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Hebrew University’s “Monstrous Carbuncle” on Jerusalem Skyline to Showcase Einstein Legacy

einstein's goden helmet

Einstein’s “golden helmet” crowning Mt. Scopus (Amir Schiby)

Haaretz yesterday reported that the Hebrew University, the prime minister’s office, and the city of Jerusalem have announced a grandiose architectural plan to build a 25-story building in the shape of a golden helmet on the top of Mt. Scopus.  The new building will be dedicated to the legacy of Albert Einstein, whose archives the University holds.  It will be called the Einstein Heritage Center and is designed to take advantage of what Einstein would offer as a tourist attraction.  It would also serve as a counter-delegitimization strategy, allowing Israel to appropriate one of the world’s greatest scientific minds on behalf of Zionism and the modern Israeli state:

“The center will go up at Hebrew University on Mount Scopus and will overlook the Temple Mount and the whole city and will constitute a magnet for tourists from abroad and from Israel, Israeli youth, scientists and students,” the explanatory material for the plan states. “The center will combine museum activities with other activities that will demonstrate in an experiential way Albert Einstein’s work and personality, with an emphasis on his connection to Judaism, Zionism and the state of Israel and his great contribution to science and culture in the past and in the present.”

A bit of history of Einstein’s views on Israel and Zionism is in order.  Before the war, Einstein was a skeptic about the Zionist project.  He was, like Ahad HaAm, a cultural Zionist, who believed the Jewish people did not need a nation or army to realize its destiny.  He also firmly believed that creating a Jewish state without the agreement of the Arabs was a serious mistake.  He advocated a binational state and his views were similar to those of Martin Buber and Brit Shalom.

With the Holocaust, his ideas changed significantly and he lobbied strenuously on behalf of the UN Partition plan which did precisely what he’d earlier argued against.  In the 1950s, after Chaim Weizmann died, Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel and he graciously and politely declined.  Though his demurral claimed he had no interest in politics, this was likely a more telling reason. He wrote to his daughter on the subject:

“If I were to be president, sometime I would have to say to the Israeli people things they would not like to hear.”.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein makes known his view of the Hebrew University Einstein Heritage Center

In 1948, Einstein signed a letter to the New York Times decrying an upcoming visit to the U.S. by Menachem Begin.  The letter called Begin a Jewish fascist and likened Herut, his party, to the Nazi party.  One can only imagine what Einstein would make of the latter-day incarnation of Zionist Revisionism and Begin’s Herut Party.  The very idea that Bibi Netanyahu is championing a memorial to Einstein that will support supremacist nationalist notions he detested, is repulsive.

It’s also important to note as Haaretz does, that the location for this memorial is, in part, beyond the Green Line, hence in occupied Palestinian territory.  Further, Scopus is the highest point in Jerusalem and the building, with its immense height, will be visible from every point in the city.  It will shine as a golden beacon affirming Jewish possession of the city.  This too, is a goal Einstein would find sickening.

If anyone reading this knows any Einstein family member, I would like to speak to them about the project.  One presumes the Hebrew University would’ve done so.  It’s hard for me to believe they would sign off on such an aggrandizing, tasteless, and patently offensive commemoration of the life and contribution of Albert Einstein.

Prince Charles, though no expert on modern architecture, once called a Norman Foster design a “monstrous carbuncle.”  Needless to say, the building was never built.  In this case, the Einstein Heritage Center project appears to be a true monstrous carbuncle on the Jerusalem skyline.  It doesn’t take a Prince Charles for us to understand this.

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Ami May 7, 2013, 1:58 AM

    Amazing. From the moment I started reading the article I assumed you’d once again prove your ignorance, and you didn’t disappoint. Mount Scopus is an exclave under internationally recognized Israeli sovereignty.

    • Richard Silverstein May 7, 2013, 2:06 AM

      @Ami: Gee, you must’ve missed this written clear as day in the Haaretz article:

      The plan is likely to elicit international objections as the structure is located, at least in part, outside the area of the Mount Scopus enclave – that is, beyond the Green Line, Israel’s pre-1967 border.

