So far Israel has ruled out a large-scale invasion of the territory in response to the attacks, but officials warned of "harsh steps" if the terrroists continued to fire rockets.

Jul 20,2011
Details

Gaza at the crossroad of civilizations
Stretched between Egypt and Israel, the 362 km2 of the Gaza Strip are in the headlines with tragic regularity, masking the fabulous archaeological riches under its soil. Pharaonic, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic sites fill the territory, an essential relay point on the overland road between Africa and Asia and an important port at the outlet of the Incense Route. The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire is offering a large exhibition displaying the multiple facets of this archaeological heritage that reflects the multiplicity of civilisations that have permeated the region. The event is being held in the framework of a UNESCO-sanctioned project to create an archaeological museum on the site of the ancient port of Gaza. Funded by a board of Palestinian civilian trustees, the future museum’s development will proceed with scientific and technical support from the Museums Division of the City of Geneva.

Jul 20,2011
Details

The refuge that allows Gaza to reflect on past glories
It may seem an odd dilemma in a territory where more than half of families live below an internationally defined poverty line, but Jawdat Khoudary is wondering whether there should be museum charges in Gaza. As the owner and creator of the Strip's first purpose-built archaeological museum, he has no doubt that the most prized patrons, the organised parties of schoolchildren already starting to flock to it, must come for free. And having sunk a small fortune – he won't say how much – into building this elegant and air-conditioned space overlooking the Mediterranean just north of Gaza City's Shati refugee camp, he certainly isn't trying to make money from it. But the 48-year-old owner of one of Gaza's biggest construction companies worries that if he doesn't charge a couple of shekels for individual entry, Gazans may not realise the value of their heritage as much as he does. "I believe in the importance of our roots, the importance of history," he says. "The nation that forgot its history will not have a good future." And what a history. This cultured but repeatedly fought-over and serially occupied maritime civilisation on the route from the Levant to Africa, is many thousand years old, flourishing long before the blinded Samson pulled down the great temple of Dagon in the 12th century BC, killing himself and thousands of his Philistine captors. The artefacts that Mr Khoudary has installed are only part of the personal collection he has built since telling his bulldozer drivers and labourers – and local fishermen – 20 years ago that he would pay for anything ancient they find in the course of their work. But even Mr Khoudary's collection is only a small fraction of the dazzling archaeological treasures of the Gaza, those already dug up and dispersed among collections round the world, those plundered and stolen, and those still waiting to be excavated. However, this half of that fraction is rich enough to make the trip worthwhile. It ranges chronologically from sun-dried clay pots and mud-brick wall fragments from 5,500 years ago to a single – relatively – modern curiosity: a confectionery tin decorated with the portrait of Gamal Abdel Nasser. In between are hundreds of objects that testify to Gaza's long and turbulent history from the early bronze age to the Ottoman Empire: heavy stone anchors and more recognisable Roman ones; ancient Egyptian alabaster plates; clay wine jars and Corinthian columns from the Byzantine period; oil, water and perfume pots, and a clay wheel from a [now reconstructed] child's toy cart from the Philistine period between 1600BC and 1200BC; glass bottles from the Hellenistic age and miniature sculptures in ivory. And "a very important piece", says Mr Khoudary, the clay coffin lid in the form of a man's head from the 11th century BC. The museum is partly designed to shed a ray of cultural light in the gloom of a blockaded, impoverished and war-damaged Gaza. Mr Khoudary's is the first attempt to establish a focal point inside Gaza to house treasures that would, in the past, have left it, which he points out, all started with the Ottomans and the huge, 10ft-high, 2nd century AD statue of Zeus from Gaza, which has pride of place in the Istanbul Museum. Then there were the stunning hoards of inlaid gold jewellery excavated during the pre-Second World War British mandate by Sir Flinders Petrie in Tell el-Ajjul. This was the old Canaanite capital, where Wadi Gaza is today, before it was overrun in the 15th century BC by the Egyptian Pharoah Thutmosis III and replaced with what is now Gaza City. The jewels, hidden from those Egyptian invaders, are now in the British Museum. The story of Israeli archaeology in Gaza is complex, told in fascinating detail in a new book on the collection at the Israel Museum by Trude Dothan, its greatest practitioner, and the woman who between 1972 and 1982 conducted the scientific excavations at Deir el-Bala in central Gaza. These established that it had been, in the 14th and 13th centuries BC, a prosperous Egyptian or Egyptian-style settlement, including a large official palace with, in its later years, an artisans' village turning out the extraordinary, haunting, anthropoid coffins of the kind now in the Israel Museum. Professor Dothan was not the first Israeli to excavate the treasures of Deir el-Bala. That was a privilege reserved for Moshe Dayan, after Israel's seizure of Gaza in 1967. The former defence minister is now acknowledged to have been a robber of antiquities on a spectacular and largely unchecked scale. The professor describes how, knowing his "hobby", she turned to him after finding that ancient burial gifts were flooding the antiquities shops of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War. Having noticed they were too ingrained with desert sand to be "from Hebron", as the dealers claimed, she asked Dayan if he had heard of an ancient cemetery in Gaza. Dayan insisted he did not. Three months later Dayan would arrange for Professor Dothan to visit Deir el-Balah under military escort – a trip that would start her on a decade of excavation. She later discovered that he had already acquired not only a notable collection of scarabs from Deir el-Balah but also "enormous quantities" of anthropoid coffin fragments and nine complete lids, all of which he was restoring at his home in Tel Aviv. The coffins would be included in the large portion of his vast collection which sold for $1m to the Israel Museum after his death. Much had been looted not only by Dayan but also local Bedouin by the time she finally began her dig. Professor Dothan's achievement was to excavate and catalogue professionally – and so protect for the future – many of its treasures. And for this Mr Khoudary – who worries that details of Israeli excavations in 1991 at the ruins of a Byzantine monastery near Nusseirat were not so published – is greatly appreciative. "What she did was to save part of our history," he says. The Deir el-Balah treasures now in Jerusalem could one day become for the Palestinians what the Parthenon Marbles (Elgin Marbles) are to the Greeks. Professor Dothan herself muses that it would come as "no surprise if the Palestinians demand the return of all artefacts removed". While this is Mr Khoudary's dream for his embryo national museum, he knows that Gaza would have to see some stability first. "One of the purposes of my project is to alert the international community to the need for our heritage to be protected from political disputes," he says. He cites, as an immediate example, the fact that the Jerusalem-based Ecole Biblique, which has given him much help with the museum, is inhibited from excavating in Gaza "because if they get permission from [the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority] in Ramallah they will be boycotted here and if they get permission here [from the Hamas de facto government] they will be boycotted in Ramallah". Mr Khoudary will not be deterred in his long-term ambitions for the museum, to look "carefully after the history and heritage of Gaza, to protect it for the next generations".

