The Israel Museum recently reopened after a multi-year renovation program. According to the guide, overall the new museum is around twice the size of the old museum. The Israel Museum is simply spectacular.
The main part of the museum consists of three main sections – Fine Arts, Archaeology and Jewish Art and Life. The main building is now approached through a tunnel of light with an exciting combination some stunning mosaics from Bet Shean on the walls and an amazing piece of modern art and colors at the far end.
The Jewish Art and Life section has a large collection of Judaica from around the world and documents the cycle of life in various periods and various communities of the Jewish Diaspora. It is a fascinating collection of how Jews lived, worshipped and managed communities in different places over the millennia. Of particular note, are the reconstructed synagogues, including one from near Venice (see also The Italian Jewish Museum & Synagogue in downtown Jerusalem) and my personal favorites from Cochin in India and from Surinam.
The Fine Art section is truly impressive an eclectic collection covering many different periods and styles. From 18th century period rooms (English, French, Venetian) to modern art (including some Picasso and Chagall) to modern Israeli Art forms, There is also a fascinating photography collection currently featuring the work of Helman Leski who lived and photographed in Israel in the 1930’s and 1940’s. His photographs of Kibbutz workers are still a powerful master class in how to take the ultimate portraits. The Esterhazy Collection of Prints and Drawings (on loan from Budapest) was also a personal favorite. The modern art section in now around three times its previous size and there is plenty to explore.
Within the art section there is also a large collection of art from other cultures and times including from Asia, Africa and the Americas. Of particular note (from a personal perspective) was an ancient drum that looked at first glance to be a mini canoe, the 11 Chinese Bells (with the hauntingly beautiful sound track) and the Samurai collection.
The Archaeology Collection is the largest biblical and Holy Land archaeology collection in the world. It discusses findings in the context of the Bible and shows the impact of adjacent societies. It is like travelling in a time machine through the Bible.
One of the special features of the Israel Museum is the occasional glimpses of the ancient olive trees and Jerusalem landscapes and cityscapes through the windows. These remind you that there are some other marvelous exhibits to explore outside the main Israel Museum buildings – the Shrine of the Book, The Second Temple Model and the Art Garden.
The Shrine of the Book houses the Dead Sea Scrolls collection discovered by accident around fifty years ago in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written by an ancient sect and are some of the oldest biblical scripts in existence. Seeing these scrolls in the Shrine of the Book is a fascinating experience and trip back in history to some of the original Hebrew texts and the political situation around 2000 years ago. The architecture of the Shrine of the Book reflects the jars that preserved the scrolls whilst the black war symbolizes the Sons of Darkness mentioned in some of the texts and as opposed to the Sons of Light (members of the sects themselves.) There are also some other important texts preserved in the Shrine of the Book.
The Jerusalem Second Temple Model shows how Jerusalem would have looked in the year 66 just before the destruction of the Temple and the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70. The Second Temple Model is a huge model, complete with 1:50 scale painstaking detail of the ancient city.
The Art Garden has many fine pieces and combines a unique perspective with the special setting in the Jerusalem Hills. There are some fine views over modern Jerusalem – some of the new neighborhoods and the Knesset and Government Centers located nearby. Two of the most popular pieces are a unique mirrored sculpture and the famous AHAVA (Hebrew for Love). Try and catch the gardens late in the afternoon (it is cooler) and it is very special as the sun sets.
For Jerusalem residents there are frequent youth programs at the Israel Museum. There are also temporary exhibitions and there are generally special children’s activities during Pesach & Succot (the festivals of Passover and Tabernacles.) There is a coffee shop and a modern restaurant on the Israel Museum site.
The Israel Museum is wheelchair accessible and the gardens are a joy for photographers. Children will enjoy the model and the Dead Sea Scrolls; they will also enjoy the children’s programs.
See our Israel Museum Photo Collection.
Near to the Israel Museum
Israel Museum details
On the web – Israel Museum Website