Israel academics create exhibition on ‘sensitive issue’ evolution

Tel Aviv University researchers face down religious objections with new museum attraction

June 6, 2018
A skull in hand
Source: iStock

Israeli academics have played a key role in the creation of an exhibition on human evolutionary development at the country’s first dedicated natural history museum.

Evolution is a controversial subject for some devoutly religious Israelis and the new exhibition at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History at Tel Aviv University has been placed on the top floor so that those who object are not “forced” to visit it.

“It’s really a sensitive issue in Israel,” Israel Hershkovitz, a Tel Aviv University anthropology professor, told The Washington Post. “It’s up to everyone whether he wants to see the anthropological exhibition or not. He is not forced to pass through it, it’s the last part of the exhibition, he can go and see it, or if he doesn’t want to see it, he doesn’t have to.”

The Natural History Museum said in a statement that the exhibit’s placement on the top floor was “made within considerations from several angles, which include the museum curation and story plan and the space of each of the museum galleries”.

Israel’s state-funded ultra-Orthodox institutions, which make up 23 per cent of its schools, do not teach the theory of evolution and there is limited teaching of human evolution even in the country’s non-religious schools.  

However, Tel Aviv University does extensive research on evolutionary topics and many of the specimens studied by researchers looking into the history and development of the human species will soon be on display for the wider public.

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