Jul 20,2011
Details

The Glitter of Old Gaza
In the Gaza strip today, history is trauma. Decades of war, occupation and sectarian strife have turned it into a seething refugee camp, crippled by internecine conflict and poverty. But while Gaza's future seems as uncertain as its present, there is little disagreement about the splendor of its past. "Gaza at the Crossroads of Civilizations" at Geneva's Musée d'Art et d'Histoire is the first ever public show of Gazan antiquities. Its 530 artifacts, drawn chiefly from the vaults of private Palestinian collector Jawdat Khoudary and the Palestinian National Authority, depict a Gaza that was once at the nexus of trade routes and a meeting point of cultures. Today, at a time when rival Palestinian factions are gunning each other down, we learn that Gaza's early inhabitants were prosperous, practiced multiculturalists. On show are objects from several empires unearthed during the past two centuries, with some dating back nearly 5,000 years. Egyptian stone scarabs are displayed alongside Greek statues, Byzantine mosaics, Syrian oil lamps, French coins and Roman amphora jugs. No wonder then that the exhibition's organizers aim, with the support of unesco (and, one presumes, violence permitting), to repatriate these treasures by 2016 to a museum they hope to build atop the ruins of the ancient Gazan port of Anthedon. Curator Marc-André Haldimann sees the project laying a foundation for a future of tolerance. "It reminds us that Gaza is not the deadlocked prison that it is today," he says, "but, as it was—the window of the world."

