Tag Archives: museum

“Top Ten” Jerusalem Sites

The first 3 must see sites in Jerusalem are associated with the 3 monotheistic religions that make up Jerusalem’s religious fabric:

1) the Western wall (Judaism) built by Herod 2000 years ago during his renovation of the Second Temple,

2) the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Christianity) built originally by Emperor Constantine and extensively rebuilt by the Crusaders in 1149 and

3) the Haram el Sharif, with the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque (Islam) built originally in the 8th century by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik.

Here is my personal list of 7 other sites not to be missed. Add a comment to suggest sites you think should be in the “Top Ten”.

4) For a unique view of Jerusalem, take the Ramparts Walk starting at Jaffa Gate where you actually walk on the stone walls built in 1540 by the Ottoman Turkish sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent for a birds eye view of the city. Check out the 8 gates in the city walls, including the remains of the Roman gate below today’s Damascus gate.

5) Visit the Church of Santa Anna in the White Father’s compound, the ruins of a Byzantine church and a Crusader chapel resting on a dike between two pools (there’s no water in them today). This is where Jesus performed one of the two miracles he did in Jerusalem, curing the cripple of 38 years (John 5). There is also a complete Crusader church with incredible acoustics (try it out by singing Amazing Grace or other liturgical melody).

6) Visit the archaeological park at the Davidson Center and see the massive stones that were hurled down onto the Herodian street by the Romans and the steps to the Temple Mount where Jesus would have walked, the Umayyad palaces from the Early Arab period and Byzantine and Crusader ruins.

7) Reserve a Western Wall Tunnel tour and see a model of King Herod’s Second Temple (there is also a model up on the roof of the Aish HaTorah building and a model of Jerusalem in 66CE including the Temple on the grounds of the Israel Museum) and walk 488 meters under the city along the Western Wall on the Herodian street to the spot closest to the Holy of Holies, the holiest site to Judaism.

8) Tour the ancient City of David to understand the importance of water in the history of Jerusalem. Bring “water” shoes and a flashlight and walk 45 minutes through Hezekiah’s Tunnel a manmade canyon cut in the limestone with water up to your knees – quite an experience. The tunnel brought the water of the Gihon Spring to the Siloam Pool, inside the walls of the city. This is where Jesus performed the second miracle in Jerusalem, curing the blind man (John 9).

9) After extensive renovations the new Israel Museum has been open a year and one million people have visited – the Archaeology wing has been completely redone, the Ethnography section has been expanded and the Art gallery includes a new section on Israeli art. The museum includes the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls and other artifacts from Qumran are on display. Beside it is the 1:50 model of Jerusalem in 66 CE just before the Jewish Revolt against Rome which led to the destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem by TItus. Walk around and enjoy the Billy Rose sculpture garden designed by the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi.

10) Take a guided tour of the Mahane Yehuda market or participate in a scavenger hunt. More than an outdoor vegetable market, it is a great place to walk around to get a feel for the characters and local cuisines of Jerusalem. You can request a detailed map of the market at https://israeltours.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/map-mahane-yehuda-market/

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Moshe Castel and Israel Art

In Maale Adumim facing the panoramic view of the hills of Jerusalem sits a building that houses the art of Israeli artist Moshe Castel. Castel himself chose the site located between Jerusalem and the Judean desert symbolizing Israel’s past and future and his own connection to Jerusalem and the land of Israel and its history. (http://www.castelmuseum.com) The Israeli architect David Resnick designed the building with input from Castel. Resnick is well known for other architectural landmarks, Yad Kennedy, the “Mushroom” synagogue at Hebrew University, Givat Ram and the Mormon university in Jerusalem.

Moshe Castel (1909-1991) was born in Jerusalem to a Sephardi family from Castile with roots that go back to the expulsion from Spain in 1492. At the age of 13 he began to study at the recently opened Bezalel Art School where he learned the rudiments of painting and painted locally inspired landscapes and images. In 1927 at age 17 he traveled to Paris to study at the Academie Julian. Quickly he exchanged his hat and black tie for vagabond clothing and hung out with his fellow artists in the cafes. He rented a small apartment above the sculptor Giacomettti and joined the circle of great artists, Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Soutine and Chagall.

At the Louvre, he sat before the works of the Old Masters and copied their paintings, paying attention to the technique of layering the paint on the canvas. There Castel learned “That art is not symbolic, but rather material, the material is the main thing, the way the paint is placed, the way the layers are placed on the picture, this is the most essential thing.”

In the 1940s he returned to Israel, settled in the Artist Colony of Tzfat and established the New Horizons group of artists that broke way from the established Artists’ Union to focus on universal artistic elements and a more abstract European style. You can visit the house he lived in, newly renovated as a gallery.

He found basalt rocks on his hikes through the Galilee, in the area of Korazim, and began to use them as raw material – the stones were crushed, mixed with a bonding agent and pigment and applied in a thick coat with a palate knife. This material was applied as the textured background for scrolls, letters, figures that became his signature and unique artwork.

