Museums in Israel

There are over 200 museums in Israel, but the largest, and most important is the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. This impressive museum covers diverse topics from world-class art and archaeology to Jewish Art and Life. It is also home to the Shrine of the Book, a domed structure housing the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some of the best museums in Jerusalem include the Tower of David Museum, the Museum for Islamic Art, and Yad Vashem, Israel’s emotionally charged Holocaust museum. Jerusalem’s Museum on the Seam is a provocative museum that raises controversial political and social questions. 

There are several stand-out museums in Haifa like the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, and Mada Tech, Israel’s national museum of science. Museums in Tel Aviv include house museums, dedicated to former occupants such as Ben Gurion House, the Reuven Rubin Museum, and Bialik House. Tel Aviv’s top museums include the Eretz Israel Museum and the ANU Museum of the Jewish People.

One of the country’s leading art and cultural institutions is the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which holds local and international world-class artwork. Holon is a city known for its many museums like the striking Design Museum, the Israel Children’s Museum, and the Israel Cartoon Museum. For home-grown artwork visit the Ein Hod artists’ village or the Negev Museum of Art in Beér Sheva.

Jerusalem’s Newest Attraction: The Friends of Zion Museum

Jerusalem’s latest attraction is the Friends of Zion Museum which highlights the little known story of the role Christians played in the return of the Jewish people to their homeland, Israel. The museum focuses on the role of supporters of Israel of all faiths from around the world and throughout history. The museum tells the story of how the dream to restore the Jewish people to their historic homeland became a reality and the non-Jews who helped the Jews realize this dream. Throughout history Christian Zionists have supported the Jews in returning to their homeland sometimes through personal sacrifice. This museum shows visitors the historic moments, courageous people and significant events which have led to the establishment of the State of Israel supported by Christians. The museum uses technologically advanced interactive methods to tell its story with bold, bright and engaging displays.Friends of Zion Museum ExhibitsVisitors go through several exhibition halls each focused on different aspect of Zionism. You begin with the Land of the Promise exhibit where there is a 12 meter long topographic floor map showing the layout of the land inhabited by the twelve tribes of Israel plus the main Biblical towns. The room darkens and the walls come alive with images of modern-day Israel and aerial views of the country as a beam of light traces the aerial tour of the country on the floor map relating what we see on the screen to the Biblical-era landscape of the map.Visitors take a Time Elevator through a sound and light show up to the upper floor and the Founders Theatre where a huge wraparound screen shows the story of the covenant made between the people of Israel and God using animation, light effects, music and narration. We meet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the Prophet Ezekiel all promised the Land of Israel.The Hall of Dreamers features Professor George Bush (1796-1859), William Blackstone, the Ten Boom family and John Henry Dunant all gentiles who believed in the ancient prophecies promising Israel to the Jews. This section of the museum highlights the efforts of these leading Christian Zionists in supporting the Jewish dream.In the Hall of Visionaries we see a huge colorful mural created with hand-painted images transformed using advanced technology and incorporating motion and text upon touch. Visitors can touch the mural images of 11 heroes of Christian Zionism which triggers animation of the figure and text appears explaining a little of the heroes contribution to the Zionist efforts. The mural also incorporates Biblical quotes speaking of the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. Figures that played a significant role in Christian Zionism include Churchill, Queen Victoria and President Woodrow Wilson. In this exhibition hall there are also screens showing original black and white footage of the early Jewish settlers in Israel.In the Light in the Darkness hall we learn of the deeds of the righteous among the nations, gentiles who saved the lives of Jews during the Holocaust. The images and animations tell the story of Christian personalities in Germany, Sweden, Japan and other country who exercised extraordinary bravery and endangered their own lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. The images of war, terror and those who could not stand by idly and watch the Jews be persecuted are brought to live in these images.In the Living Figures gallery visitors can walk right up to the images of heroes and the animated image begins talking “personally” to the visitors telling of his involvement with the people of Israel. This technique uses live actors reenacting the heroes’ stories as well as archive footage. Playing in the background is the actual recording of the vote in the UN which approved the partition plan in 1947 creating Jewish and Arab states in the Land of Israel.In the last section of the museum, the Promise Theatre visitors put on 3D glasses to see a presentation of many personalities from past and present who have worked towards the dreams of Zionism.Practical Information:Visiting the FOZ Museum is only with a museum guide and visits must be booked in advance online, by email or by phone. The tour is offered in 15 languages and lasts one hour. The museum is recommended for those over 7 years old. The museum is housed in one of the first seven homes built outside the Old City walls back in 1869. The house has been fully restored and now houses the museum and a beautiful café which is open to visitors to the museum and the general public. The FOZ Café is open six days a week and serves kosher dairy cuisine.Where: 20 Yosef Rivlin Street, JerusalemOpen Hours: Sunday to Thursday 9:30am-6pm; Friday 9:30am-2pm and Saturday 10am-6pm.Admission: Adults 44ILS; children (7yrs-18yrs) 33ILS; students and Jerusalem residents 33ILS; seniors, soldiers, handicapped, school groups 22ILS.Contact: 972 (0)2 532 9400
By Petal Mashraki

