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Cradle of Christianity: Treasures From the Holy Land, opening today at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, features more than 150 artifacts stretching back to the fourth century. "People don't always connect these pieces to reality," says David Mevorah, curator of Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine archaeology at the Israel Museum, which put together the exhibit.

Among the items on display: the Temple Scroll, part of the dead sea scrolls, which has never been displayed before; the burial container of Caiaphas the High Priest, who, according to the Bible, handed Jesus over to the Romans; and a heel bone punctured by an iron nail, the only piece of physical evidence we have that people were crucified back in the day. "The point is to take these well-known stories and show them from a different angle," says Mevorah.

Cradle of Christianity gathers ancient items from the Israel Museum, the permanent home of these historical pieces. The Maltz Museum was instrumental in bringing the exhibit to the States — many of them for the first time. The objects — which come from the fourth through seventh centuries — hold a much a greater significance than just being really old relics, says Mevorah. "They allow people to view a direct contact with the past," he says.

The exhibit is set up in two stages. The first documents the period in which Jesus supposedly lived; the second explores the birth of Judaism and Christianity. All of the artifacts were uncovered in Israel during excavations over the years. "Hopefully, viewers will understand how close our lives are to the lives of ancient people," says Mevorah. "We're not that different."
Saturdays, 12-5 p.m.; Mondays-Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Starts: April 1. Continues through Oct. 22, 2006

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