There are three other museums in Israel that are dedicated to the works of a single artist. The former residence of the Israeli painter Reuven Rubin at 14 Bialik Street in the heart of Tel Aviv has been made into a museum that displays his paintings from the different periods in his artistic development and preserves the artist’s studio. There is also an audio-visual slide show on Rubin’s life and work. (http://www.rubinmuseum.org.il/home.asp)

The Nahum Gutman Museum was opened to the public at the reconstructed Writers’ House at 21 Rokach Street in Neve Zedek in 1998 and encompasses works in oil, gouache and watercolor, as well as several thousand drawings and illustrations. (http://www.gutmanmuseum.co.il/Default.aspx)

The Janco Dada Museum in the center of the Ein Hod Artists’ Village south of Haifa exhibits the prolific work of Marcel Janco chronologically from his early works as a boy of fifteen. (http://www.jancodada.co.il/en/ar_01.php)

For other museums in Israel check out http://ilmuseums.com/

“Top Ten” Biblical Archaeological Discoveries

Several months ago Tim Kimberley of the Parchment and Pen posted his “Top Ten” list of biblical discoveries in archaeology. I found the link via Todd Bolen’s Bibleplaces blog who wrote that the list corresponds closely to what he would have suggested. So drumroll please, here is the list in reverse order of importance:

10. Sennacherib’s Siege Reliefs of Lachish

9. Black Obelisk of Jehu’s Tribute to Shalmaneser III

8. Caiaphas Ossuary

7. Hezekiah’s Tunnel

6. Pontius Pilate Inscription

5. The Crucified Man (nail through heel)

4. Ketef Hinnom Silver Amulet Scroll (Priestly Blessing)

3. Jericho (Tel es-Sultan)

2. Tel Dan Stele with House of David

1. Dead Sea Scrolls

To see most of these finds, specifically #1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 8 only requires a visit to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The British Museum holds #9 and 10 but there is an excellent replica of #10, Sennacherib’s Siege Reliefs at the Israel Museum. You can experience #7 Hezekiah’s Tunnel by visiting the City of David archaeological park. Just last week I took a family, we started at the sifting project at Emeq Tsurim, walked along the Jerusalem trail to the Kidron to the City of David and walked Hezekiah’s Tunnel – everyone had a great time. Site #3 Jericho is off limits for a lot of Israeli guides but I am authorized to take tourists to Jericho – there is a lot of discussion about whether the archaeology supports the Biblical account.

One of the things Tim talks about is provenance, where the artifact was found. Besides seeing the objects at the museum, this is where you would have to go to see where they were discovered:

#1 Qumran, 2 Tel Dan, 3 Jericho, 4 Ketef Hinnom, 5 Givat haMivtar, a suburb north of Jerusalem, 6 Caesarea, 7 City of David, 8 Peace Forest at tayelet/promenade, 9 and 10 you’d have to go to Iraq; you can visit Tel Lachish off of highway 3415 between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

You might want to add these places to your itinerary on your next trip to Israel, you’ll learn a lot. I can take you to and guide these sites except for Iraq.

Sites around Akko

There are many well-known sites in Israel that are popular, that visitors see again and again while missing out on other hidden gems. Many people have seen the Chagall Windows at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem but far fewer probably know about the stained-glass windows that Israeli artist, Mordecai Ardon designed. Many people have visited Yad Vashem but far fewer have visited Lohamei HaGetaot, a kibbutz near Akko founded by those who fought and survived the Nazis.

Many people are familiar with the Bahá’í gardens in Haifa but far fewer have visited the Bahá’í gardens just north of Akko. The gardens in Haifa comprise a staircase of nineteen terraces extending all the way up the northern slope of Mount Carmel. The golden-domed Shrine of the Báb, the resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, stands on the central terrace, looking across the bay towards Akko. There the gardens at Bahjí reflect the beauty and serenity of the Haifa gardens.

The gardens form a large circle surrounding the historic mansion where Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, lived during the final years of his life after he was released from Acre Prison by the Ottoman Turks and the shrine where he is buried.

Later during the British Mandate period, Jewish resistance fighters were held in the Acre prison and 9 died there on the gallows. Today the prison is a museum and has been recently updated to dramatically retell the story of the Hagana, Irgun and Lehi struggle with the British, definitely worth a visit. There is another less well-known museum to the underground prisoners in Jerusalem in the Russian compound.

The Old City of Akko was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. In July 2008, the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa and Akko were listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites, in recognition of their “outstanding universal value” as holy places and places of pilgrimage. Like all great works of art, these extraordinary sites are tangible expressions of the human spirit.

One of the striking formations near the entrance is a trimmed hedge in the form of an aqueduct. Many people are familiar with the aqueduct that Herod built, onto which the Romans tacked a second aqueduct to bring water to Caesarea but there is another less well-known aqueduct. Just north of Akko, by Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot is an aqueduct from the Ottoman period built on an earlier one from the Hellenistic period that was built to bring water from the Cabri springs to Akko.

Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot was founded in 1949 by a community of Holocaust survivors, members of the Jewish underground in the ghettos of Poland, and veterans of partisan units. Integral to the kibbutz from the beginning was the Ghetto Fighters’ House – Itzhak Katzenelson Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum for documenting and researching the Holcaust. The museum serves as a testimony to the stories of the survivors and an expression of the return of the Jewish people to our land.

Beside it is Yad Layeled (Monument to Children), an educational center commemorating the one and a half million Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust. The building was designed by Ram Carmi of two main architectural elements: a central 3-story cone and a descending ramp that encircles the cone and defines the path through the space. The space is lit by natural light that enters through a circular stained-glass window on the domed ceiling of the cone that becomes dimmer as you descend until you reach the innermost sanctum and eternal flame.

Yad Layeled gives the visitor an intimate view of the children’s world during the Holocaust and opens a door to their dramatic experiences and pain. It is unique in that it is intended to reach out to young people (ages 10 and up). The other permanent exhibitionis dedicated to Dr. Janusz Korczak, a Polish-Jewish doctor, author and educator who devoted his life to children. Many people visit Yad VaShem but fewer people know about Lohamei HaGetaot. That’s a good reason to hire a guide – a guide can take you places and share experiences that you probably won’t discover on your own.