A Tour to the Israel Wax Museums

Admittedly Israel is not a leader in Wax Museums, unlike most capitals of the Western world neither Jerusalem not Tel Aviv have an official Madame Tussauds. However there is a wax museum in Eilat, there was one in Tel Aviv and soon there will be a new wax museum in Israel.Eilat Wax Museum, 4 Derech Yotam, EilatEilat’s Wax Museum is located in the IMAX Complex. A combo ticket can be bought for IMAX screenings and entrance to the wax museum. The museum displays more than 150 life-size figures of famous personalities from Israel and abroad. The figures include Robert De Nero, Freddy Mercury, Beatles and Angelina Jolie. There are also figures from legends, mythology and fantasy as well as real-life oddities from the Guinness Book of Records. Well know film characters include those from Star Wars and Johnny Depp’s character from the Pirates of the Caribbean. The figures include famous scientists, musicians, pop idols, politicians and cultural icons. Among the Israeli figures there are Itzhak Rabin and Ben Gurion.Former Tel Aviv Wax Museum, Shalom TowerThe Tel Aviv Wax Museum was founded by Shai Meyer a member of the family responsible for the construction of the Peace Tower or Migdal HaShalom. For many years the Wax Museum was a major attraction in the city. In 1995 the museum closed down due to financial difficulties however some of the figures have survived and can still be seen together with an exhibition about the history of Tel Aviv on the mezzanine floor of the Shalom Tower. The figures which have survived and are in good enough condition to be on display are those of Hebrew poets Bialik, Alterman, Penn, Goldberg and Shlonsky. There is also the figure of iconic Israeli actress Hanna Rovina. The figures have been positioned around a table as if enjoying a get together at a Tel Aviv café.The original wax museum had fallen into disrepair. However this Hannuka an innovative initiative was taken when volunteers went door to door collecting unused and partially used candles to be melted down and used to repair and build wax figures for the museum. The museum is scheduled to undergo a major facelift and redesign. It will then reopen in a new location and will be on a par with other wax museums in Europe and the USA. Stay tuned for news of the opening of Israel’s new wax museum.
By Petal Mashraki

Top Science Museums in Israel

The Jewish people are known for their scientific talent with great names like Albert Einstein, Robert Aumann and Konrad Emil Bloch. So it is not surprising that Israel has several top science museum. The museum’s are primarily geared towards children but the exhibits have been made to appeal to the whole family.The Core Garden of ScienceWeizmann Institute, Rehovot ,Sunday-Thursday 09:00-17:00, Saturday 09:00-19:00, Friday closed Family 220ILS, Children 5-18 50ILS, Adults 60ILSthe Core Garden of Science is located on the grounds of the famous Weizmann Institute of science. The entire museum is outdoors so in hot weather bring a hat and water. The museum is run by the Davidson Institute of Science Education. The museum is completely hands-on with displays set up where kids can do experiments to see how different laws of nature work and prove them for themselves. The garden covers 10,000m² and the interactive exhibits focus on the laws of physics, solar energy, water power and the role natural elements play in the world. Among the exhibits are a Solar Furnace, Pipes of Pan, Resonant Pendulum, and a wave pool where the science of waves is demonstrated. In addition to the outdoor exhibits there is an EcoSphere, a dome-shaped greenhouse where ecological principles are demonstrated. Young high school age guides are on hand to give brief demonstrations, explain the various exhibits and give short tours.Mada TechThe Israeli National Museum of Science, Technology and Space, Historic Technion Building, 25 Shmariyahu Levine St., Haifa Sunday-Wednesday 10:00-15:00, Thursday and Saturday ,10:00-17:00, Friday 10:00- 13:00 Family (up to 4 people) 260ILS, Children 5-18, 65ILS, Adults 75ILSThe science museum is housed within an historic building which dates back to 1912. During WWI the building was used by the German Army as a slaughter house; in 1917 it became a military hospital for the Turkish Army and in 1918 came under the British. In 1923 Albert Einstein visited the building which had become the new Technicon. Einstein became the president of the Technicon Committee. Today the building houses Israel’s most famous science museum; there are more than 20 sections, 12 labs, 6 demonstration halls and has over 600 hands-on exhibits. Kids learn through the many games and by pressing buttons, pulling levers and operating equipment. The exhibits are presented in themed sections so that all the energy related exhibits are together etc. There is an outside area with more hands-on exhibits. The museum has a multi-sense 3D cinema where science related movies are shown. The museum’s slogan is “explore, experience, discover and learn through play and fun.” There is an area for toddlers where they too can experiment in a safe play area.Bloomfield Science Museum JerusalemMuseum Blvd., Givat Ram, Jerusalem Sunday-Wednesday and Saturday 10:00-18:00, Thursday 16:00-22:00, Friday 10:00-16:00 Family (up to 4 people) 220ILS, Children under 5 free, All visitors over 5 years old 79ILSThe museum exhibits are mostly hands-on and divided into thematic groups. There is an indoor and outdoor exhibition area. Although the themes are science oriented there is a broader spectrum of exhibits which takes in technology, society and art. Most of the exhibits have been created in-house in collaboration with the Hebrew University. The museum sections include Waterworks, Electricity, Discovering Levers, Games in Light and Shadow, CAPTCHA (about computers), Illusions, Flashlight in the Dark, Amusement Park, Testing and Measuring and Water. Kids get to build apparatus and take part is regular activities. There is a Resource Center where you can read, see movies, use the Internet and just hang-out. The museum has a 3D cinema and films are an extra fee. There are daily guided tours, free talks, workshops and science demonstrations.
By Petal Mashraki

