Israel’s Natural History Museum will continue to hide an evolution exhibit and a dinosaur display from view when ultra-Orthodox Jews visit so as not to offend their beliefs.
The Times of Israel reported that the permanent exhibit of images, texts and archeological finds outlining the evolution of humans from apes at the museum in Jerusalem would be temporarily covered with a sheet.
A visitor who asked about the sheet was told that Haredim did not want to view the items. Many ultra-Orthodox Jews reject the theory of evolution and that the world is 13.9 billion years old and follow the Bible’s version of the world's creation less than 6,000 years ago.
The museum’s educational director, Evgeny Roznitsky, later told Haaretz: “The agreement is that when such a group arrives we close the curtain and the guide does not explain about those parts. When they leave, we open the curtain.
“It has happened 12 times and we would be happy for more. Before this year there were no Haredi groups at all, only in a few private frameworks. This year groups come from [Haredi] schools in an organized manner, so I still think this is an achievement,” Roznitsky added.
The move has sparked protests outside the museum and provoked a heated debate.
Uri Keidar, Executive Director of Be Free Israel, a group promoting religious pluralism said on Facebook that, “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.
“If the latter is true, they should at least change their name, because it is not a scientific museum,” Keidar said.
Jerry Coyne, who is an evolution professor at the University of Chicago complained in an open letter that the museum was guilty of “lying by omission.”
"Your blatant censorship offends me...but of course you’d prefer to offend scientists and truth-seekers than those who harbor religious superstitions," he wrote on his website.
But museum employee Uzi Danon told the Times of Israel that the lack of funds meant that it needed the revenue from Haredim visitors.
“We want the public to be here. Had the museum received funds we would immediately tell the Haredi groups ‘Bye-bye, go home, we don’t need you.'”
“We want to continue operating, they want to close the place down,” he added.
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