Source: Associated Press
By ILAN BEN ZION
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — After decades of planning and delays, Israel is opening the doors of a new national natural history museum in the city of Tel Aviv, a facility that aims to increase scientific education despite religious opposition to the theory of evolution.
The ultra-modern ark-shaped edifice is set to open in July alongside the Tel Aviv University campus and houses over 5.5 million specimens of species from around the globe. But the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History places special emphasis on the flora and fauna indigenous to the Holy Land and Middle East. The $40 million project, decades in the making, was funded in large part by American billionaire Michael Steinhardt, a major donor to Israel who keeps a menagerie of exotic animals on his estate north of Manhattan.
The museum’s curators say the institution — ticketed as the only natural history research center in the Middle East — aims to raise public awareness about the natural world and environment by highlighting both the country’s ecological diversity at the crossroads of three continents, and the devastation wrought by modern development.
Its halls combine traditional dioramas and innovative interactive displays to showcase thousands of specimens. Stuffed hawks, pelicans and vultures swirling around the building’s entrance are meant to depict epic avian migrations from Africa to Europe through Israel.