Tour attractions: Top 10 Israeli Museums

1. Israel Museum, Jerusalem This is the country’s national museum and is also the largest museum in the country. Here you’ll find exhibition halls focusing on a wide range of subjects, genres and medium. Some of the museum highlights include the children’s wing, fine arts and archeology. Other attractions within the museum grounds are the Art Garden and a model of the Old City of Jerusalem in 66CE during the Second Temple Period. Another highlight is an ancient female figurine which is thought to be the world’s oldest art work. On the museum grounds is the uniquely shaped Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls can be seen.2. L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art, JerusalemIslamic ArtHere you can see examples of Islamic pottery, painted ceramic tiles, glassware, weaponry, jewelry, religious artifacts and traditional cultural objects. The museum is named after a former scholar of Islamic art at the Hebrew University. The artifacts come from across the globe and represent several historic periods from the 7th to the 19th century. Each exhibition hall is according to the historic Muslim dynasty and the geological location they include the Umayyad Caliphs and the Ottoman period. One of the most important collections in the museum is of rare antique clocks and watches. The museum holds exhibits of art by contemporary Arab artists.3. Madatech, HaifaChildren and adults alike will enjoy this interactive museum where you can touch and play with the exhibits and try your hand at various experiments to prove scientific laws. There is a section for toddlers where they can play and learn. The exhibits cover green energy, flight, chemistry, the mysteries of light, scientific engineering, visual deceptions and puzzles and games. There is a 4D cinema where the wonder of science is revealed further through films about the solar system and other subjects.4.Tel-Aviv Museum of Art Tel-AvivMuseum of Art Tel-AvivTel-Aviv Museum of ArtThis museum covers a wide range of genres and historic periods but the emphasis is on modern art especially Israeli and European contemporary art. There is an impressive collection of impressionist and post impressionist art. There are collections of Old Masters, photography, prints and drawings and architecture and design. Among the highlights are works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Gutman, Marc Chagall, Pissarro, Kandinsky and Pollock. The museum is also known as a venue for performances, events and temporary exhibitions.5. Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum, JerusalemThis award winning museum uses multimedia, historic video footage, authentic artifacts, documents and art to tell the story of the Holocaust. The museum takes the form of an elongated triangular shaped building which takes visitors chronologically through the events of World War Two. At the end of the museum the building opens up to a view over the hills of Jerusalem. Other sites on the museum grounds include the path of the righteous commemorating righteous gentiles and a special memorial to the children who died in the Holocaust. One of the most moving exhibits of the museum is the Hall of Names, a memorial to all the Jews who died in the Holocaust, it is a circular hall with a cone shaped ten meter high center displaying 600 photos and pages of testimony.6. Design Museum HolonThis relatively new museum which opened in 2010 has quickly become one of the country’s leading museums. This is a forward looking museum focused on modern culture and contemporary design. There are temporary exhibitions as well as permanent collections which display design objects from around the world. There is an Experience Archive which is an interactive exhibit used for research. On display are furnishings, wall art, textiles and object d’art. The unique architecture of the museum building, designed by Ron Arad, is an attraction in itself.Design Museum Holon7. Children’s Museum HolonA must-see attraction if you are traveling with children. A visit to the museum must be booked in advance and there are exhibits for different age groups and each follows a specific theme. The most famous of the exhibits here is the Dialogue in the Dark where blind guides take groups of visitors through a completely dark exhibit. The visitors experience the museum as a visually impaired person would, thus heightening their use of the other senses. The Invitation to Silence is an experience where a deaf guide takes visitors through a series of exhibits while they wear headphones blocking out all sound. Once again the exhibit opens visitors up to a new sensory experience.8. Eretz Israel Museum (Land of Israel Museum), Tel-AvivThis museum is home to several separate museums as well as a planetarium. The multi-disciplinary museum exhibits all relate in some way to the Land of Israel and its culture and history. Folklore, Judaica, ethnography, the Israeli postal service and traditional crafts are on display. Take into account that the various sections of the museum are spread over a large area and to move from one to the other you need to leave the air-conditioned halls and walk under the hot sun. There are also outdoor exhibits like the Crafts Arcade where a number of antique working tools are set up in recreated workshops such as a cobbler, tanner and cooper.9. Tower of David Museum, JerusalemHoused within the Tower of David’s medieval guardrooms, an iconic symbol of Jerusalem’s Old City, this museum presents the city’s history in chronological order highlighting the most significant events. There is a film outlining Jerusalem’s history and exhibition rooms covering the Canaanite Period, 1st and 2nd Temple Periods and the Roman Period. Apart from the exhibits on display visitors can also see a nightly Sound and Light Show where images telling the story of Israel’s history are projected on the ancient stones of the Old City.10. Tiktin Museum, HaifaTiktin MuseumThis museum is home to the largest collection of Japanese art outside of Japan. Apart from being a fascinating museum it brings to the country a totally foreign culture and offers a break from most of the Israeli museums which focus so closely on the nation’s heritage. The Japanese culture, art and traditions are presented and this is the only museum of its kind in the Middle East. There are over 7,000 works of art on display including ceramics, textiles and paintings as well as metal work and miniature carvings. Both traditional and modern Japanese art is on display.
By Petal Mashraki

