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Friday, April 29, 2011

THE ISRAEL MUSEUM--JERUSALEM CIRCA 66 CE & THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS--BLOWS ME AWAY

Jerusalem model
Once again Jerusalem amazes.  Our visit to the Israel Museum and, in particular, two of the exhibits blew me away. 

The first was the Jerusalem model, a scale model of this eternally important city as it existed at the time of the second Temple.  We’re talking 66 CE.  It is awesome to view and to walk around, and it is awesome to contemplate how meticulously the model was researched and constructed.

Jerusalem model

The Jerusalem model was commissioned by hotel owner Hans Kroch in honor of his son Jacob killed in the 1948 War for Independence.  It was built under the supervision of archeologist Michael Avi-Yonah of the Hebrew University who based his research on the writings of Josephus Flavius in the New Testament and on Hebrew writings found in the Talmud and the Mishna as well as on customs concerning buildings of that period.  Even the construction materials are from that time whenever possible.  If a contemporary archeological find proves an inaccuracy, the model is updated.  Almost incredibly, ancient Josephus was so accurate and complete in his descriptions that very few changes have been made.  As I think of it in these terms, I am awed.  Again.

Jerusalem model

The model opened in 1966 on the grounds of the Mr. Kroch’s hotel but eventually had to be moved because of construction.  The Israel Museum welcomed it with open arms, and it was reopened here in 2006.  The model occupies 21,500 square feet, so it cannot help but be impressive. 

Jerusalem model

Picture the era.  The Temple, the single biggest structure, was built by King Herod and the Romans will destroy it in 70 CE.

Jerusalem model

To this thriving and beautiful city, worshippers came to the Temple three times a year to sacrifice and to pray.  Thousands entered the open areas to watch the proceedings, and they brought their offerings with them. 

Jerusalem model

Jerusalem model

Before I move on to another exhibit, I think of how remarkable it is that I am able to see some of the remaining city still standing, during my visit--the walls encircling the city, the Western Wall of this Temple, the gates to the city.  The feeling is indescribable.

Now on to another exhibit. Perhaps even more impressive is what lies beneath this building we jokingly called a Hershey’s Kiss when we entered the museum grounds. 

Israel Museum

Little did we know that this is The Shrine of the Book, and within this carefully constructed sanctuary lie the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest group of Old Testament scrolls ever found.  (no photos allowed) All I can tell you is that I researched further after I returned home, and these scrolls reveal ideas, beliefs, stories, psalms, and history that boggle the mind.  There is so much information about the scrolls, where and when they were found, the biblical and non-biblical texts, the different versions, the use of Hebrew and Aramaic, the link between Judaism and Christianity and so much more that I cannot begin to write about here, but this link will summarize some of the amazing facts.  http://www.centuryone.com/25dssfacts.html

Don’t get me wrong.  The rest of the museum was beautiful.  Art—modern and ancient, sculpture, pieces of antiquity, gardens. 

Israel Museum

Israel Museum


Israel Museum

Certainly more than several hours’ worth of viewing.  But if you are in Jerusalem, take the time to look at the model and the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Those times will be with you forever.




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