Shushan Habira – Where Are You?

From Section:
Informal Education
Feb. 07, 2021
February 2021

Source: Museum Tours


Nachliel Selavan, a Museum Guide who is now providing online virtual Museum Tours, originally from Jerusalem’s Old City, is back in Israel after seven years of teaching full-time in the United States, developing his unique and engaging method of learning Torah through tour, travel and archaeology at MuseumTours shares his story.

On the last day of Chanukah I decided to visit the Israel Museum for some fun on my own. Guiding and group tours were not allowed, so I could only stand back and watch the many people walking through the galleries, knowing there must be something important but not sure at what or where to look, or how to make sense of things. Occasionally I would jump in with a “did you know?” and give a mini-tour. I watched an older couple with their 7-8 year old grandson.

“This is so boring,” he exclaimed. “Try to have fun”, said his grandmother. His grandfather was sitting on a bench talking on the phone, disengaged. Sadly, this is what I see so often in museums.

My journey to the world of museum education was not straightforward. I stumbled upon it. My father, a tour guide, urged me to visit an exhibition called Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, as I was teaching in the US for the past 7 years. Seeing lots of ancient Egyptian artifacts was cool, but I didn’t know what to do with it, and sort of felt lost. And then he surprised me with a visit and walked the galleries with me; pointing out dates on plaques; “this is from the time of Yehoshua” and “this is from the time of the Patriarchs (Avot)”. And then I got it. As we say in Israel “nafal ha-asimon” - it fell into place: When seen in the context of Jewish History, we may connect our identity to the history and archaeology of many cultures.

This notion is oversimplified, but it was the first step on my path to becoming a museum educator. I would now like to share with you one example and connect it to Purim.

Until about 100 years ago, we did not really know firsthand what ancient Persia was like. Apart from the Tanach, we only knew about them as the barbarians in the Persian-Greek wars by Herodotus. But who were they really? What did they look like? How did they manage to control the largest empire in the world? This is where the excavations in Susa (Shushan) and other Persian cities, palaces and tombs shed light on this mystery.

The famous Cyrus Cylinder, and many other important and exciting discoveries from the palaces of the Persian kings, have revived the story of that lost Empire. You can learn about the sophisticated administration through their multilingual inscriptions; you can imagine the messengers of Achashverosh speeding along the road from Susa to Sardis (described by Herodotus as the fastest road in the world); and you can learn about the dynamics between Haman and Achashverosh through the lens of tax collection and Persian weights. The palaces and their remains indeed tell the story of Purim in ways we did not imagine.

I would like to invite you to see some of these fantastic discoveries with me, on a virtual tour that will take you, not only to the locations themselves - Shushan, and other cities in ancient Persia - but also to some of the world's great museums, where the palace artifacts are displayed. This tour is called “In the Days of Achashverosh," and there are several public and private tours scheduled before Purim. Each Zoom virtual tour is one-hour long, with Q&A following. Both Hebrew and English editions are scheduled.

The excitement of Jewish learning and Jewish history when meeting the stories themselves is an eye-opening experience, which I hope will enrich your enjoyment of Purim this year!

The Purim Tour is available here.

Browse the website for other exciting virtual tours!




Updated: Feb. 22, 2021
Distance learning | Experiential education | Festivals | Museums | Purim