A Coin Exhibition at the Davidson Center

Coins have always been, first and foremost, a means of payment, but they have also been used to communicate messages. We also look at coins for the evidence they provide for commercial, religious and cultural relations. The coins that found their way to Jerusalem, are testimonies to the importance of the capital as a cosmopolitan center and focus of pilgrimage. In times of peace, Jerusalem attracted visitors, traders and pilgrims of all religions. In times of war, the political and strategic importance of Jerusalem brought invading and conquering armies into the city. All these visitors also left their mark in the coin finds in Jerusalem, especially from the excavations close to the Temple Mount.This exhibition focuses on the international character of Jerusalem, and of the Temple Mount in particular, by showing a selection of hoards and isolated coins discovered during the excavations of Prof. Benjamin Mazar between 1968 and 1977. The wide geographic provenance of these coins extends from the Sasanian empire in Persia, Chartres in France and Carthage in North Africa. The coins provide exceptional insight into the relationships between different peoples, the coins they used and the value they placed in those coins.All the Roads Lead to JerusalemDuring excavations in Jerusalem, and close to the Temple Mount in particular, a large number of coins coming from distant places in the Mediterranean was found. The ten coins exhibited here represent a wide range of mints, periods and materials. Some of the coins are most unusual in our region, such as the silver drachm from Ephesos in Ionia, southwest Turkey; the gold aureus of emperor Tacitus struck in Rome and the bronze follis of the Byzantine emperor Constantine IV minted in Syracuse, Sicily. Other coins, such as Carthage or Ravenna – whose provenance might seem curious – were actually integral part of the coins in circulation during the fifth and sixth centuries CE. Some of the cities mentioned here, such as Constantinople (today Istanbul), Antioch in Syria and Alexandria in Egypt constitute the most common mints from which coins circulated in our region in the Hellenistic through the Byzantine periods. Some of these “foreign” coins also figure in the Jewish tradition. For instance, the silver sheqels and half-sheqels minted in Tyre (in Lebanon), were singled out as the ideal means of payment of the half-sheqel head tax to the Jerusalem Temple.The Sasanian Coin HoardEleven Sasanian silver drachms from the hoard are exhibited here. The hoard was discovered within a drainage channel which was part of the central sewage drain of a large public latrine, built in the Roman period and still in use during the Byzantine period. It seems that the owner lost this handful of coins around 535 CE, at the time he was in the public latrine. The coins in the hoard date from the period between governor Peroz (463-484 CE) to the days of king Khusro I (531-535 CE). The coins come from several cities in Iran, among them Shiraz, Kerman, Ray, Hamadan (Echbatana) and Merv. These types of coins are characteristic of the Sasanian rulers in Iran. On one side is the bust of the king and an inscription in Pahlevic; on the other side is an altar flanked by two priests. Depicted is a sacrifice scene, deriving from Zoroastrianism. Sasanian coins minted before the Persian conquest of 614 CE are quite rare finds in Israel. The coins are evidence of the peaceful relations between the Byzantine empire and the Sasanian kingdom during that period.The Fatimid Coin HoardThree gold Fatimid hoards were discovered in 1968-1969. The hoard exhibited here includes fifty-one gold coins, dinars and quarter-dinars, dated from 982 to 1095 CE. Most of the coins were minted during the last fifteen years of reign of caliph Al-Mustansir (1036-1094 CE). This ruler is known as the one who brought the Fatimid dynasty to