Jul 20,2011
Details

Crossroads and Contexts: Interviews on Archaeology in Gaza
When the average newspaper reader thinks of Gaza, the images that come to mind are often of turmoil, violence, closure, poverty, and despair. There is another face of Gaza, however, that is seldom evoked—one that bespeaks an ancient heritage, archaeological wealth, openness to the world, and a determination to preserve the past. This is the face of Gaza put forward in a major archaeological exhibition entitled “Gaza—at the Crossroads of Civilizations,” recently held at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in the City of Geneva. Though largely uncovered by the international press (except by the Francophone media), the exhibition nonetheless has an importance well beyond its five-month run, because it represents only the first part of a unique, long-term project that could make a real difference for Gaza’s future. On display in Geneva were more than five hundred Pharaonic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Phoenician, Assyrian, Persian, Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic objects. The artifacts are remarkable in themselves; more remarkable, however, is the fact that they were all unearthed in the last two decades in the tiny, beleaguered territory of the Gaza Strip. Unlike Iraq—that other contemporary metaphor for violence and strife—Gaza has never been associated in the public mind with either archaeology or an ancient past. As a result, the dissonance between the wonderful vestiges of the successive cultures that left their mark and the territory’s current status in world consciousness as a symbol of hopelessness gave the exhibition particular poignancy. Gaza—again in contrast to Iraq—was not a seat of empires but a crossroads; the character of this once-open land was formed by civilizations passing through this pivotal link on the major sea and land routes between Asia, Africa, and Europe. These transitions and cultural linkages were the emphasis of the exhibition, lending both historical depth and perspectives on contemporary Gaza. Unlike most exhibitions, the Gaza archaeological exhibition in Geneva—which ran from 23 April to 7 October 2007—was not a “one-shot deal.” Rather than representing an endpoint, the exhibition marked a beginning, the first stage of a multilayered cultural project “designed to safeguard world heritage in the Gaza Strip and ensure its sustainable development,” as the exhibition’s press release states, through the establishment in the territory of an archaeological museum. Under the patronage of UNESCO, the project represents a partnership between the Palestinians and a Swiss coalition made up of the City of Geneva’s Museum Division, the Canton of Geneva, and the Swiss Confederation, with the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire taking the lead on the Swiss side. The Swiss will provide the scientific and technical support necessary for the museum’s establishment and will begin long-term training of Palestinian museum personnel in Geneva’s various museums as soon as the situation in Gaza permits. The target date for startup of the Gaza museum is 2017. Already the institution has a legal existence, its mandate and charter having been finalized by the Palestinian Authority (PA). Its board of directors is also in place. The future museum will be situated at one of Gaza’s most important archaeological excavations—the ancient port discovered at Gaza-Blakhiya just over a decade ago. This location will facilitate ongoing archaeological fieldwork, secure storage for the archaeological finds, and enhance the museum’s educational and training role. It will also result in the enlargement of the protected archaeological zone in Gaza, for the choice of site also relates to contemporary realities: Directly adjacent is the Shati’ refugee camp, heightening the pressures of construction, while the excavation’s proximity to the Mediterranean shore makes it vulnerable to erosion from the sea and looting by divers. The Geneva exhibition can be seen as the first concrete expression of the newly chartered Gaza archaeological museum. Indeed, the planned museum was symbolically embedded in the exhibition’s very core: A large model reconstruction of the antique harbor layout in its Blakhiya setting formed the centerpiece of the small central gallery connecting the Geneva museum’s two large exhibition halls where the Gaza artifacts were laid out in more or less chronological sequence. The model’s placement at the center of the exhibition helped underline the understanding that what was on display in Geneva was the core collection of the future Gaza museum. Thus, although the physical museum in Gaza is yet to be built, the Geneva exhibition represented a process already underway—as if the visitor were walking through two institutions at once, the Geneva museum and the Gaza museum. The objects displayed in Geneva come in almost equal measure from two different collections brought together for the first time: the “public” collection of the PA Department of Antiquities and the private collection of Gaza businessman Jawdat Khoudary. Aptly enough, the two collections represent the two distinct kinds of “collecting” that have always characterized archaeological research: formal, professionally supervised excavations generally under the auspices of an institution, and the unsupervised extraction of archaeological material within the context of private initiatives (whether undertaken for preservation or profit). The tension between the two types of collection forms a backdrop to the exhibition and sets in motion the dynamic not only for the exhibition itself but for the future museum. Here again, the partnership with Geneva, particularly the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, has played a key role. In addition to mediating an international dialogue aimed at creating a strong long-term institutional relationship with Gaza, the museum took charge of cataloguing the Khoudary collection and initiating the process to secure official international recognition, through UNESCO, of both the antique harbor museum site and of the Khoudary collection, making the latter accessible to researchers. The museum exhibition, with its handsome academic catalogue containing photographs of the hundreds of artifacts on display, can thus be understood as part of the sequence of steps in a process of legitimization and accountability. The vulnerability of archaeology in Gaza—which the future museum is meant to reduce—is well illustrated by the spiraling events that have taken place since the exhibition’s opening and, indeed, since its planning began in spring 2005. As a result of the deteriorating political conditions, it was decided that the objects displayed in Geneva could not for the time being be repatriated. Instead, until such time as circumstances permit, the labeled objects will remain in storage, ready to go on tour if agreement is reached with one or more appropriate venues. Discussions to this end are currently underway. As a contributor to the Geneva exhibition, I had the opportunity during the course of its two-year development to reflect on the various vantage points that the project brought together. I wanted to fix these in dialogue, in the form of interviews with the persons representing these vantage points, who, taken together, reflect a compass for archaeology itself: museum curator, private collector, field archaeologist, and governmental antiquities department administrator. More specifically, my four interviews were with the Swiss curator Marc-André Haldimann, head of the Geneva museum’s archaeology department and initiator of the Gaza project; the Palestinian private collector Jawdat Khoudary, a businessman with a passion for archaeology whose works comprised half the exhibition; the French field archaeologist Jean-Baptiste Humbert, a professor at the Ecole Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jérusalem who has led excavations in Gaza on behalf of the PA since 1994; and the Palestinian administrator-archaeologist Moain Sadeq, head of the Gaza branch of the PA Department of Antiquities since its establishment. Read Full Article : http://www.palestine-studies.org/journals.aspx?id=9748&jid=1&href=fulltext

