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Arts and Culture: Planned Jerusalem Museum Will Focus on How to Get Along

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Unlike its prototype in Los Angeles, a planned museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem will not deal with the Holocaust, said the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Instead, the museum’s focus will be on promoting civility and tolerance among Jews, and between Jews and non-Jews, including Arabs, said Marvin Hier.

As a result, the museum will not compete with Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

Hier made his comments before plans for the creation of the museum, a $120 million project, were unveiled last week in Los Angeles, where the center is located.

Architect Frank Gehry will design the museum and conference center, which will rise on a three-acre site at the foot of Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus, home to the Hebrew University.

It will take about two years to complete the designs, to be approved by the Jerusalem municipality, and another two to three years to finish construction and install the exhibits.

As in the Los Angeles prototype, exhibits in the Jerusalem museum will be high- tech, interactive and geared to the Internet generation.

“We are not interested in the state-of-the-art now, but what will be available on the market four years from now,” said Hier.

The contents and messages of the exhibits will be determined by an advisory board of distinguished educators and thinkers in Israel, Hier added. The exhibits will be multilingual, including Hebrew, English and Arabic.

Gary Winnick, a 51-year-old Los Angeles business executive who made his fortune in fiber optics, is donating $40 million toward the Jerusalem museum, which will bear the name “Winnick Institute,” according to Hier.

Winnick described the new museum as “the first global institution of the new millennium.”

Gehry, most recently praised for his design of the Bilboa Museum in Spain, showed a slide of what he promised was only the first of many proposed designs for the Jerusalem museum.

It showed seven modules, roughly arranged in a semi-circle, that will house a great hall, conference center, library, restaurant, classrooms, and the tolerance museum as the centerpiece.

Gehry, 71, described his first Israeli assignment as “a very moving and tough project” that had already reconnected him with his Jewish upbringing.

Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert said that his vision for the eternal city was a mosaic or symphony of diverse parts and voices.

“I’m certain that the museum will be an important ingredient in laying the foundation for that kind of tolerance in the capital of Israel,” Olmert said.

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