its zenith. The high gold content of the coins gives evidence to the dynasty’s prosperous economy. The design on most of the coins is a central “bull’s eye” with three concentric circles of legends around it. The majority of the coins were struck in Egypt and North Africa, in Misr (Cairo, Fustat), Alexandria, al-Mansuriyya and Mahadiyya; a number of coins were struck in Syria-Tripolis, Akko and Tyre. One dinar is not Fatimid but Almoravid, from the city of Sijilmasa in Algeria.The latest coins in the hoardare dated to year 1095 CE, when Jerusalem was under Seljuk rule. Therefore, it seems likely that the coins were brought to the city when the Fatimids reconquered Jerusalem in 1098 CE. A short time later, in 1099 CE, the city was conquered by the Crusaders. Presumably, coins were hidden in this occasion. The uniformity of the hoard, and the historical circumstances, suggest that this is an emergency hoard, abruptly concealed upon the Crusader’s arrival and never recovered by its owner.A Hoard of Feudal French Coins and a Papal BullaA hoard of French coins and a lead papal bulla dated to the Crusader period were uncovered during the excavations in 1968 and 1971. Both exceptional finds are dated to the twelfth century CE and were found in a sector that was under the control of the Order of the Templars. The hoard was discovered in a drain channel; the bulla within a room surrounded by walls of the Crusader period. The hoard yields seventy-five debased silver thin deniers, seventy-four struck in the city of Chartres, and one minted in Blois. The coins are anonymous, most probably dated to the time of count Thibaut V (1152-1191). All the Chartrain coins belong to the same type, depicting a stylized head of a king on the obverse, and on the reverse a Maltese cross surrounded by the inscription: +CARTIS CIVITAS.Similar hoards were discovered in France and elsewhere in the Mediterranean, along the routes used by the Crusaders. Due to the chronic lack of local coinage in the Latin Kingdom’s treasure, European currencies flood the East and circulated alongside with the local coins. The uniformity of the hoard suggests that the coins arrived in Jerusalem from Europe already as a single group, most probably belonging to a pilgrim or knight who deposited them for safekeeping with the Templars. The lead bulla, naming Pope Alexander III (1159-1181 CE) was impressed in Rome. Lead bullas were used as official seals on important documents, and were frequently utilized by officials of the Latin Kingdom. While several bullas have been discovered in our region, papal bullas are extremely rare. This is the first bulla of its type ever discovered in an archaeological excavation. The name of the pope is inscribed on one side; the portraits of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, fathers of the Christian church, appear on the other side, together with abbreviations of their names: S(ANCTVS) PA(VLVS) S(ANCTVS) PE(TRVS). The appearance of this bulla in Jerusalem is evidence to the close relations existing between Rome and the Holy City during the tenure of Alexander III. His papacy is characterized by a large number of edicts issued to the Latin Kingdom in general and the Order of the Templars in particular. It seems most likely that the hoard and the bulla were among the possessions which the Templars abandoned when the city of Jerusalem capitulated to Saladin in 1187.Acknowledgments:Curators: Gabriela Bijovsky, Dr. Hava Katz, Israel Antiquities AuthorityDesign and Production: Studio Avidani, JerusalemProject manager: Gad KlierStudio photography: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities AuthoritField photography: Israel Antiquities Authority; Dr. Eilat MazarCoin illustrations: Pnina AradArabic translation: Fawzi IbrahimEditing: Dr. Zvi Gal, Dr. Donald T. Ariel, Israel Antiquities AuthorityCoin Loans: Israel Antiquities Authority
By Petal Mashraki