Jul 20,2011
Details

First museum of archaeology in Gaza opened
Palestine, has multicultural history and strong background, has not chance to use its historical artifact because of struggling with Israeli occupation. When Jawdat Khoudary opens the first ever museum of archaeology in Gaza this month, it will be an act of Palestinian patriotism, showing how this increasingly poor and isolated coastal strip ruled by the Islamists of Hamas was once a thriving multicultural crossroad. The exhibit is housed in a stunning hall made up partly of the saved stones of old houses, discarded wood ties of a former railroad and bronze lamps and marble columns uncovered by Gazan fishermen and construction workers. And while the display might be pretty standard stuff almost anywhere else - arrowheads, Roman anchors, Bronze Age vases and Byzantine columns - life is currently so gray in Gaza that the museum, with its glimpses of a rich outward-looking history, seems somehow dazzling. "The idea is to show our deep roots from many cultures in Gaza," Khoudary said as he sat in the lush, antiquities-filled garden of his Gaza City home a few miles from the museum. "It's important that people realize we had a good civilization in the past. Israel has legitimacy from its history. We do too." The oldest Gaza site dates from the middle of the fourth millennium B.C., when Gaza became the head of all the caravan routes linking the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, via the Red Sea, to the Mediterranean. History offers not only legitimacy, but a framework for coping with the present. Gaza is under an Israeli and international siege aimed at sapping strength from Hamas. But this is not the first time Gazans have faced such a squeeze. Khoudary's collection includes thousands of items, but some of the most extraordinary of them will not go on display just now, including a statue of a full-breasted Aphrodite in a diaphanous gown, images of other ancient deities and oil lamps with Jewish menorahs on them. Asked why, Khoudary noted although negativ conditions he said simply: "I want my project to succeed." He did, however, bring a Hamas government minister to see the exhibit recently and pointed out two crosses on Byzantine columns. A prominent construction company owner, Khoudary, who is 48 and a believer in coexistence and global culture, has been collecting for 22 years, ever since he came across an Islamic glass coin and fell in love with its link to a bygone era. Since then, he has asked all his construction workers to save whatever is dug up so that he can go through it for treasures. Local fishermen know that anything old that washes ashore will fetch a decent price from Khoudary. You may ask how a man open a museum with thousands of important historical items although he's belonging a nation which fight with poorness, occupation and political conflicts. Khoudary had face big difficulties when he attempted to open this museum "el Mat'haf". In 2005, he persuaded Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to let him set up a national archaeological museum with Swiss help. A site was picked and a show was developed at the Geneva Museum of Art and History; it brought in large crowds. Then in June 2007, some months after Hamas won a parliamentary majority, Hamas and the Fatah party of Abbas fought street battles that ended in the banishment of Fatah and Abbas from Gaza. So with the project stalled and Gaza's borders closed, Khoudary decided to do it on his own. He built a restaurant and café (with space for a hotel) and on the same property added the museum. He dubbed the entire complex on the coast near the Shati refugee camp north of Gaza City "el Mat'haf," Arabic for museum, saying, "People here don't hear this word. I want it to enter the vocabulary." With so little to do in Gaza - factories are closed and the economy is stalled - el Mat'haf seems likely to attract huge crowds.

