Endless Possibilities at the Israel Museum
The Israel Museum is the largest cultural institution in Israel, and is in the top tier of museums in the entire world. The Museum houses many collections of archeology, art, as well as temporary exhibitions. The 500,000 objects housed at the museum date from prehistory to the present day. They include archaeological artifacts, fine art, Jewish themed art and judaica telling the story of life in various Jewish communities around the world. In addition, the Israel Museum has built collections representing the full scope of world material culture.
Dead Sea Scrolls: The Shrine of the Book
One highlight of the museum is the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is a collection of over 40,000 pieces of scrolls hand written over 2000 years ago on leather or copper, which were found in caves around the dead sea.
Among the different fascinating scrolls, see the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, descriptions of the life among the Jewish sects that may have inspired Jesus, and mysterious prophecies.
Synagogues from Around the Globe
The section of the museum which houses the judaica collection also includes several fully reconstructed, actually transported synagogues from around the world, including great synagogues from northern Italy, Germany, southern India, and Suriname. From the beutiful gilded decorations of the Italian synagogue, to the warmth and homeliness of the German, to the ornate patterns of the eastern synagogues, these are a feast for the soul and the eyes.
This is the most visited section of the museum. It lays out the history of the land of Israel throughout the millenia through tens of thousands of finds. The new museum (renovated in 2010) the archeology collection is presented chronologically by period and organized into themes. The collection includes the oldest known biblical passages, known as the ‘priestly blessing,’ which were found in Jerusalem and date to the the period of the First Temple, 3,000 years ago! Many other awe inspiring collections are scattered throughout the collection, but it can be overwhelming without a guide.
Rounding out the Day
One can spend a half day at the museum, a full day, or a lifetime. If a full day (or even half a day) is more than you want to spend there, this tour can easily be combined with almost any other day tour in Jerusalem. You can finish with a tour of Mahane Yehuda, the open air market in the center of the city and dinner at one of it’s many fine restaurants, or a walk around the first Jewish neighborhood outside the city walls, and many, many other options.