Must-Visit Museums in Jerusalem

For a country as small as Israel, it sure does pack a punch when it comes to museums and nowhere more so than in Jerusalem. So after you’ve explored the Old City, enjoyed the buzz of the Mahana Yehuda Shuk and are looking for some culture, where should you begin?Well, frankly, you’re spoilt for choice but if you’re short on time, here are some of the must-visit museums in the capital that we can’t but help recommend. And if you don’t see them all? Well, you’ll just have to return to Israel…!The Israel MuseumIf you’ve only got 2-3 hours to spare, then it really has to be spent here. Ranked as one of the world’s leading museums, it is packed full of treasures relating to Jewish art, archaeology, dresses, coins, jewelry and everyday artifacts (to name but a few). It also boasts two particularly extraordinary (and muse-see) exhibits, The first is a stunning white dome, reflected in a pool of water that surrounds it, and the home of the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered in 1947 by a shepherd boy, in the caves of Qumran). Considered a landmark of modern architecture, it is designed to express spirituality and signifies a ‘sanctuary’ of sorts.The second is the Model of Second Temple Jerusalem. Designed by the scholar Professor Avi-Yonah, and measuring around 1,000 square meters, this is an outstanding reconstruction of Jerusalem. It reveals the uniquely Jewish character of the city, particularly the Temple Mount. Note the Herodian architecture and visualise how the city looked, back in the time of Jesus!You can easily spend an entire day at the Israel Museum, but as a minimum allow 2 to 3 hours. There are also free guided tours, a beautiful outdoor sculpture garden and numerous temporary exhibits.Yad VashemMaking a visit to the world holocaust remembrance center is an unforgettable part of any visit to Jerusalem. Using state-of-the-art resources, Yad Vashem (which, in Hebrew, means ‘a monument and a name’) tells the story of the holocaust from a uniquely Jewish perspective, making the stories of those who survived (and the millions who also perished) come alive through testimonies, possessions and artifacts.Designed by the architect Moshie Safdie, the building represents a prism-like structure, bringing in daylight from above through a 200 meter-long glass skylight. 180 meters long, in the form of a spike, it is supposed to portray the complexity of the Jewish peoples’ situation. The entire museum complex is built out of reinforced concrete, with different heights and angles of light. Within the museum, there are exhibits, galleries and some particularly poignant areas including the Children’s Memorial, the Hall of Names and the Hall of Remembrance. It is hard not to shed a tear whilst watching survivor testimonies on video, or viewing the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis. Yad Vashem is an essential viewing - to commemorate the past and safeguard the memory of those who perished in such a dark period of Jewish history.Tower of David MuseumAlso known as the Jerusalem Citadel, this museum is located close to the Jaffa Gate (in the Old City) and tells the story of Jerusalem from a historical perspective, but using a range of illustrative techniques (films, lights, and 3D models). Chronicling the city’s history (beginning in the second millenium BCE), you soon realise how Jerusalem came to be so important to the world’s three largest monotheistic faiths. If you can, book a ticket for the unique ‘Night Spectacular’. Sophisticated technology project brightly-colored screened images onto the stone walls of the Old City, all whilst accompanied to original music, bringing the story of Jerusalem to virtual life.From the top of the tower, enjoy panoramic views of the city, including the Judean Desert, Mount of Olives and the Dead Sea.Bible Lands MuseumThis archaeological museum, with its priceless collection of antiques, takes you on a journey through the Ancient Near East, giving you a unique insight into the people and tribes who inhabited the lands of the Bible. Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Roman cultures...western society has been enriched by their endless accomplishments in fields as far-reaching as technology, writing and commerce. Verses from the Bible are displayed next to artifacts and the explanations of our current customs (and how they are derived from ancient societies) are comprehensive. With its changing exhibitions, lectures and gallery talks, it really is a gem of a collection. Tip: don’t miss the Classical Courtyard or the Roman Frescos Room (the paintings are believed to have come from a suburb of Pompei).NB: the tour in English begins every day at 10:30 am.Islamic Museum of ArtFounded in the 1960’s by Vera Bruce Salomons, a woman ahead of her time, this museum houses one of the most important collections of Islamic art worldwide.Made up of six galleries, this outstanding collection consists of rugs, ornaments, jewelry, pottery and ancient pages of the Qu’ran - all reflecting the grandeur and beauty of Islamic life across the ages. Don’t miss the basement level, where you will find one of the most important watch collections in the world (belonging to Vera’s father, David). Particularly beautiful is the clock of Queen Marie Antoinette - made up of 823 parts, all in gold!The museum also hosts cultural events and promotes dialogue between Jews and Arabs, acting as a bridge between the two cultures.Ideal to visit if you want a break from the tourist circuit.Bloomfield Science MuseumMuch like Madatech in Haifa, this museum is great for kids, with education and interactive exhibits that bring science to life! Their demonstrations, hands-on workshops and intriguing performances change constantly - and any child is bound to love ‘Lunar Landing’ (commemorating 50 years since the Moon Landing) or the games in the ‘machine’ room...This is an ideal place to bring the kids, not just to teach them about science but to bypass a rainy morning or sweltering afternoon in Jerusalem.
By Sarah Mann