Jul 20,2011
Details

First evidence of damage to Gaza’s cultural sites emerges
JERUSALEM. After a 3,500-year history of invasions, the latest war on the beleaguered coastal strip of Gaza has once again put historic sites at risk. With the fragile ceasefire still in force, The Art Newspaper has learned that Gaza’s only museum has been damaged and other heritage sites and buildings may also be at risk.   The Antiquities Museum of Gaza, privately founded and run by Gazan contractor and collector Jawdat Khoudary, was badly damaged during Israel’s 22 days of air and land strikes. The glass doors and windows have been shattered and the roof and walls have been damaged. Roman and Byzantine pottery, Islamic bronze objects and many amphorae have been destroyed, initially during shooting 20m to 200m away, and later because of nearby shelling, with one direct hit to the museum’s conference hall, Mr Khoudary said. Amphorae, clay and ceramic vessels with two looped handles, were created in Gaza and the region during the fourth to seventh centuries for storing wine, olive oil and food and trading perishable commodities. “I am very concerned: the entire Gaza Strip is an archaeological site,” said Palestinian archaeologist Professor Moain Sadeq, who founded the Palestinian Antiquities Department of Gaza in 1994, and is currently a visiting lecturer at the University of Toronto while in contact daily with Gaza. “Historical sites and buildings in Gaza are adjacent to urban areas, so any location that was hit as a target also put the nearby historical sites and buildings in danger,” he said. Major sites where damage is expected because of heavy fighting in adjacent areas include: Tell es-Sakan, an early Bronze Age settlement that is the largest and oldest walled Canaanite city in the local region, and the oldest Egyptian fortified site outside of Egypt; Tel el-Ajull, an important middle and late Bronze period city that was an important trade hub between ancient Egypt and the Levant; and the remains of Anthedon, a Hellenist port. The Byzantine church of Jabalya was also near heavy fighting, and was the site of partial damage by Israeli tanks during an incursion in 2005. Al-Zeitoun residential quarter in Gaza’s Old City, a medieval historic district, has also been largely destroyed, Professor Sadeq added. Archaeologists are expecting assessment of all of Gaza’s historical sites to be slow. As humanitarian assistance is the urgent priority, serious archaeological surveys of historic sites will be delayed. “I hope that Israel and the Palestinians will work to restore the sites. I am worried about Gaza sites that were excavated and are above the ground because I am sure during the military activity that some sites have been damaged,” Dr Yigal Yisrael, of the Israel Antiquities Authority Ashkelon region and Western Negev said. The first mention of an invasion in Gaza dates back approximately 3,500 years to the annals of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III. At least a dozen empires have controlled Gaza in its 6,000-year known history, including the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Crusaders, Mamluks, Ottomans and British, and the modern states of Egypt and Israel. Artefacts from ancient Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities are routinely discovered. Even so, Gaza has not been widely excavated. In recent history, the Palestinian authorities have faced shortages of funding, staff, equipment and conservation facilities. Local artefacts could previously only be viewed in foreign museums, such as in Istanbul, London and Jerusalem, until Mr Khoudary opened his museum in August with his private collection of artefacts salvaged from land and sea, during two decades in the construction business. The museum was originally planned as a national museum, with backing from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, until Hamas took authority in Gaza in 2007. Since 1994, seven major sites in Gaza have been excavated by the Palestinian Antiquities Authority, but in late 2000 activity stalled with the rise of the intifada. According to American archaeologist Professor Lynn Swartz Dodd, of the University of Southern California, the latest war in Gaza has also set back plans for joint Israeli-Palestinian excavation projects in the West Bank, including a heritage preservation field school. Professor Dodd with Professor Ran Boytner of the University of California, Los Angeles, oversaw a five-year secret committee of Israeli and Palestinian archaeologists that culminated last year in the publication of a 39-point archaeological joint heritage plan, dubbed “the archaeological peace plan”. This group also published the first public database of archaeological work in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967. “A significant educational and training endeavour and the intended investment in a heritage resource that would have been made through that partnership have become invisible causalities of [the] conflict,” Professor Dodd told The Art Newspaper. Professor Sadeq says that the next step is to invite colleagues from abroad to come and assist in Gaza. New historical sites may also emerge from such an effort, as scores of buildings were erected without salvage excavations first, before he founded the Gaza Antiquities Department in 1994, he adds. “We need expertise, technical support and various types of help with conservation,” Professor Sadeq said. Swiss experts from Geneva’s Museum of Art and History, which hosted the first satellite show of Gaza antiquities in 2007 from Mr Khoudary’s collection, have already voiced plans to assist with assessment and conservation. “I hope other international organisations will also help,” Mr Khoudary said. “If there is peace, antiquities should be a priority, after humanitarian aid.”

