After the overwhelming reaction from the local community about the announcement of the MoHE Jerusalem Unit regarding the transfer \ donation\selling (the truth is still unknown) of the belongings of the School’s museum that consisted of mummified animals and species, I decided to dig in some research. After all, we should always maintain the benefit of the doubt.
Let’s discuss what findings we have in this regard:
– an official announcement from the Ministry of Higher Education condemning the activities conducted by the school and demanding clarification.
– Photos from the exhibition in Tel Aviv University’s Natural History Museum. (3 photos)
– One of the images is entitled: “Father Ernst Schmitz Collection 1845-1922. The History of collecting in the land of Israel.”
The statement on the image is the following: “ Father Ernst Schmitz. A German priest and archaeologist served in Jerusalem as Director of the German Association of the Holy Land from 1908 until his death. He researched the fauna of the land and its environs, established the first nature museum in the Holy Land, and left a collection that provides rare documentation of the landscapes of the country and its biodiversity as it was 100 years ago, including species now extinct in Israel and the region. As a collector, he also obtained animals from different places around the world. For many years the collection was preserved in the basement of the St Paul Hospice(known as Schmidt School) in East Jerusalem where the association established a museum to showcase its contribution to the exploration of the Holy Land in different fields. The collection is on permanent loan and display at Tel Aviv University’s Steinhardt Museum of Natural History. ”
– The second photo is about the belongings themselves; A lot of them.
The second photo is very familiar with what it consists. I could relocate most of the items in the vast museum (basement) where it was born.
The first photo reflects clearly on how heritage and history are being falsified.
Going through the Tel Aviv Museum Annual report of 2008\2009, the same Father Ernst Schmidt had a whole chapter about his findings. I think there was not enough coordination with the information provided on the exhibition and the report regarding the data and the outcomes, as the first findings were in Haifa, where the man also died.
In the report quite exciting ideas are there: “In 1908 he was chosen to succeed the Vincentian priest Wilhelm Schmidt (1833-1907) as director of the establishment in Palestine of the Deutschen vom Heiligen Lande”, a German Catholic organization that kept hospices and supported centers for pilgrims in the Holy Land. In September of that year, he moved to Palestine, to direct the hospice of St Paul in Jerusalem,, where he remained until 1914.
In the hospice, he founded a natural history museum, with a section for the specimens collected in Palestine and other example brought from other regions, which included 45 stuffed birds and 157 plant samples brought from Madeira. To enlarge his collection, he organized field trips and asked students and locals to bring him animal and plant specimens. ….with the outbreak of world war 1, he was forced to go to Damascus, where he remained there until he could return to Palestine .since 1920 he ran the hospice of San Carlos in Haifa. He died in Haifa and was buried in the crypt of the convent of the German religious mount Carmel. “+
Why am I mentioning all this? From one hand it is informative. It entirely reflects on a heritage of the place and the species in it . from the other hand, and it says clearly how information is forged in the same source. To start with the naming. The exhibition says it is the land of Israel, and the research keeps repeating the word Palestine.
I don’t want to go to the endless discussion, was in Palestine, was there any Palestine? Even Palestine according to the research above is before the Mandate creation of the state.
This man created according to the research the first museum of its kind in the basement of St Paul, Schmidt’s school, while in the exhibition the reader would imagine a bunch of valuables stacked in a basement.
We are not talking about a misinformation. The ministry of Education acted upon the situation when they knew about it, and somehow it was only possible to know about it when an exhibition was announced.
It is of course other Authority’s responsibilities and obligations to have been aware of what is happening in the school.
I have to say, that in a rare case with me, I have to defend the PA. The PA can hardly manage institutions in Jerusalem due to the significant pressure that is encountered on the PA and the institutions by the state of Israel. Many don’t know about the existence of the museum inside the school. But it is part of every single graduate heritage. It is part of a collective memory of how we received our education and how we are related to that school. It is not a surprise that the minister of tourism or the environment or education knows about. It is the responsibility of the school administration to maintain and inform and provide information to the officials and families.
The school has undergone significant changes in its administration, which can explain the communication and the understanding of the society. But the link of Shmidt is an integrated relationship between the school and the community. This is why it has not been an impossible task to perform with the new administration. This is one major institution of Jerusalem and Palestine when it comes to education.
As a student of Schmidt’s, and as a resident of Jerusalem, and as a Palestinian who truly believes in a life that can only be better through proper education. Education that is not about books and scientific information just, but ethics, integrity, and morality. Knowledge of such, that Schmidt’s Girls College inserted inside its students for a generation, to bring about the best changes that can be added to this society despite all the difficulties and injustices.
It sounds not only painful , but it feels as if it is part of a treachery , a treason to all of us who consider this school as part of our identity , to go around the heritage, culture, the richness, the growth that Schmidt had helped build together with the locals of this country and the students along his path in bringing enrichment and progress to the different civilizations.
Germans have always been part of what makes us stronger, regardless of the historical responsibility of Germany towards the outcome of the second world war and the immigration of Jews to Palestine. However, this school has always been part of what orchestrates the heritage of Jerusalem.
As we also believe in building peace in this country. Ignoring the Palestinian authority in Jerusalem is violating to the status of Jerusalem. We don’t have to discuss international law here or even local laws. The apparent violation of all regulations is in the statement above that mentions the “land of Israel” to the collection. But I Don’t want to discuss this. It is obvious and does not need clarifications or accusations. It is a clear violation.
But then, how can the school with its administration and with the representative office allow this to happen? How could they jeopardize the trust of the people of Jerusalem for more than a century towards this school with not even thinking twice to consult graduates, or teachers or families or current students? This is an ABC in the status of Jerusalem.
It is of course not a surprise for Tel Aviv University, that is by default standing on the ruins of Sheikh Muawannes. But the
I hope that the school administration and the German representative office and the German officials elsewhere take responsibility and fix this horrific act immediately.
+ Chapters in the history of the National Collections of Natural Histroy of Tel Aviv Universtiy . Annual Reprot 2008/2009