The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient Hebrew/Jewish manuscripts, discovered in the Judean desert, inside the Qumran Caves, in 1947. Historians are confident they date back to the last three centuries BCE and the first century. Written also in Aramaic (a Semitic language that was commonly spoken in this period and often used in the writing of holy scriptures) their contents include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts that were later put into the Hebrew Bible. The majority of the scrolls were written on parchment, with some on papyrus and one on copper.The Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockHistory of the Dead Sea ScrollsThe Dead Sea Scrolls are, of course, of enormous significance - historically, theologically, and archaeologically - since they give us enormous insight into the daily religious practices at the time of the Second Temple. Because of the poor condition of some, less than half of them have actually had their texts identified to date.Of those that have been studied, scholars agree that about 40% relate to the Hebrew scriptures, roughly 200 books from the Hebrew Bible. Another 30% are related to the Hebrew Bible but not canonized. These include commentary on the Bible and apocalyptic proclamations. Finally, the remaining 30% relate to apocryphal manuscripts, containing books not included in the Jewish canon - either previously undiscovered or known only through translations. So how were the Dead Sea Scrolls actually found? In fact, it is an astonishing story.Qumran and the Discovery of the ScrollsThe story of the discovery dates back to 1947 when a shepherd boy and his cousin were out tending their flock. On realizing that one of them was missing, they wandered into the nearby Qumran Caves (close to the Dead Sea) to search for the animal. There, they stumbled upon seven scrolls, all of which were buried in earthenware jars. Burying worn-out Hebrew manuscripts was a common Jewish practice at that time, since - in Judaism - it has always been forbidden to discard them casually. Not knowing the importance of this discovery, they took the scrolls back to their Bedouin camp. There they remained for some time, whilst their family began looking for a dealer to whom they could sell them. How they later came to be recognized for the extraordinary items they actually were is, again, a fascinating story.The Dead Sea Shore.Photo credit: © ShutterstockDetective Story Behind the Discovery of the Dead Sea ScrollsEventually, not knowing their true value, the Bedouins sold all seven scrolls to two antique dealers - three to a man named Salahi and four to a man called Kando (who then resold his to Archbishop Samuel, head of the Syrian Orthodox Monastery of St. Mark, in Jerusalem). Professor Chaim Sukenik, an archaeologist working in conjunction with the Hebrew University, tracked down Salahi and, after seeing the scrolls and, in his own words, trembling with excitement, acquired them.In the meantime, because of the 1948 War of Independence, Archbishop Samuel smuggled his four scrolls out of Israel (to keep them safe) and shipped them to New York. In 1954, having decided to sell them, he placed an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal. This very advertisement was seen by Yigael Yadin, the son of Professor Sukenik, back in Israel. After having raised $250,000, he purchased them, through a middleman, on behalf of the State of Israel, and - once they were back in Jerusalem - reunited them with the other three. A true detective story!What Can We Learn from the Dead Sea Scrolls?The scrolls give us enormous insight both into history and biblical texts. Many of the words in the fragments found are quite different from the words of the same passages in the Greek Old Testament. This shows that the ‘sacred words’ of the Bible have changed over time, even after the Romans conquered the region.Obviously, there is an enormous debate between academics as to their origins and how they came to be placed in this cave. Many scholars believe they were put there by the Essenes. The Essenes were a sect in ancient times who were regarded as being extremely pious and who - it is believed - had deliberately left Jerusalem for the wilderness of the Judean desert. The Judean Desert.Photo credit: © ShutterstockWho Were the Essenes?The Essenes, essentially, were priests, many of whom practiced a monastic existence. They regarded Jerusalem as a city of corruption and, in comparison, regarded themselves as the ‘sons of light’. In the desert, they worked communally, eschewing private property. They were alone (they had left their families behind) though still kept Jewish law, although they ate no meat and carried out no sacrifices. They worked hard in their fields and not for profit, rather for basic survival. Their lives were disciplined, admission to their group was not easy, and, once a member, an Essene divulged nothing to the outside world. One of the professions in which they excelled was scribe, which is perhaps why the scrolls at Qumran were so well looked after. As well as having been placed in earthenware jars (which were water-resistant and practically airtight) most had been written on the hide (skin) of animals, which is known to be a long-lasting material. The cool, dark atmosphere of the caves acted as a deterrent against humidity.Not all academics, however, believe it was the Essenes who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some believe the scrolls were abandoned by refugees fleeing the Romans, after the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Others believe that it could also be possible that they were placed there by a number of individuals, over a longer period of time. After all, these caves were used for shelter by all kinds of people, for hundreds of years.The truth is, we will never be entirely sure who wrote them. Without a doubt, however, the Dead Sea Scrolls have provided scholars with a unique window into a time in Jewish history that