Jul 20,2011
Details

Museum Offers Gray Gaza a View of its Dazzling Past
It may sound like the indulgence of a well-fed man fleeing the misery around him. But when Jawdat N. Khoudary opens the first museum of archaeology in Gaza this summer it will be a form of Palestinian patriotism, showing how this increasingly poor and isolated coastal strip ruled by the Islamists of Hamas was once a thriving multicultural crossroad. The exhibition is in a stunning hall made partly of stones from old houses, discarded wood ties of a former railroad and bronze lamps and marble columns uncovered by Gazan fishermen and construction workers. And while the display might be pretty standard stuff most anywhere else — arrowheads, Roman anchors, Bronze Age vases and Byzantine columns — life is now so gray in Gaza that the museum, with its glimpses of a rich outward-looking history, seems somehow dazzling. “The idea is to show our deep roots from many cultures in Gaza,” Mr. Khoudary said as he sat in the lush, antiquities-filled garden of his Gaza City home a few miles from the museum. “It’s important that people realize we had a good civilization in the past. Israel has legitimacy from its history. We do, too.” The oldest archaeological site in Gaza dates from the middle of the fourth millennium B.C., when Gaza was part of the caravan routes linking the Arabian Peninsula with the Horn of Africa via the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. History offers not only legitimacy, of course, but also a framework for coping with the present. Gaza is under an Israeli and international siege aimed at weakening Hamas, widely viewed in the West as a terrorist group. But this is not the first time Gazans have faced a squeeze. “Gaza has suffered more than most cities,” Mr. Khoudary noted. “There was the siege of Alexander the Great and of the Persians and of the British. At the end of the day this siege will be a footnote.” His collection includes thousands of items, but some of the most extraordinary will not go on display now, including a statue of a full-breasted Aphrodite in a diaphanous gown, images of other ancient deities and oil lamps featuring menorahs. Asked why, Mr. Khoudary noted Hamas’s rule and the conservative piety of the population and said simply, “I want my project to succeed.” He did, however, bring a Hamas government minister to see the exhibition recently and pointed out two crosses on Byzantine columns to make sure he had no objections. The gap between what he calls the narrow-mindedness of today’s Gaza and the worldliness of the past is what most saddens him, he said. A prominent construction company owner, Mr. Khoudary, who is 48 and a proponent of coexistence and global culture, has been collecting for 22 years, ever since he came across an Islamic glass coin and fell in love with its link to a bygone era. Since then, he has asked all his construction workers to save whatever they dig up so that he can search it for treasures. Local fishermen know that anything old that washes ashore will fetch a decent price from Mr. Khoudary. In 2005, he persuaded Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to let him set up a national archaeological museum with Swiss help. A site was picked and a show was developed at the Geneva Museum of Art and History. It brought in huge crowds. Then, in June 2007, more than a year after Hamas won a parliamentary majority, Hamas and the Fatah party of Mr. Abbas fought street battles that ended in the banishment of Fatah and Mr. Abbas from Gaza. So with the project stalled and Gaza closed off by Israel, Mr. Khoudary decided to do it on his own. He built a restaurant and cafe (with space for a hotel) and, on the same property, added the museum. He called the entire complex on the coast near the Shati refugee camp north of Gaza City El Mat’haf, Arabic for museum. “People here don’t hear this word,” he said. “I want it to enter the vocabulary.” With so little to do in Gaza — factories are closed and the economy is stalled — El Mat’haf seems likely to attract crowds. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem has just published a catalog on the Gaza dig of an Israeli team in the 1970s and 80s. Led by the grande dame of Israeli archaeology, Dr. Trude Dothan, the dig at Deir el Balah took place under army guard and uncovered gold jewelry, alabaster vessels and, most important, anthropoid coffins, all of which are now in the Israel Museum. Some of it had been plundered by Moshe Dayan, the defense minister at the time, who was an archaeology buff and something of a law unto himself. His collection is now in the Israel Museum as well. Told of El Mat’haf, Dr. Dothan said she had long wished there had been a museum in Gaza for what she dug up. Mr. Khoudary said he had visited the Israel Museum and hoped that one day some of the Gaza collection could come back here “after we have a qualified government and the capability to protect the heritage of Gaza.” He said Dr. Dothan “did us a favor because it would all be gone or destroyed today.” James S. Snyder, director of the Israel Museum, said that if there were a peaceable state in Gaza and a museum here, “I see no reason we couldn’t arrange a long-term loan.” Such warm talk between Israelis and Gazans is rare these days. Mr. Snyder said that under the current Israeli closing of Gaza, which bars all but humanitarian emergency cases from leaving, “there is the perversity that Gazans today cannot see their own heritage in our museum.”

