A stroll through downtown Jerusalem’s Zion Square pedestrian mall is punctuated by musicians playing anything from Israeli folk to classic pop. Now, there’s a permanent address for live music and music culture in the neighborhood at Kikar Hamusica (Music Square) on Yoel Moshe Salomon Street just off Zion Square.
“We have created Kikar Hamusica right in the center of downtown Jerusalem to unify mankind through the happiness and spirituality that only comes from music,” says Laurent Levy, the French immigrant behind the multifaceted project. “We believe that all people, regardless of religion, race, social status or cultural roots, have a place in Kikar Hamusica.”
The complex is currently a work in progress. Already open is the Hebrew Music Museum, a music-themed gift shop and art gallery, 17 luxury apartments decorated in a music theme for short or long term rental, and five music-themed restaurants and pubs around a courtyard with a stage for afternoon and evening performances. Also planned for development is a music school, a recording studio, Hebrew music library, and a music-themed boutique hotel. The existing boutique hotel next door, The Harmony, is not part of the project, even if its name certainly fits the theme.
“We wanted to provide a platform of honor for the cultural heritage of Jewish Diaspora music, and there is no place more appropriate than Jerusalem. At the Hebrew Music Museum, anyone can learn about our musical heritage in a technological, innovative, and interesting way,” Levy stated in regards to the fully interactive museum that opened in late April following four and a half years of construction. Every visitor gets a tablet and headphones so they can learn more details, play games such as musical trivia, and hear each of the 260 musical instruments displayed in exquisitely appointed rooms. Self-guided tours are available in English, Spanish, Russian, and French as well as Hebrew.
Photo by: Abigail Klein Leichman
Museum Director Eldad Levy is an expert in playing antique instruments such as the harmonium, ancient hand drums, and the Persian santur (a stringed wooden box played with mallets). He was hired by Laurent Levy to play at a family event and the two ended up conceptualizing the museum together. Pretty awesome, huh?
Eldad Levy, director of the Hebrew Music Museum. Photo: Courtesy.
The furnishings and décor were handcrafted by artisans including Neal Oseroff, who hand-painted the Atrium ceiling in the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, according to the aesthetics of the particular region being displayed such as Morocco-Andalusia, Central Asia, Europe, the Balkans, Iraq/Syria, Israel, Yemen, and Africa. “The collections are grouped geographically to display how Hebrew music evolved in the diaspora following the destruction of the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians 2,500 years ago,” explains Yaniv Levy, the museum’s marketing manager.
Though Laurent, Eldad, and Yaniv Levy are not related, their surname implies that they are all descended from the biblical tribe of Levi, which provided vocal and instrumental music in the two Jewish temples of ancient Jerusalem that are in walking distance from the site of the museum in the Nachalat Shiva neighborhood.
The museum features a tabletop model where visitors can put on Oculus headsets for a virtual-reality tour of the Temple and its music-making Levites.
“We believe music brings people together,” says Yaniv Levy. “We want to create a connection to the different people in Israel via music. The aesthetics of the museum are very important to the vision. When people hear and see magnificent things, it touches the good in themselves. And when you are able to touch the good in someone, the good spreads out.”
Originally posted at Israel21c.