Hier: Downscaled Jerusalem tolerance museum to open


LOS ANGELES (JTA) — A Museum of Tolerance will open in the heart of Jerusalem within four years, though at half the size and cost previously planned.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which runs the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, as well as the proposed Jerusalem institution, said Sunday that the plan for the Jerusalem museum will be scaled down under the new plan to one large building of 120,000 square feet, at an estimated cost ranging from $80 million to a maximum of $100 million.

The downscaling of the design is due to the global economic downturn, Hier said.

Speculation about the future of the controversial project peaked last week after famed architect Frank Gehry acknowledged publicly that he was withdrawing from the enterprise.

Hier said that four Israeli architects have been invited to submit designs for the Jerusalem building, and a final selection is expected within 90 days.

There have been years of delay since the 2004 groundbreaking after Palestinian and some Israeli advocacy groups claimed that the site for the new museum is an ancient Muslim cemetery that would be desecrated by the museum’s construction.

The Israeli Supreme Court considered the legal arguments for nearly four years, finally giving the go-ahead last year to the Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center.

Last Nov. 5, the Wiesenthal Center board of trustees unanimously agreed on the more modest parameters of the museum. The decision was not made public, Hier said, because it was hoped to link its announcement to the appointment of a new Israeli architect.

Besieged by questions, Hier and Gehry released a joint statement last week acknowledging the “redesign” and Gehry’s withdrawal due to his commitment “to other projects around the globe.”

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