Serendipity in the moribund museum halls

Steven Wenick
Steven Wenick

Having reluctantly acceded to my wife’s wishes to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony of the recently uncovered (1996) Lod Mosaic, I steeled myself for a tedious and boring afternoon at the University of Pennsylvania Archaeology and Anthropology Museum. Prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony I joined the rather eclectic and eccentric group of academic looking visitors who were scrutinizing the huge mosaic prominently displayed on the floor just outside the Canaan Exhibition Hall. Not wanting to look out of place, I mimicked what seemed to be the prevailing meditative pose they assumed as I too scrutinized the artistic worth of the myriad of tesserae, (multi-colored small stones) which make up the magnificent work.

While in thought, I overheard someone speaking Hebrew. I glanced over my shoulder and saw the speaker was a distinguished and well-dressed man standing close by me. The comments he made to his companion were about several ancient oil lamps, which had been discovered in Israel, now prominently displayed in the adjacent Roman Exhibition Hall. Never one to let a Hebrew speaking person pass me by without engaging them in one way or another, I echoed his remark in Hebrew just loud  enough for him to hear it with the expectation that he would react to me. He did.

As it turns out the gentleman lives in Rehovot, a town next to Mazkeret Batya, where my daughter Jennifer and her family live. We talked briefly about places we knew in common in the surrounding neighborhoods like the upscale restaurant Achuzat Margo (Chateau Margaux,) where family and friends recently celebrated my wife’s milestone birthday, and Bilu Center, an overcrowded shopping mall located close by.  We finished our conversation by reminiscing about shopping in Shuk Hapishpashim, a flea market located in Old Jaffa.

As we prepared to take leave of each other, I introduced myself to him and he responded by telling me his name; it was Yaron Sideman. His name sounded vaguely familiar and I had the feeling I had seen his face before but I could not remember where. As he walked away and stepped out of the Roman Exhibition Hall disappearing down a corridor, I was suddenly struck with the realization that I had been talking to Yaron Sideman, The Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region.

As it turned out, the Lod Mosaic exhibition and accompanying lecture were fascinating and very informative. And in addition to having been educated about the mosaic, I also learned that even the moribund halls of a dry and dusty museum can hold some interesting surprises.

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