Unique photographs and the wealth of other artefacts

National History Museum of Belarus exhibition opens, devoted to 90th birthday of Israeli President Shimon Peres and centenary of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin
By Olga Smirnova

The exhibition recreates the atmosphere of a Jewish settlement in Belarus, displaying unique photographs from Israel and original artefacts from the Jewish way life — including ritual objects from the archives of the National History Museum of the Republic of Belarus and the Museum of History and Culture of Jews.

Speaking on the joint project, Gennady Polishchuk, the First Secretary of the Embassy of the State of Israel, tells us, “The exhibition is interesting in tracing the life of Jewish people in Belarus, showing how this influenced the life of Jewish people in Israel. When we speak about our people it’s one thing; however, it’s quite another when we see with our own eyes. It’s wonderful to realise how much Belarus has given us, in the shape of such outstanding people as Shimon Peres and Menachem Begin. Of course, many other natives of Belarus have made a huge contribution to the creation and development of Israel.”

Belarus is the Motherland of many outstanding representatives of the Jewish people. Vitebsk brought forth artist Marc Chagall, while the village of Zembin, in the Borisov District of the Minsk Region, has given the world artist Nadia Khodasevich-Lйger. Smilovichi in the Minsk Region was the birthplace of artist Chaim Soutine while sci-fi writing legend Isaac Asimov was from the village of Petrovichi, in the Mogilev Region. The village of Uzlyany, in the Pukhovichy District, gave us American businessman David Sarnov: one of the founders of radio-and telecasting in the USA. Lazar Meir (Louis Burt Mayer), the founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, was born in Minsk while the first president of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, came from the village of Motol, in the Ivanovo District; the latter’s home now houses a museum. The village of Luzhki, in the Sharkovchshina District of the Vitebsk Region, brought forth Eliezer Ben-Yehuda — ‘the father of modern Hebrew’. Meanwhile, the third president of the State of Israel, scientist and writer Shazar Shneur Zalman, came from the Grodno Region’s Mir, in the Korelichi District. The list could continue, as there are a great many Jews with direct connections to Belarus.

The current President of Israel, Shimon Peres, comes from the village of Vishnevo, in the Volozhin District of the Minsk Region. His grandfather was Rabbi Zvi Meltzer, the head of the local Jewish community, who died alongside his Jewish brothers in 1941; the house in which Shimon was born now bears a memorial plaque. Vishnevo’s Centre of Culture is now permanently showing a photo-exhibition brought from Israel: Shimon Peres — the Path from Vilenskaya Street in Vishnevo to the Presidential Street in Jerusalem. Shimon Peres has visited his original homeland several times but was sadly unable to make the journey this year. In his stead, his daughter, Tzvia Walden, took the trip, drinking water from the well, as her father, grandfather and great-grandfather have done before her. During his last visit to Vishnevo, Shimon Peres joked, “This is healing water so whoever drinks it, will live for more than a hundred years.”

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