By Asaf Elia-Shalev
An $18 million museum dedicated to the legacy of Albert Einstein will be built in Jerusalem.
The Israeli government approved a plan Sunday to establish a new home for Einstein’s extensive materials, including some 85,000 documents, on the campus of the Hebrew University, which Einstein helped found a century ago.
It’s the largest collection of papers and objects related to Einstein in the world and includes his Nobel Prize and the original notes he produced while developing the general theory of relativity in 1916, according to Benyamin Cohen, who is writing a biography of the physicist.
“Albert Einstein is an asset, the biggest brand name in the world for intelligence, science and genius,” Israel’s alternate prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said on Saturday, adding that he expects the museum to become “a pilgrimage site for anyone who wants to become familiar with Einstein, Jewish intelligence, and intelligence in general.”
A third of the funding for the museum will come from the Israeli government and the rest from the university and its donors, including art collector Jose Mugrabi.
Einstein was one of the earliest and most important champions of Hebrew University, using his profile as one of the world’s leading scientists to raise money for the institution. At a fundraising conference in 1954, a year before his death, he said in a speech that the university would be critical to Israel’s trajectory as a young country.
“Israel is the only place on earth where Jews have the possibility to shape public life according to their traditional ideals,” Einstein said. “We are all greatly concerned that its final shape will be worthy and gratifying. To what extent this goal will be reached will depend significantly on the growth and development of the Hebrew University.”
His support for the university and for Israel was so deeply appreciated that Einstein was asked to become the country’s president in 1952, but he declined.
After Einstein died in 1955, the Hebrew University inherited his papers, letters, medals and “all other literary property and rights, of any and every kind or nature whatsoever,” per Einstein’s will.
The announcement of the Albert Einstein museum adds to a spate of new and planned museums and other cultural institutions in recent years in Israel, which are being funded to a large extent by philanthropic dollars from Jews living in the United States.
In Jerusalem, it will join the new Museum of Tolerance and the nearly completed new home of the National Library of Israel. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv has seen a recent $100 million renovation that created the ANU Museum of the Jewish People, as well as the opening of the Israel Innovation Museum at the Peres Center for Peace and the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.