2011
05.04

SYNOPSIS:

A failed visit to the Knesset, a visit of the Bible Museum, the Israel Museum, as well as the Shrine of the Book.

If we had our act together, we would have known that the Knesset is open only on Sundays and Thursdays, not Sunday through Thursday.  Minor oversight, major mess.  I guess I won’t see the Knesset from the inside — time is running out.

The next stop was the Israel Museum, but it does not open until 4 PM on Tuesdays, and without the Knesset, we had two hours to kill.  Thank goodness for the Bible Museum nearby.  The name of the museum would not have attracted us, but we were pleasantly surprised.  Among some very fine archaeological artifacts, it had a neat model of the First Temple period and a tranquil sculpture garden.  Believe me, Jerusalem is so confusing since it has grown and changed, expanded and contracted over time and if you don’t understand that development, then you are pretty much lost with the current setup.  And as visual as I am, I love maps and models and the Bible Museum was full of them.

But the Israel Museum…!  I am at a loss for words.  The Book of the Shrine which is part of it, is a unique building, picking its inspiration from an actual jar in which the scrolls were found.  It displays and explains the scrolls and the history of the Qumran sect.  A wonderful sculpture garden, designed by Isamu Noguchi, displays modern sculptures.  About ten rooms are dedicated to the history of Israel from prehistoric times to the present.  For me, the most impressive displays were three full-size synagogues dismantled from various places, including one from India and one from Italy.  In India there was one sizable Jewish community that was established there after the expulsion by the Romans after 70 AD.  After they immigrated back to Israel in the 1950’s their synagogue was purchased by the Israel Museum.  The museum had objects on display which I had never seen quite like this, for example, a whole room full of human-faced, clay coffins!  A fun part of the outdoor display of the museum was a sculpture by Anish Kapoor.  It’s an hourglass-shaped, stainless steel sculpture, about 16 feet tall, which acts like a mirror displaying the museum and its surrounding in it.  If you know the “Bean” in the Chicago Millennium Park, you know the artist and the kind of sculptures he creates.

But the absolute knockout of this museum was the gigantic model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple Period.  In conjunction with the First Temple Model from the Bible Museum this finally put the development of this city into visual terms for me.  A particularly nice touch was the crow that hopped around in the model providing a sense of scale for you.

I can not even speak for the dozens of rooms dedicated to European art, particularly the art of the 19th and 20th century Impressionism, Post-impressionism, and more.  After 5 hours at the museum I ran out of time and could not do this section a bit of justice.  Wow!

Good night.

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