Despite outrage, Jerusalem museum vows to keep censoring evolution exhibit

An exhibit on evolution at the Natural History Museum in Jerusalem, blocked from view with a pink sheet, in April 2018. (photo: Michael Bachner / Times of Israel)

Natural History Museum justifies covering up displays during visits by ultra-Orthodox groups, as many in Israel and abroad slam institution as betraying science.

By Michael Bachner | The Times of Israel | May 2, 2018

“Science and knowledge are not a joke. The museum should decide whether it is a scientific museum presenting the truth or an institution with self-censorship that seeks to tell its visitors half-truths and complete lies.”
— Uri Keidar, Executive Director of Be Free Israel, a non-profit which promotes religious pluralism

The Natural History Museum in Jerusalem has vowed to continue its policy of hiding an evolution exhibit from view, along with other displays on dinosaurs and the human body, during visits by ultra-Orthodox groups in order to avoid offending their religious beliefs. The announcement came despite an outrage caused in Israel and abroad by its decision to self-censor displays on evolution, dinosaurs and the human body.

“Of course,” the museum’s educational director, Dr. Evgeny Reznitsky, told The Times of Israel on Tuesday when asked whether he will carry on with the practice, citing the institution’s dire financial situation and saying it was better to have ultra-Orthodox schoolkids visit on their terms than have them not come at all.

As people protested outside the building with a megaphone and demanded that the museum reject the demands set by Haredi schools, Reznitsky said he would only reconsider his position if ordered to stop by municipal authorities.

The Hebrew-language display on evolution, titled “The beginning of human evolution and culture,” details the stages of the gradual transformation from apes to the modern homo sapiens, complete with various skulls, models and ancient hunting tools along with written explanations. When ultra-Orthodox groups visit it is kept under a pink sheet that blocks it from view.

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