    • talknic May 8, 2013, 8:03 PM

      @ AMi ” Mount Scopus is an exclave under internationally recognized Israeli sovereignty.”

      On which date was it legally annexed to Israel, by agreement with who and by which countries is it internationally recognized Israeli sovereignty? Name one.

  • Damien Finter May 7, 2013, 2:09 AM

    Einstein stood in the best tradition of Jewish humanism; we are all his family members.
    The Palestinians should claim him for one of those welcome to their homeland, and use this attempted misuse to demand an inclusive democratic state without reservations, in both senses of that apartheid linked word.
    Jews of good will should be the ones to lead this endeavour, in order to rightly honour not just a great thinker, but a great human soul.
    And Jewish scientists should be the first ones recruited, in the name of scientific rigor for truth seeking over mythmaking.
    Turn it back on the fascists. Explain how Einstein would have explained that this distortion is a product of Netanyahu&Co’s standing on the narrowest of exclusivist beams of Judaic sectarianism blocking their pre-human vision.
    Give Einstein a memorial worthy of his humane magnanimity.

    • SimoHurtta May 7, 2013, 3:00 PM

      Well there are many kind of helmets. This in the picture seems to be a Spartan helmet. From the “proud” Israeli history there are obviously not many golden helmets to be used as the basis for architectonic plans. So the shape must be based on a modern helmet or be loaned from the neighbors history.

      Israeli Jews have lost completely their mind if they do not understand that the world will see this “project” only as an unnecessary ans serious insult towards Muslims and their shrine, not as an tribute to Albert Einstein and “humanism”. Really a tasteless plan, but what else can we expect from people like that. A helmet to “describe” a humanist’s life work and paint it with the color of gold (they obviously can not afford it to be plaited with real gold like in some religious places the domes and towers are). These same “great minds” created the low sofa treatment for Turks and now this plan. This is Guinness world records level in idiotic PR seeking plans. Interesting to see what comes next.

      Why not paint with gold the domes of Dimona and begin to call Negev Nuclear Research Center Albert Einstein Center. After all Albert Einstein was a modern physicist, not a soldier from ancient Jerusalem. This would be much cheaper. If a helmet is OK for a humanist’s memory then a nuclear bomb factory must also be.

      • Richard Silverstein May 7, 2013, 6:42 PM

        The “helmet” image was created by Amir Schiby, a montage artist at my request. There’s a picture of the design accompanying the Haaretz article which is pretty much unintelligible as to what it is. It looks like a version of a Smart car.

        • MRW May 8, 2013, 6:43 PM

          Can you show the original “helmet” image?

          • Richard Silverstein May 8, 2013, 6:47 PM

            It’s displayed in the Haaretz article linked in my post. THough it doesn’t look very much like a helmet, or anything for that matter.

  • Anyn. May 7, 2013, 3:05 AM

    With all due respect to the Einstein family, it was Albert Einstein himself who left his archives and the rights to the use of his figure (and probably other rights which I don’t remember) in his legacy.

    Whatever he thought on certain issues and figures of Zionism, it was his intention to benefit the university, which means at least a partial support for the Zionist project.

    Having said that, it seems the plans for the new building are in line with the tradition of isolationist and colonialist architectural choices of the Mt. Scopus campus in general. It’s just sad.

    • djf May 7, 2013, 8:12 AM

      What are the “isolationist and colonialist architectural choices” for the Mt. Scopus campus?

      • Richard Silverstein May 7, 2013, 6:45 PM

        I think at least in part he means that the Mt. Scopus campus is completely divorced from the Palestinian villages surrounding it both geographically, politically & socially. It doesn’t integrate with its surroundings. It stands apart from them just as Israel does in the context of the Middle East region.

  • moshfeq May 7, 2013, 4:26 AM

    Though I haven’t read it, the relatively recent book “Einstein on Israel and Zionism: His Provocative Ideas About the Middle East” may be a relevant source:
    Apparently, Einstein was cremated and his ashes scattered in an unknown location, b/c he didn’t want a pilgrimage site erected in his name, so this gaudy structure may defeat his purpose. Rather, he lent his name to a place that provided a functional service to society, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NY.

