The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. It is located in the Malha neighborhood, where Malha Mall (the biggest mall in Jerusalem) is also located nearby.
The zoo has been re-named as the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem, but most people still call it the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.
A short history
It was first established as a small children’s zoo by the late professor Aharon Shulov, in 1928. Prof. Shulov was one of the leading pioneers in the field of zoology at the Hebrew University.
Originally, the zoo planned to house only animals mentioned in the Bible, but it met several difficulties. For one, the meaning of the names of the animals mentioned in the Scriptures is uncertain (for example, the Hebrew word “nesher” can mean either an eagle or a vulture). However, there was a more significant problem: most of the animals mentioned in the Bible had been extinct by then due to destruction of their natural habitat, over-hunting, rapid urban development, illegal killing by the farmers, illegal pet trade, and low birth rate. Due to these factors, the zoo developers came to the decision to expand beyond biblical creatures by including endangered species.
The zoo has moved into several different locations: first on Shmu’el Hanavi Street in 1941, then on Mt. Scopus in 1947, then in the neighborhood of Romema in 1950, and finally in the Malha Valley in 1993. Malha is still the zoo’s current location.
The zoo today
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is a 62-acre (25-hectare) zoo which houses over 140 species of animals under two major themes — the animals mentioned in the Bible and the endangered species from Israel and many parts of the world.
The zoo is built on two main levels. The upper level can be accessed by motorized zoo trains that runs on a circular route. The entire park is also wheelchair-accessible, and each train can accommodate one wheelchair. The highlight feature of the lower level is a large artificial lake, which is fed by pools and waterfalls features two monkey island exhibits.
The zoo’s two-story visitor center is shaped like the Noah’s ark, which also houses an art gallery, an auditorium, a souvenir shop and a snack bar.
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is without a doubt one of the jewels in the crown of the city. It is a huge area. There is lots of place to relax amongst the trees and gardens and access to the wonderful assortment of animals is excellent.
It is also a place where the different populations of the city mix happily, rubbing shoulders and just getting on enjoying the magnificent animals.