Jul 20,2011
Details

Museum in Gaza to display area's rich cultural history
GAZA — It may sound like the escapist indulgence of a well-fed man fleeing the misery around him. But when Jawdat Khoudary opens the first ever museum of archaeology in Gaza this month, it will be an act of Palestinian patriotism, showing how this increasingly poor and isolated coastal strip ruled by the Islamists of Hamas was once a thriving multicultural crossroad. The exhibit is housed in a stunning hall made up partly of the saved stones of old houses, discarded wood ties of a former railroad and bronze lamps and marble columns uncovered by Gazan fishermen and construction workers. And while the display might be pretty standard stuff almost anywhere else - arrowheads, Roman anchors, Bronze Age vases and Byzantine columns - life is currently so gray in Gaza that the museum, with its glimpses of a rich outward-looking history, seems somehow dazzling. "The idea is to show our deep roots from many cultures in Gaza," Khoudary said as he sat in the lush, antiquities-filled garden of his Gaza City home a few miles from the museum. "It's important that people realize we had a good civilization in the past. Israel has legitimacy from its history. We do too." The oldest Gaza site dates from the middle of the fourth millennium B.C., when Gaza became the head of all the caravan routes linking the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, via the Red Sea, to the Mediterranean. History offers not only legitimacy, but a framework for coping with the present. Gaza is under an Israeli and international siege aimed at sapping strength from Hamas, widely viewed in the West as a terrorist group. But this is not the first time Gazans have faced such a squeeze. "Gaza has suffered more than most cities," Khoudary said. "There was the siege of Alexander the Great and of the Persians and of the British. At the end of the day this siege will be a footnote." Khoudary's collection includes thousands of items, but some of the most extraordinary of them will not go on display just now, including a statue of a full-breasted Aphrodite in a diaphanous gown, images of other ancient deities and oil lamps with Jewish menorahs on them. Asked why, Khoudary noted Hamas's rule and the conservative piety of the population and said simply: "I want my project to succeed." He did, however, bring a Hamas government minister to see the exhibit recently and pointed out two crosses on Byzantine columns to make sure the minister had no objections. The gap between the narrow-mindedness of Gaza today and the worldliness of the past is what most saddens him. A prominent construction company owner, Khoudary, who is 48 and a believer in coexistence and global culture, has been collecting for 22 years, ever since he came across an Islamic glass coin and fell in love with its link to a bygone era. Since then, he has asked all his construction workers to save whatever is dug up so that he can go through it for treasures. Local fishermen know that anything old that washes ashore will fetch a decent price from Khoudary. In 2005, he persuaded Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to let him set up a national archaeological museum with Swiss help. A site was picked and a show was developed at the Geneva Museum of Art and History; it brought in large crowds. Then in June 2007, some months after Hamas won a parliamentary majority, Hamas and the Fatah party of Abbas fought street battles that ended in the banishment of Fatah and Abbas from Gaza. So with the project stalled and Gaza's borders closed, Khoudary decided to do it on his own. He built a restaurant and café (with space for a hotel) and on the same property added the museum. He dubbed the entire complex on the coast near the Shati refugee camp north of Gaza City "el Mat'haf," Arabic for museum, saying, "People here don't hear this word. I want it to enter the vocabulary." With so little to do in Gaza - factories are closed and the economy is stalled - el Mat'haf seems likely to attract huge crowds. As it happens, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem has just published a catalogue on the Gaza dig of an Israeli team in the 1970s and '80s. Led by the grande dame of Israeli archaeology, Trude Dothan, the dig at Deir el-Balah took place under army guard and uncovered gold jewelry, alabaster vessels and, most important, coffins, all of which are now in the Israel Museum. Some of it had been simply plundered by Moshe Dayan, the defense minister at the time who was an archaeology buff and something of a law unto himself. His collection is now in the Israel Museum as well. Told of el Mat'haf, Dothan said she had long wished there was a museum in Gaza to house what she dug up. Khoudary said he had visited the Israel Museum and hoped that one day some of the Gaza collection could come back to Gaza "after we have a qualified government and the capability to protect the heritage of Gaza." Of Dothan he said: "She did us a favor, because it would all be gone or destroyed today." James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum, said that if there were a peaceable state in Gaza and a museum here, "I see no reason we couldn't arrange a long-term loan." Such warm talk between Israelis and Gazans is rare these days. Snyder said that under the current Israeli closing of Gaza, which bars all but humanitarian emergency cases from leaving here, "there is the perversity that Gazans today cannot see their own heritage in our museum."

