Nisco Museum of Mechanical Music

After moving to Israel in the mid-’70s, Nisan Cohen opened the Middle East’s only museum dedicated to music boxes, player pianos, hurdy gurdies, gramophones and other devices. By Marty Friedlander

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. While more than a few sites in Israel may inspire similar reflection, only one hits the nail so squarely on the head.

Nisan Cohen, the founder (and sole employee) of the Nisco Museum of Mechanical Music is both a proponent of simple living in natural surroundings, a la Walden, and a human being who “steps to the music he hears, however measured or far way” it is.

In a former life, Cohen was an American Jewish filmmaker, but after moving to Israel in the mid-’70s, he opened the Middle East’s first and only museum dedicated to music boxes, player pianos, hurdy gurdies, gramophones and other devices that produce music mechanically. His extensive collection is the product of an inquisitive mind that clearly takes pleasure in seemingly simple delights.

All of this would be no more than a noteworthy oddity without the electric presence of the man himself. Cohen is one of a kind, and his fascination with mechanical music machines is catching. He practically dances from instrument to instrument, and like the children of Hamelin, you line up behind him.

Guided visits last 40 minutes, and start on the hour, but it would be wise to call ahead and see if Cohen can accommodate you. You might even want to reserve the museum for a private concert, which can be tailored to your own musical predilections. Tours are NIS 30/20 for adults/children.

The Nisco Museum of Mechanical Music is located at the foot of Mount Carmel in the Ein Hod Artists’ Village, which also houses the Marcel Janco Museum of Dadaist Art and the ateliers of more than a dozen artists.

Ein Hod is on Route 7111, just two kilometers from the intersection with Route 4 (between Zichron Yaakov and Haifa). Look for the Nisco Museum sign just before the turn into Ein Hod. Telephone: (052) 4755313.

The museum is open every day of the week, from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.

Marty is a tour educator living in Jerusalem, the most exciting city in the world. He loves to show visitors around his adopted homeland, Israel. And he loves getting into the thick of any possible controversy or polemic, ancient or contemporary.

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