As the parent of a boy equally enthralled by escalators and stegasauruses, I’ve never met a Children’s Museum that I didn’t like. I find these places to be especially friendly to candid photo-ops.
Some of my favorite kids museum offerings include:
THE MULTI-LEVEL GERBIL CAGE — BOSTON, MASS.
This is an iconic jungle gym at the Boston Children’s Museum; it’s a carpeted staggered maze that puts those fast food playground labyrinths to shame. Even though there is an escape hatch about two thirds the way up, this is one of those environments where you had better be prepared to go retrieve your child if he or she pulls the cat-stuck-in-a-tree routine.
Of course, scurrying around this maze (for an adult) would be like trying to do aerobics in an airplane bathroom. The museum calls it “safe risk-taking,” so presumably there are few rescue operations needed. Thank God, I’ve never had to squirm in there.
THE GEAR WALL — DOVER, NEW HAMPSHIRE
The gear wall at the New Hampshire Children’s Museum offers a safe way for kiddies to explore the inner workings of machinery — without losing a finger or two. To my knowledge, this exhibit has never had to file an OSHA report.
THE HUMAN BODY MAZE — BANGOR, MAINE
The underrated Maine Discovery Museum — which often gets overshadowed by the Children’s Museum of Maine in posh Portland — boasts the coolest human anatomy exhibit a six-year-old will ever stumble across.
Kiddies can crawl through an aorta, scamper through an unclogged artery, slip undetected inside the throat or lounge around the intestines. Boys and girls can pretend they are globs of cholesterol or droplets of diarrhea!
NOW, ZIP OVER TO THE MIDDLE EAST…
This might shock you: The fun-spirited, light-hearted tone of American kiddie exhibits is sorely lacking at the new Hezbollah Children’s Museum in South Lebanon.
The International Herald Tribune’s Robert F. Worth offers a vivid glimpse of “Hezbollah’s most ambitious multimedia exhibit to date,” a tourist attraction devoted to their all-time terrorist superstar, Imad Mughniyeh.
Mughniyeh was believed to be responsible for:
* The 1983 suicide attacks on the U.S. Embassy and Marines barracks (241 dead) in Beirut,
* A 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet, which ended with the dumping of Navy diver Robert Stethem‘s body on the tarmac,
* The kidnapping, torture and murder of a CIA bureau chief,
* The kidnapping and imprisonment of the Associated Press chief Mideast correspondent for six years,
* The bombings of the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish community center in Argentina,
* The 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and many other heinous killings.
He was blown to bits last February by a “mysterious” car bomb in Damascus, Syria. The Israelis denied responsibility despite their obvious motive. As the “Leader of the Two Victories,” exhibit hints, Mughniyeh is also getting posthumous credit for the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and the 2006 sequel, a mini-war of attrition that ended in an Israel-Hezbollah standoff.
For dinky little Hezbollah to even go the distance with Israel was like street punk Rocky Balboa lasting 15 rounds with polished champion Apollo Creed in Rocky I. Except that Hezbollah could have had “Iran” embroidered on its robe instead of the Italian Stallion’s sponsor, Philadelphia’s Shamrock meatpacking plant.
Yeah, Hezbollah doesn’t deserve even a smidgen of Stallone glory, but this asinine Mideast analogy fits. The Israelis were expected to pulverize their enemies in a few quick rounds. And when their political leadership is wishy washy about winning, and spends Rounds 4 through 11 worrying about the clout of left-wing bloggers and Belgian public opinion, IDF soldiers die for nothing. And the stage just gets reset for an even bloodier rematch.
OK, jumping off the soapbox and back to the universe of Children’s Museums, here’s what the International Herald Tribune says you can enjoy if you happen to be sightseeing near the town of Nabatiyeh:
AUTHENTIC TERRORIST MEMORABILIA: “The children crowd forward around the glass case, eager for a glimpse of the martyr’s bloodstained clothes. His belt is here, and the shoes he died in, scarred with shrapnel. The battered desk where he planned military operations still has his box of pencils on it, his in-box, his cellphone.”
MILITARY LASER SHOWS: Presumably a bit more somber than the Pink Floyd “The Wall” show that used to sell out at the Boston Museum of Science, this light extravaganza illuminates Hezbollah weaponry waiting to be used on the hapless Zionists. The IHT cites “overflow crowds” that have been keeping the exhibit open past 1 a.m.
THE MARTYR’S HEAVEN EXPERIENCE: “In the darkened room, a figure representing a dead Hezbollah fighter lies on his back on a large sloping bank of white flowers. A sound of exploding bombs gives way to patriotic anthems as a screen shows a brilliant sunset and a coffin being carried through a dark forest. Later, a laser show illuminates the darkness. Other videos braid together images from the 2006 war, including some showing Mugniyah, along with scenes of Hezbollah soldiers training in the green hills of southern Lebanon.”
Who’s showing up to Martyr’s Heaven? “On a recent afternoon, busloads of schoolchildren were arriving to see the exhibit, with a group of Boy Scouts.”
MOCKING THE WEAK ISRAELI MILITARY: “A fake skeleton stands upright in a torn uniform and helmet beneath the legend, “The invincible Israeli soldier.” There are captured Israeli tanks jutting up from the ground at odd angles, their hatches burned and broken. As visitors crowd from one display to another, a soundtrack blares overhead, mixing the sounds of bombs and machine-gun fire with mournful operatic voices and warlike speeches.”
Three thoughts on the caustic “Invincible Israeli” exhibit that the Hezbollah curators might want to consider for their next revision:
1. Is it any wonder that Israel trades hundreds of live terrorist prisoners for the remains of one of its dead soldiers? Real enemy corpses would be a huge hit at this museum.
2. Hezbollah doesn’t include this in their recruitment literature, but their fighters also have skeletons that will be exposed during heavy combat.
3. The line between self-confident and just plain stupid is a razor thin one. Historians say that Israeli cockiness after their 1967 rout led to a gross underestimation of the Arabs’ true fighting power. Not fearing the Egyptians and Syrians enough in 1973 led to lax Israeli leadership and half-assed preparedness (not enough historians use the term ‘half-assed’). Egypt’s 6 October victory bridge might seem like a joke, but for a while it looked like Israel was finished.
AND A POSTSCRIPT…. Ironically, the man who saved Israel in 1973 and who later stood up to the PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah, was defeated by fried food and chocolate cake. We don’t hear much about him anymore, but Ariel Sharon is still reportedly in the same coma he slipped into after his stroke in January 2006.
POSTSCRIPT #2: ISRAELI TUNA CAN TROPHIES: The Los Angeles Times “Babylon & Beyond” blog also does a fantastic job chronicling the Hezbollah Children’s Museum room by room. They report that the curators have a strange fetish with discarded Hebrew tuna fish cans, viewing them as war trophies — perhaps this is their sincere effort to promote recycling?
Oh, and in case you think the Herald Trib and the LA Times are covering this with a flippant Western bias, check out how the Lebanon Daily Star covers the story. For the record, this blog post was written with a flippant Western bias.