Established in 1965, as the country’s leading cultural and intellectual institution, there is no doubt that the Israel Museum, ranks as one of the must-visit museums on any visit to Jerusalem. Boasting a wealth of treasures, including its extensive Holy Land archaeology wing, jewelry, and an extraordinary fine art collection, it is unlikely to disappoint even the most discerning visitor.
Located in Givat Ram, close to the Israeli Parliament (‘Knesset’ in Hebrew), the museum boasts entire wings devoted to archaeology not just of the land of Israel, over the centuries, but also pertaining to Greece, Italy, and the Islamic World. Its fine art collection includes pieces including Pissarro, Rembrandt, and Chagall, as well as many prints, lithographs, and photography. Visitors can also view costumes, jewelry, and objects used in conjunction with Jewish festivals.
The Fine Arts wing is on a par with world-class art museums in New York, London, and Rome. The collection includes a wide range of genres, artists, and sources. It includes both ancient works and the most up-to-date contemporary art. Sections of the art wing cover European art, modern art, contemporary art, Israeli art, African arts, Oceana, American arts, Asian arts, photography, design, architecture, prints, and drawings. In addition, there is a 2,200m² exhibition space for rotating exhibitions of the museum's contemporary art collection.
In the Jewish Art and Life Wing, you can see precious artifacts and art with Jewish content as well as reconstructed interiors of synagogues from across the globe. Some of the more fascinating synagogue interiors come from the Caribbean, India, and Persia. The wing includes secular and orthodox material from Jewish communities across several historic periods. There are exhibitions devoted to the costumes and jewelry of the Jewish culture, the religious ceremonies, and ancient manuscripts.
The Archaeology Wing presents archaeological findings from the Holy Land in chronological order from prehistory to the Ottoman Empire. The artifacts paint a picture of the cultural, religious, and social history of the people of this country. This is the most extensive collection of its kind in the world. Separate galleries display archaeological findings from other countries and there is an area where the latest discoveries are on display. A sophisticated Youth Wing holds hands-on art, opportunities for creating their own art, and many exhibits to ignite children's imaginations.
Shrine of the Book
The Shrine of the Book is a stunning white dome, which is reflected in the pool of water that surrounds it. Inside it contains the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered accidentally in the Qumran Caves in 1947 by a shepherd boy. These ancient biblical manuscripts - named the Aleppo Codex - are approximately 2,000 years old and bear an exceptionally close resemblance to the text of today’s Hebrew Bible. The building, itself, is also considered a masterpiece in architectural terms, the dome symbolizing the lid of the jars in which the scrolls were found.
Second Temple Model
On display in the museum is also a Model of the Second Temple. Measuring approximately 1,000 square meters, it is a painstakingly accurate reconstruction of Jerusalem in 66 CE, in all its glory. Designed by Professor Avi-Yonah (who drew on ancient sources) it shows visitors the uniquely Jewish character of the city at that time, particularly the Herodian architecture and the Temple Mount. Built on a 1:50 model, some of its most notable structures include the Pool of Bethesda, the Upper Market, and the Tomb of King David. The model provides visitors with a level of perspective and insight that no map can equal since its detail and accuracy are extraordinary.
Sculpture Garden and Free Guided Tours
The Israel Museum also has a beautiful sculpture garden (set against the backdrop of Jerusalem) containing Robert Indiana’s ‘Love,’ and also runs numerous activities for young children and students up to the high school level. Its family-friendly activities invite both adult and young participation and run throughout the year, but particularly during holidays.
The Israel Museum offers free guided tours in a number of languages and gallery talks by museum curators. It contains two restaurants (both kosher) and is open daily (visiting hours vary), with accessible parking.