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The best museums in Israel

Which museums you should not miss out on when in Israel
by: Israel Traveler   |   08.01.2012
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have many special museums which present Israel’s uniqueness in a variety of areas – from the history and archeology of Israel and the Middle East region, as one can see in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, to the story of the Jewish People in the Diaspora that is presented at the Beit Hatfutsot (Diaspora House) Museum and the modern architecture as it is expressed in the structures of the Design Museum in Holon and the new wing of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Here are seven recommended museums in Israel:

The Israel Museum is the largest in the Middle East and one of the best in the world for archeology and art. The Israel Museum was established in 1965 and along the years has accumulated a collection of about a half a million items! In 2010, the Israel Museum was re-inaugurated after three years of renovations during which the existing galleries in the art, archeology and Jewish art and culture wings were redesigned and new galleries were even added, the entrance facilities were made bigger and accessible passages and public spaces were constructed. Beyond the permanent unique exhibitions at the Israel Museum on the subjects of archeology, art, Jewish ethnography and folklore, at the Israel Museum one can find the famous Shrine of the Book that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls which are the oldest Biblical writings and of the most important archeological finds in the world. Near the Shrine of the Book is one of the new and fascinating additions to the Israel Museum, a model of Jerusalem at the time of the Second Jewish Temple. The model recreates the topographic and architectural character of the city in the year of 66 CE when the Great Jewish Revolt against the Romans took place. One can also find at the Israel Museum the Billy Rose Art Garden which was designed by the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi and the Youth Wing which offers a variety of activities.

The Museum for Islamic Art is an architectural jewel in the heart of Jerusalem. It contains nine galleries which display collections representing the various periods of Islamic rule and its elaborate culture. A special section of the Museum is dedicated to an impressive collection of jewelry from all parts of the Empire. The Museum contains a great variety of Islamic Art, virtuosic calligraphy, embroidered rugs, chessboards and chess pieces, dominoes and ancient playing cards, beautiful decorations, a collection of silverware from the eleventh century CE and a magnificent weapons room. Among the galleries is the important, rare and expensive collection of old European clocks. Beyond the 106 clocks, considered to be meticulous masterpieces, there is also a collection of gold musical snuff boxes adorned with enamel pictures, pearls and diamonds.

Yad Vashem (meaning: a memorial and a name) is Israel's official memorial site to the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis during World War II and the Holocaust. Yad Vashem is a complex of museums, memorial sites and research, documentation and education centers, all of which concentrate on the memory of the Holocaust and its atrocities. In Yad Vashem one can find the "Garden of the Righteous among the Nations”, honoring the non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, and the "Hall of Remembrance”, where the visitors can remember the victims of the Holocaust. On the floor of the "Hall of Remembrance” are engraved the names of twenty two out of hundreds of the most infamous Nazi extermination and concentration camps, murder sites and transit camps. At the center of the "Hall of Remembrance” burns the "Eternal Flame” and next to it stands a stone crypt containing the ashes of Holocaust victims, brought to Israel from the extermination camps. One can also find here the "Holocaust History Museum”, the "Warsaw Ghetto Square”, the "Cattle Car Memorial to the Deportees” and the "Children’s Memorial”. At Yad Vashem exists the largest information database in the world on the subject of the Holocaust, which includes more that sixty five million documentation pages and about ninety thousand books on the subject of the Holocaust as well as the Yad Vashem collections of art and artifacts. All around Yad Vashem one can find monuments that commemorate the Jewish victims and their suffering during the Holocaust and reinforce the strong emotional impressions which stay with one following the visit.

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art is Israel’s leading museum of modern and contemporary art, welcoming more than 500,000 visitors each year. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art was founded in 1932, in the home of Tel Aviv’s first Mayor, Meir Dizengoff, and it quickly became Tel Aviv’s center of culture and art. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art presents works by Israeli and International artists. Alongside the permanent collections, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art displays yearly about 25 temporary Israeli and International art exhibitions of various genres, such as: paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, photography, video, design and architecture. In the Meyerhoff Art Education Center, situated near the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, about 2,000 pupils participate yearly in a great variety of workshops led by different artists. In addition to the great artistic diversity which the Tel Aviv Museum of Art offers, it also serves as a cultural center, hosting classical, jazz and world music concerts, quality cinema, lectures and activities for children.
In 2011 a new structure was added to the well established museum, which adds to it substantial new spaces for exhibitions and expands the artistic content that the museum has to offer its visitors. The new structure, which was designed by the United States, Cambridge, Massachusetts based architect Preston Scott Cohen, is architecturally unique and expresses a modern and up to date concept which characterizes the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Tel Aviv as the city in which it resides, also Known as "The City That Never Sleeps", and that is not only locally but also internationally.

The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora presents to its visitors the unique and ongoing story of the Jewish People throughout the generations, using murals, dioramas, three dimensional reconstructions, films, audio-visual displays and interactive multimedia presentations. The museum’s permanent exhibition is organized around central themes, such as: family, community, faith, creation, living and interacting with non-Jewish environments and the return to Israel, and it investigates in depth the secret of the continued existence of the Jewish People who managed to survive throughout the ages while maintaining its values, uniqueness and heritage. Many of the items on display are the works of contemporary artists, as many of the original items did not survive.

The Eretz Israel Museum (the Land of Israel Museum) was founded in 1958 as Ha'Aretz Museum in the north of Tel Aviv. This is a multi-disciplinary museum, which focuses on the history and culture of the Land of Israel through a permanent exhibition and various changing exhibitions on the subjects of archaeology, ethnography, folklore, Judaica, traditional crafts, practical arts, cultural history and local identity. The museum offers its visitors a fascinating educational experience which includes reconstructed and working manufacturing installations, such as wine and oil presses, a flour mill, and the "Crafts Arcade", where one can see the traditional working tools common to the Land of Israel and the region. The museum is organized in various pavilions which are scattered around the vast garden, at the center of which is the ancient Tel Qasile (Qasile mound) archeological site, rich in archeological finds of great importance from Biblical times. The museum also has a planetarium, which has been renewed and renovated lately and today offers a virtual flight in space with the help of a magnificent 360 degrees screen, a memorial site for the Israeli Astronaut, Ilan Ramon, and more.

The first Design museum in Israel opened in 2010 with great clamor, not only due to its being the first of its kind in Israel, but also due to the structure in which it is housed- a unique and first large-scale project of the Tel Aviv-born London-based architect, industrial designer and sculptor, Ron Arad. It is considered one of the world's leading museums of design and contemporary culture. The museum’s building is wrapped with several rusted steel bands of gradually changing shades. These bands enfold the concrete structure and create interestingly rich vantage points from any chosen angle. The museum, spreading over 3,700 square meters, includes two relatively large galleries and a few smaller exhibition spaces. All these host permanent and changing exhibitions, some of which are international. Entrance through Pinhas Eylon Street.
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