Biblical Archaeology Review 18:2, March/April 1992

Against All Odds: Elie Borowski Builds His Museum

Neither inflation, nor intifada, nor the unwillingness of others to share his dream could stop this man.

By Suzanne F. Singer

Elie Borowski impatiently thrusts aside questions about the cost of the Jerusalem Bible Lands Museum that will open on May 10, 1992. “It is unholy to the mission to speak about money. Just say it is nes min hashamayim (a miracle from heaven). Right away, from its opening, it will be one of the great museums of the world.”

Later in our conversation he returns, on his terms, to the value of his extraordinary collection and to the cost of the magnificent museum that now houses it. Seventy-eight-year-old Borowski rumbles to a crescendo over the transatlantic phone line: “I was a failed philologist, a failed Talmudist; I failed as a rabbi and as a professor, but I did not fail as an art dealer. I made big, big, big, big money. But instead of building an empire of oil or an empire of banks or of real estate, I built an empire of mishegoss.” Borowski, born in Poland and nurtured in his early years to be a great rabbi and scholar, uses the Yiddish word that carries the notion of a crazy obsession.

The exquisite museum, nestled on the same hillside in Jerusalem as the sprawling Israel Museum, houses Elie Borowski’s obsession—a collection of more than 3,000 artifacts, gathered lovingly by him, one by one, to illustrate or to confirm events and peoples mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.

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