Israel museum

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The Israel Museum is the largest cultural institution of Israel, housing encyclopedic collections of works dating from prehistory to the present day in archaeology, the fine arts, and Jewish life. Since opening in 1965, the Museum has built a collection of half a million objects at permanent and temporary displays and it keeps upgrading.
The museum is open for visitors every day, including Sabbath – very important for the tourists (Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 10AM-5PM, Tuesday 4PM-9PM, Saturday and holidays 10AM-5PM). At the time of our visit the entrance fee was 54 NIS, but they also had students’, etc. discounts. The entrance fee also includes the free audio guide: a rare and important complement for enriching your knowledge on Israel.
Israel Museum

Your visit will start with books and evolve around them for a while. The very first display (if you start from the left) is the Nano Bible, a gold-plated silicon chip the size of a pinhead on which the entire Hebrew Bible is engraved. The text consisting of over 1.2 million letters in carved on the 0.5 mm chip by means of a focused ion beam.
Nano Bible

Next comes The Shrine of the Book, home to the renowned Dead Sea Scrolls, archeological artifacts, and rare medieval manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible. The white dome resembles the lids of the jars in which the Scrolls were discovered.
The Shrine of the Book

The original Dead Sea Scrolls are claimed to be the oldest sectarian texts in existence. The exhibition continues into the display on Khirbet Qumran community, a Jewish sect which lived in the northwest corner of the Dead Sea, some 40 km east of Jerusalem. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered at Khirbet Qumran caves, which is why the sect has been thoroughly studied, and the exhibition presents curious facts of the sect way of life, their purifying and other unusual traditions.
Dead Sea Scrolls

The shrine of the book is also a home to other rare Biblical manuscripts such as the Aleppo Codex.
Biblical manuscript

Aleppo Codex

The next important exhibition is The Model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. This detailed 1:50 scale model, covering nearly one acre, recreates the topography and architecture of ancient Jerusalem at its peak in 66 CE, shortly before its destruction by the Romans. It provides a three-dimensional contextual illustration for the period documented by the Dead Sea Scrolls, when Rabbinic Judaism took shape and Christianity was born. The audio guide gives the information about quite many important sites depicted by the model.
Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period

Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period

Next comes The Art Garden, a unique blend of Zen principles, Mediterranean setting, and Western Art, which is considered one of the world’s greatest sculpture gardens. The garden offers an experience of the major developments in the modern Western sculptural tradition, with works by contemporary artists added on a regular basis. It includes the sculptures by Pablo Picasso, Jacques Lipchitz, and Henry Moore.
The Art Garden Jerusalem

The Art Garden Jerusalem

The Art Garden

The Art Garden

Nearby is the indoor Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archeology Wing housing the most extensive holdings of Biblical and Holy Land archeology in the world. Organized chronologically, from prehistory to the Ottoman Empire, the wing consists of seven chapters. It also includes a lot from the history of the so-called neighbors: Greeks, Egyptians, Arabs, etc.
Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archeology Wing

Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archeology Wing

Perhaps, the most interesting part is that on religions, telling the story of Jesus of Nazareth. According to the Museum, he criticized the Jewish establishment and preached an observance of the Law based on the moral principles and love of one’s fellow man. His teachings led to the appearance of the new religion: Christianity. He taught and preached the rural Jewish population in synagogues and other public spaces. In the year 30 CE, he went to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festival of Passover with his disciples; there, his provocative actions in and around the temple led to his arrest, sentence, and crucifixion.
A big part of the Archeology exhibition is dedicated to the coexistence of world religions in Jerusalem.
world religions in Jerusalem

Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life presents the religious and secular culture of Jewish communities worldwide, from the Middle Ages to the present day. The display features five sections.
The Rhythm of Life tells about the Jewish traditions related to the circle of life from birth to death.
The Rhythm of Life

An interesting object there is the burial society carriage from Hungary serving for the carrying the deceased in the special vehicle.
Jewish Art and Life

The Synagogue Route includes the synagogue interiors from three continents as well as other displays on Torah decorations.
The Synagogue Route

The Synagogue Route

The Synagogue Route

The Cycle of Jewish Year tells about the major Israel holidays and the traditions related to their celebration. For example, you will get to know that the celebration of Hanukah revolves around lighting of a special lamp in the evening, and the museum exhibits a variety of these traditional lamps from all over the world.
Cycle of Jewish Year

Costume and Jewelry display features the variety of Jewish dresses from all over the world:
Costume and Jewelry

Illuminating the Script collection includes the highlights from the Museum’s collection of illuminated manuscripts.
Illuminating the Script

The last but not the least is Edmond and Lily Safra Fine Arts Wing encompassing the works of art from across the ages and around the globe: Old Masters, Modern Art, Contemporary Art, Israeli Art, the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, Asian Art, Photography, Design and Architecture, and Prints and Drawings.
Edmond and Lily Safra Fine Arts Wing

Israel Museum

Israel Museum

In addition, there are less visited wings like the Ruth Youth Wing for Art Education and temporary exhibitions. The temporary exhibition No Place like Home presents a variety of objects:
Ruth Youth Wing for Art Education

No Place like Home

No Place like Home

The museum is indeed great and seems to be encompassing the variety of aspects related to Israel. Yet, it remains unclear why being called Israeli, it includes the exhibition on Jewish life as a central one having no such exhibitions on Arabs for whom this land is equally home. Second, the directions in the museum are often confusing and it is not well structured for the visitor. Listening to the audio guide you are supposed to insert the numbers corresponding to different objects, but often even important objects have no numbers on them. Finally, the directions are quite confusing: for instance, the Art Garden continues to the offices and it is not quite clear for the clueless visitor when to turn.
This critique, however, is hardly relevant if you are thinking of visiting the museum: still, it is a must. Israel Museum is a great place to start exploring Israel, especially if you arrive around Sabbath when the Museum is among the very few places open for visitors. It is great to catch up on Israel history and traditions to understand the country better on your further explorations.


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