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The Met at Marble

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HOWARD SACKSTEIN

The glitterati social set of South African Jewry gathered last week at celebrity Chef David Higg’s Marble restaurant in Rosebank, for the South African Friends of the Israel Museum annual dinner and charity art auction.

In a stroke of creative genius, the South African Friends of the Israel Museum committee convinced Master Chef Higgs (previously of 500 at the Saxon) to kasher his award-winning kitchen for the event. The restaurant which opened last year, has consistently had month-long waiting lists for a booking.

Glitz and glamour were the order of the day as guests were treated to a super salad filled with pomegranate seeds and edamame beans, a rare Scotch fillet topped with marrow bone and an unsweetened chocolate cake on a pineapple base.

Under the careful eye of both his mashgiach and kosher caterer and cookbook author Estelle Sacharowitz, Higgs produced a kosher meal that could rival any top restaurant in South Africa.

Director emeritus and international president for the museum’s worldwide activities, James S Snyder regaled the audience with tales of the Israel Museum. The museum boasts one of the world’s finest art collections and is considered among the top 100 museums in the world.

In his newly-created role, Snyder is responsible for developing the museum’s international network of Friends organisations, of which South Africa is one.

More than a million visitors walk the halls of the Israel Museum each year. The highlight of the museum is undoubtedly the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. The 2 000-year-old Scrolls are 950 manuscripts discovered by Bedouin shepherds between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves near Qumran, on the shores of the Dead Sea.

The white dome of the Shrine of the Book is shaped to resemble the lids of the jars in which the manuscripts were found. Opposite the dome-shaped shrine, is a stark black wall, a contrasting homage to the “Sons of Light” fighting the “Sons of Darkness” referenced in the Scrolls.

Although the art collection of the Israel Museum is one of the greatest collections in the world, one of the most controversial archaeological pieces in the collection is a small ivory pomegranate with the inscription in ancient Hebrew reading: “Belonging to the Temple, holy to the priests”.

For years many scholars believed that this tiny ornament once adorned the sceptre of the high priest of the Temple during the Second Temple period. While its origin is unknown, the Investigative Committee of Israel in 2004 concluded that the inscription is likely to be a suspected archaeological forgery, although the ivory pomegranate itself appears to be over 3 000 years old.

The evening concluded with a high energy art auction with a David Goldblatt photograph of domestic workers in Johannesburg in the 1970s, fetching an astounding R200 000.

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