was extraordinarily complex.The Qumran Caves, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockWhere are the Dead Sea Scrolls Today?The Scrolls today are held in a building erected especially for them, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Named “The Shrine of the Book” it is by far and away one of the most popular attractions there and visited by tens of thousands of visitors each year. This Shrine holds all seven scrolls - Isaiah A, Isaiah B, the Thanksgiving Scroll, the Habakkuk Commentary, the Community Rule, the War Rule, and the Genesis Apocryphon. Save for the last (written in Aramaic), all are written in Hebrew. The Isaiah and Copper ScrollsThe most impressive of the Dead Sea Scrolls is, perhaps, the Isaiah Scroll - the only one from Qumran that is completely preserved. At almost 735 centimeters long, it is the oldest of its kind - academics estimate that it was written around 100 BCE. This stands in the center of the hall, beneath the Dome itself.The Copper Scroll also has a fascinating backstory - it is, in many respects, a ‘treasure map’ because it lists 54 different underground places where caches of silver and gold were hidden. Unfortunately, none of these hoards have ever been recovered (historians believe they may have been pillaged by the Romans (or, if you are more cynical, never existed at all). Since it was not made of parchment, the Hebrew and Greek letters of this scroll were actually chiseled onto it.The galleries of the building are also worth exploring - the upper section tells the story of the people who lived at Qumran and the lower gallery center of the 10th-century Aleppo Codex, which is the oldest-known complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible.Israel Museum, home to the Dead Sea Scrolls.Photo credit: © ShutterstockDesign of the Shrine of the BookThe Shrine of the Book was designed by two architects - Frederick Kiesler and Armand Baros. Built in 1965, with funds detonated by the David Gottesman family (a Hungarian philanthropist) its magnificent design is structured to represent one of the earthenware jars in which the scrolls were found.The building itself is contemporary, and striking because of its use of black and white. Some have referred to it as an abstract modernist’s dream. The white dome of the building is shaped like the lid of the jar, with a black basalt war standing nearby. This contrast is deliberate and mimics the theme of the struggle between the forces of light and dark (i.e. good and evil) mentioned in the texts.A Modernist Design for a Building Symbolising SpiritualityTwo-thirds of the building is actually housed underground - the entrance is beneath the basalt wall - and walks through a passage that has been designed to imitate the actual caves in which the scrolls were discovered. Inside are many glass cases that contain pages of scrolls. However, it is the central display, which resembles a giant spindle, along with a handle, that really catches the eye. More pages of the scrolls are displayed here, and spun around (rotated) regularly so that no one section is ever at risk of deterioration from being ‘over-displayed.’ The building took seven years to complete and its location, is a reflection of the national importance that is placed on these ancient texts and the extraordinary building which is now housing and preserving them. Today, the building is regarded as an icon of modernist design. The symbolism of the building has also been taken, by many, to show the Shrine of the Book as a kind of sanctuary, in which deep spiritual meaning can be found. Not accidentally, a corridor links it with the Second Temple of Jerusalem model, emphasizing that these two buildings, together, are an invaluable source of learning for anyone seeking to understand that period in history.View of the Dead Sea from Masada fortress.Photo credit: © ShutterstockVisiting Qumran and the Israel MuseumQumran, which is set in the Judean Desert, not far from the Dead Sea can be seen from afar during any day trip to the Dead Sea and Masada. Alternatively, individuals with a particular interest in history and archaeology can choose to travel to the archaeological park alone, or take a trained guide, as part of a private tour of the Dead Sea area. Approximately 20 miles from Jerusalem, it takes around 50 minutes to reach there by car.The Israel Museum is one of the country’s most prominent museums and world-renown, not just for the Dead Sea Scrolls but also for its fine art collection, Model of the Second Temple, sculpture garden, reconstructions of synagogues that once existed in Venice, Curaçao, and Cochin and engaging exhibits (both permanent and temporary) relating to Jewish culture, art and life.The Israel Museum is situated 2 km from the Central Bus Station and is close to the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament). It can be visited alone, as part of a guided tour, with aJerusalem Private Tour, or with a Jerusalem New City Jewish Private Tour. Parking is available and buses numbers 14 and 15 run there from the city center.The Israeli Museum is open seven days a week and offers discounts for students, senior citizens, and the disabled. A number of guided tours take place each day, in different languages, most of which are free. Audio guides are available and can also be downloaded onto your smartphone. Tickets can be booked online at a price of 59 NIS/18 USD (regular) ad 39 NIS/12 USD (discount).The museum also boasts an excellent shop, which sells beautiful jewelry, sculptures, small statues (including the replica of the famous ‘Ahava’ statue there), art books, and Judaica (menorot, hannukiot, and wine cups) made by established Israeli and international artists. Visitors can also purchase refreshments and meals in its two eateries, both being kosher, with one serving dairy products and the other a meat menu.The Judean Desert vegetation.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann
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