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Hadrian - Supreme Commander (Beit Shean)
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Coin commemorating Hadrian’s visit to Judea
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Hadrian (Tel Shalem)
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Hadrian (Thames River), British Museum
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Coin commerorating Hadrian’s visit to Britain
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Monumental inscription found in Jerusalem near Damascus Gate

The Hadrian Exhibit
at the Israel Museum

It’s a Bust! In Fact - it’s Three!
by David Willner for Foundation Stone

It should have moved me. It should have been momentous. I’ve been tracking Hadrian, Bar Kochba, and Rabbi Akiva for some time now - and I was eagerly awaiting this exhibit.

It was underwhelming. Nicely presented, and featuring the three busts of Hadrian above for the first time I can’t say it was a waste of time. The man known to history as one of the five “Good Emperors of Rome” but known to the Jews as “Hadrianus shechik atzamot (may his bones be pulverised) cast no new light or insight into the man who would crush a revolt of epic proportions.

To be sure, they fleshed out the exhibit with a few Hadrian coins from Judea and Brittania. The ubiquitous sandals from the Yadin excavation in Nahal Hever (Cave of Letters) were on display together with some door handle-keys, and a letter from Bar Kochba. But this exhibit should have told a story… could have told a story. An epic story from a pivotal period in Jewish and world history that has vast implications. And in this, the Israel Museum has come up short.

The introductory video at the entrance to the exhibit was well done but uninspired. In fact - the most riveting thing was the video that demonstrated the casting/making of a bronze bust.

If you’ve never been to the Israel Museum, then now’s a good time to go. The weather is mild, the museum not too crowded. And it’s worth a stop to see this exhibit if you’re there any way. But is it worth the price of admission (54nis) just to see Hadrian up close? On that question, I’d have to say, it’s a bust.