Israel has to be one of the richest travel destinations out there in regards to culture and history (without even mentioning the beautiful beaches, the food, etc). For decades, travelers have come to witness evidence of Israel’s long, fascinating past. So it’s probably not much of a surprise to see the Israel Museum consistently ranked as one of the best in the world. Its wealth of exhibitions, ranging from artifacts and ancient documents to Israeli art, is sure to cast a spell over even the most jaded of tourists.
Our Tip: Jerusalem does, of course, have it all for the history fan, what with the amazing Old City a must-see on many visitors’ lists. The Israel Museum really should be added to that must-see list; there really are very few experiences in Israel that can compare to the sheer grandeur of the Israel Museum.
Following a major face-lift in 2010, the Israel Museum has again been wowing visitors. The biggest target of the refurbishing process has been the Shrine of the Book, the dome-shaped monument that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls, found in Qumran in 1946, remain to this date one of the best-preserved examples of Judeo-Christian literature and are revered by the millions who come each year for a spiritual pilgrimage.
The Shrine of the Book itself is breathtaking to behold. The building’s architectural design is an abstract representation of the fabled war between the Sons of Light and Darkness. The white wall represents the Son of Light and the black wall the Sons of Darkness. The Shrine is also mostly (two-thirds) submerged below water, as it is surrounded by a small pool.
Also within the Shrine of the Book: don’t miss the less famous but no less fascinating Aleppo Codex, a 10th century Bible that is believed to be the oldest complete Bible ever found.
To really get the maximum out of your stopover in the Shrine, do purchase an audio guide, which comes in multiple languages. Not all of us are experts on the complex history of Israel, but the informative and concise guides give us a better-rounded appreciation of the displays. You should also note that all photography is forbidden in the Shrine of the Book.
Another major visitor attraction is the Second Temple model which reconstructs the city of Jerusalem before the catastrophic Great Revolt against Roman Rule in 66 C.E. Looking at the complex network of alleyways, one cannot help but be overwhelmed by a profound sense of history and a touching poignancy for what was lost in that revolt and can never be truly regained.
While less widely known than the historical exhibitions, the art exhibitions in the Israel Museum are also a must-see attraction. The museum proudly presents the largest collection of Jewish art in the world, ranging from artists such as Abel Pann to traditional Jewish ceremonial art. The latter is particularly fascinating from an art history perspective, with artifacts such as the Kiddush cup, spice box and Hanukkah menorah providing a cultural dimension to the rich history on display.
One other attraction not to miss at the Israel Museum has to be the Billy Rose Art Garden - a magnificent Japanese Zen-like garden that houses pieces from some of the greatest ever artists and sculptors (Rodin, Boudelle, Picasso, Moore…). Enjoyed by many visitors to the Museum and well worth a slow, contemplative walk through.
The Israel Museum is located in the heart of Jerusalem, on Ruppin Boulevard in the Givat Ram neighborhood, near the Knesset (Israeli Parliament).
By bus you can catch Egged lines 9, 9a, 17, 17a, 24, and 24a. If you’re coming by car, enter “Avraham Granot Street” on your GPS/or brush up on your map reading skills…
By taxi – ask the driver to put the meter on!
Do take note of the erratic opening hours to avoid disappointment. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 4 pm to 9 pm on Tuesdays, 10 am to 2 pm on Fridays and eves of public holidays and 10 am to 5 pm on holidays and Saturdays.
Ticket prices range from 24 – 48 shekels, depending on age, beauty and charm. No seriously, check online for latest prices or contact the Israel Museum via the details below. You can also keep tabs on the latest exhibitions at the Museum by joining them on their Facebook page.