I started my visit in Jerusalem in one museum and ended it in another – this time the amazing Israel Museum which has something for everyone. We got onto a free tour which lasted two hours and was fascinating. The docent managed to cover the history of mankind (really, she did!) as she took as around the evidence from archaeological digs to the first signs of man to their move from hunters to settlers and farmers to developing thought processes to plan for the future. She was brilliant and was able to carefully cover the perspectives from the bible and clarify what people believe to be true, what they have proved to be true and also said that a lot of unanswered questions still remain.
For instance on the top right below is what is believed to be the remains of the very first fire place (first sign of people staying put and starting to farm and eat food in one place) and the remains on the bottom left is a girl cradling her dog (first sign of domestic animals). Note whenever you see bones they are casts of original bones as Jewish people do not believe in showcasing real bones of people.
Below top right is the oldest known fragment of the written bible. It predates the Dead Sea Scrolls which is the oldest known complete written bible. Top left is one half of the fortress gate at Hazor during the time of King Ahab. Below right – the gorgeous sculpture of a head was only found in 2017. It is an elegant style so they know it must be a distinguished person – probably a king but it was found on the border of 3 different kingdoms – they just haven’t figured out who yet BUT they do know it dates back to the 9th Century BC.
And then humans very early on began to like aesthetics – how things looked had to be just right – and this was well before the selfie era! This is reflected in the intricate carvings on the mummy, the first known use of gold (about 6000 years BC) – probably a form of ingot rather then jewellery but very pretty nevertheless and also as people started to stay put they realised the importance of things like weather to their ability to survive and so amulets started to appear for good luck and protection.
The docent then took us to a fabulous section of the museum on Judaica – where the best of the best is on display from Jewish communities all around the world. Some of the clothes worn on special occasions from Eastern Europe and the Levant and Arab world are below.
The museum also has four synagogues in it – 3 in very good condition that have been shipped over and reconstructed in the museum. I loved the fact that they came from very different parts of the world and have adapted their design to that used in the country they were created but as the pointed out the contents of the Torah never change – she described it as “Same prayer, different melodies”.
The two synagogues below are from Italy (baroque style abundant) and India (Cochin) where the Indian woodwork design prevails. And when the Indian one was built they were into listening to females speak publicly so the upstairs section has a place where they could read from the Torah!
The synagogue immediately below is from Suriname and designed in the Dutch Protestant style (as they were colonising this part of the world at that time) and it has sand on the floor – something I had seen in Caribbean synagogues – and no-one knows why for sure. The least good condition synagogue was the one from Bavaria which is where my mother came from so I immediately recognised the style of adornment.
They also have some beautiful embroidered coverings and wedding gifts in this section of the museum.
Outside the main buildings – and there are a lot of them – is a full scale model of Old Jerusalem as they believed it to be during the time of the 2nd Temple – using a scale of 1:50 – really fun to walk around having been to the real thing (sadly without the 2nd temple of course). On the right is the place called the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed – no inside pics allowed.
Aside from all the anthropological and historical and Judaica items – the Isreal Museum has a pretty good selection of international and Israeli art. I chose these four Picassos.
And the building and gardens around are impressive and house some excellent modern and contemporary sculptures including Anish Kapoor’s Turning the World Upside Down.
If I come back to Jerusalem I will definitely return to this museum. We stayed nearly 5 hours without a break.