  • Rehmat May 7, 2013, 6:35 AM

    On December 4, 1948, Abert Einstein and 27 other Jewish scholars sent a letter to the New York Times calling Irgun lead by former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin – a terrorist, Nazi, Facist and Jewish chauvinist group.


  • The Mighty Cynic May 7, 2013, 6:49 AM

    I agree 100% that they should build a golden DUNCE CAP on top of the highest mountain in all the land.

    On the heels of a dangerous war declared on Syria, Israel knows perfectly well how to double down on angering the world community.

    “Business as usual” — the sociopathy of Israeli leadership is so common that bloggers like Richard have taken their eye off what will be Israel’s first, real existential conflict (just ignited by Netanyahu), and feel they have room to write on other issues, as if a war with Syria is something Israel will survive. Today, and for the first time, Israel really SHOULD have a siege mentality. Their leaders have just betrayed them.

    Who has an invitation to the super bunker several *classified* stories in the ground and developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers? I’m sure they just build those for fun :)

  • pabelmont May 7, 2013, 6:59 AM

    Here’s a link to the Einstein Letter to NYT of 1948

  • Peter May 7, 2013, 1:06 PM

    Cynic, I was thinking more of a Crusader helmet… kind of symbolizes an invasion of the Holy Land.

    • The Mighty Cynic May 7, 2013, 2:00 PM

      Ha! Yes… or maybe ear plugs and a blindfold to symbolize the utter stupidity in thinking that people will come to Israel for a ridiculous looking monument while ignoring Israel’s blatant inhumanity towards millions of Palestinians and their disregard for making inroads towards peace.

  • Linda J May 7, 2013, 9:34 PM

    OT: Richard, are you going to write anything about Rabbi Brant Rosen’s talk in Seattle last night? I believe I saw you there.

    • Richard Silverstein May 8, 2013, 2:04 AM

      Yes, I was there. If there was something special there you thought was worth reporting here, let me know. While I admire Brant as a rabbi for what he’s doing. I didn’t get any revelations last night. Perhaps I’m too jaded.

  • Ron May 7, 2013, 9:38 PM

    Its interesting that the English version of the article says 25 stories high whereas the Hebrew version mentions 25 meters.

    • Richard Silverstein May 8, 2013, 2:03 AM

      25 meters would not tower over the entire city as the article states.

      • Mary Hughes Thompson May 8, 2013, 9:11 AM

        25 meters would only be about three times the height of the Apartheid Wall.

  • Fred Plester May 8, 2013, 2:14 AM

    What if Albert Einstein could read what the Hasbara are currently putting out about Stephen Hawking?

  • Bessam May 8, 2013, 11:46 AM

    There is already a -Stein who “memorialized” zionism — Gertrude Stein wrote:

    The Reverie of the Zionist -Gertrude Stein, 1920

    I know all about the war I have been in France ever since the peace. Remember what was said yesterday.
    We can think and we know that we love our country so.
    Can we believe that all Jews are these.
    Let us remember that the little bird of all is not the one that has the singing dell. It sings and it sings and a great many people say it is not pleasant. Is it likely that there is real grief. Anywhere there are beards and everywhere there are girls and all about there is a wealth of imagery.
    I saw all this to prove that Judaism should be a question of religion.
    Don’t talk about race. Race is disgusting if you don’t love your country.
    I don’t want to go to Zion.
    This is an expression of Shem.

  • Neil May 8, 2013, 4:17 PM

    I say let them build it as is and where they want to build it.

    It signifies Einsteins ideas:
    – A single state as it is to built over the green line and therefore that border is irrelevant
    – A bi-national state for Jews and Arabs

    Then both Jews and Arabs can celebrate a brilliant mind that could have been part of a combined and democratic Israel.

    It is far more supporting of the Palestinians than bibi. It is just that he doesn’t know it.

    He is a fool.

  • talknic May 8, 2013, 8:09 PM

    Better this sort of thing be built in Israel instead of in non-Israeli territory. Already Herzl is buried outside of Israel. Creating more illegal facts on the ground isn’t a good idea

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