Jul 20,2011
Details

Antiquities Under Fire
Once the bullets stopped flying, Palestinian businessman Jawdat N. Khoudary saw that his worst fears were realized. The Gaza Museum of Archaeology, which he founded only six months before, had been damaged when Israel launched Operation Cast Lead at the end of December with a series of air strikes on Hamas targets across Gaza. Returning to the museum in February--after Israeli ground forces had withdrawn and a fragile cease-fire was in effect--Khoudary surveyed the shattered display cases, broken ceramics, fallen ceiling tiles, and walls pockmarked by bullets and tank rounds. There was a lot of structural damage to the building, and some displays, including amphorae from the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods, were destroyed. An Islamic oil lamp stand from the Mamluk period (A.D. 1244-1517) was also broken. "Maybe I made a mistake when I established this museum," Khoudary says. Fortunately, the museum was shut down when the war started and none of its Palestinian employees were harmed. As of today, it remains closed. It's difficult to know whether the damage was done by the Israeli military or Hamas gunmen. Of course, damage to archaeological sites can be exploited--and sometimes exaggerated--by either the Israeli or Arab side to engender sympathy in the propaganda war. Initial reports or claims of destruction make a stronger impression than follow-up investigations into alleged damage, which often happen after the media spotlight has moved on to the next story. One expert who has excavated in Gaza cautions that it is crucial to determine the chronology and cause of damage before assigning blame.Meanwhile, there are reports of damage to ancient sites in the Gaza Strip. Heavy fighting and armored bulldozers in the north-central region threatened the Early Bronze Age (3300 and 2200 B.C. ) site of Tell es-Sakan on the outskirts of Gaza City. It was initially discovered during a building project started by the Palestinian Authority in the late 1990s. In 1999, Moain Sadeq, founder of Gaza's department of Antiquities, along with French archaeologist Pierre de Miroschedji, began an exploratory dig. Soon they made an exceptional discovery--mud-brick fortification walls dating to 3200-3000 B.C. This makes Tell es-Sakan--which de Miroschedji and Sadeq believe was the administrative center of the Egyptian colonies in the region--the oldest fortified site known in either Egypt or Palestine. But the excavation trenches may have been used by Hamas to store mortar shells and rocket batteries during the most recent fighting, making them a likely target for the Israeli military. Mati Milstein is ARCHAEOLOGY's Israel correspondent.

Jun 28,2011
Details