Steinhardt Museum inaugurated with flare and critters

Giant green bugs, a lion and a troupe of acrobats were among the creatures greeting guests at the inauguration of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Israel National Center for Biodiversity Studies
04 July 2017
Judy and Michael J. Steinhardt and their grandchildren at the inauguration. Credit: Israel Hadari

The festive atmosphere underscored the historic occasion: the imminent opening of the Steinhardt Natural History Museum at Tel Aviv University. 


The Museum’s dedication, which took place on June 26, honored its founding benefactor, Michael J. Steinhardt, Judy Steinhardt and their family, in the presence of Tel Aviv-Yafo Mayor Ron Huldai, government ministers and other senior public officials. The first of its kind in the region, the Museum will house 5 million animal and plant specimens when it opens to the public in the fall.


The dignitaries as well as the Steinhardts’ children, David Steinhardt and Sarah Berman, lauded Steinhardt for his passion for the natural world and Israel and for his generosity in enabling TAU to build a world-class museum. The speakers also praised TAU Prof. Tamar Dayan, the Museum’s founding chair, for her vision and determination in bringing the Museum to realization.


 “I easily imagine your children and grandchildren being here and discovering wonders that would not be found elsewhere,” said Steinhardt to the overflowing, newly-inaugurated Fabian-Cyril Boisson Auditorium.


Judy Steinhardt said that she knew the Museum would be a success because of the excitement her grandchildren expressed when they saw the bug collection. “This is a dream come true,” she said.



With the exhibits partially on display, guests were treated to a sampling of what the Museum will offer as well as a reception on the Museum’s terrace, which overlooks the University’s Botanic Garden.


“This is a big treasure,” said TAU President Prof. Joseph Klafter. “It will make Israel a global hub for biodiversity studies. The Steinhardt name will be forever connected to love for the natural world, love for education, and love for the State of Israel.”


Minister of Environmental Protection and Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Zeev Elkin spoke of the “fascinating symbolism” of the Museum’s structure – shaped liked Noah’s Ark. Like the Biblical Noah, he said, the Museum will preserve Israel’s species.  “Protecting biodiversity is a Mitzvah.”


During the ceremony, well-known singer Einat Sarouf serenaded Steinhardt and his family with a few Israeli classics.


The dedication culminated when Director General of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority Shaul Goldstein affixed a mezuzah to the Museum’s entrance and recited the ritual blessings.


TAU is grateful to all of the Museum’s supporters, among them:

  • Steinhardt family
  • Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council of Higher Education
  • Ministry of Environmental Protection
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Ministry of Tourism
  • Ministry of Science & Technology
  • Ministry of Heritage and Jerusalem
  • Yad Hanadiv
  • Dan David Foundation
  • Ted Arison Family Foundation
  • Millie Phillips
  • Shmunis Family Donor Advised Fund
  • Boisson-Kerber family


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