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Israel Museum

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Established 1965
Location Jerusalem
Type Art and history
Visitors More than one million in one year (2011)[1]
Director James S. Snyder

The Israel Museum (Hebrew: מוזיאון ישראל‎, Muze'on Yisrael) was founded in 1965 as Israel's national museum. It is situated on a hill in the Givat Ram neighborhood of Jerusalem, near the Bible Lands Museum, the Knesset, the Israeli Supreme Court, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Among the unique objects on display is a carved female figurine considered the oldest artwork in the world; the interior of a 1736 Zedek ve Shalom synagogue from Suriname; necklaces worn by Jewish brides in Yemen; a mosaic Islamic prayer niche from 17th-century Persia; and a nail attesting to the practice of crucifixion in Jesus’ time.[2] An urn-shaped building on the grounds of the museum, the Shrine of the Book, houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and artifacts discovered at Masada.


  • History 1
  • Archaeology Wing 2
  • Shrine of the Book 3
  • Second Temple model 4
  • Fine Arts Wing 5
    • European, Modern and Israeli art 5.1
  • Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life 6
    • Isidore and Anne Falk Information Center for Jewish Art and Life 6.1
  • Art Garden 7
  • Youth Wing 8
  • Rockefeller Archaeological Museum and the Ticho House 9
  • Management 10
    • Funding 10.1
    • Attendance 10.2
  • Prizes awarded by the Museum 11
  • See also 12
  • Further reading 13
  • References 14
  • External links 15


Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek was the driving spirit behind the establishment of the Israel Museum, one of the leading art and archaeology museums in the world. The Museum houses works dating from prehistory to the present day in its Archaeology, Fine Arts, and Jewish Art and Life Wings, and features extensive holdings of biblical and Land of Israel archaeology.[2] Since its establishment in 1965, the Museum has built up a collection of nearly 500,000 objects, representing a broad sample of world material culture.[3]

James S. Snyder, former Deputy Director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, was appointed director of the museum in 1997.[4]

From 1965, the museum was housed in a series of masonry buildings designed by the Russian-born Israeli architect Alfred Mansfeld. A $100-million campaign to renovate the museum and double its gallery space was completed in July 2010.[5] The wings for archaeology, the fine arts, and Jewish art and life were completely rebuilt and the original buildings were linked through a new entrance pavilion. The passageways that connect between the buildings and five new pavilions were designed by James Carpenter.[6]

Heliodorus Stele
The 19th Century Room

The museum covers nearly 50,000 sq. meters and attracts 800,000 visitors a year, including 100,000 children who visit and attend classes in its Youth Wing.

Archaeology Wing

The Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archaeology Wing tells the story of the ancient Land of Israel, home to peoples of different cultures and faiths, using unique examples from the Museum’s collection of Holy Land archaeology, the foremost holding in the world. Organized chronologically, from prehistory through the Ottoman Empire, the transformed wing presents seven “chapters” of this archaeological narrative, weaving together momentous historical events, cultural achievements, and technological advances, while providing a glimpse into the everyday lives of the peoples of the region. This narrative is supplemented by thematic groupings highlighting aspects of ancient Israeli archaeology that are unique to the region’s history, among them Hebrew writing, glass, and coins. Treasures from neighboring cultures that have had a decisive impact on the Land of Israel – such as Egypt, the Near East, Greece and Italy, and the Islamic world – are on view in adjacent and connecting galleries. A special gallery at the entrance to the wing showcases new findings and other temporary exhibition displays.

Highlights on view include: Pilate Stone, "House of David” inscription (9th century BCE), A comparative display of two shrines (8th–7th century BCE), The

  • (English) Official website
  • (Hebrew) Official website
  • (Arabic) Programs and Events Languages عربي

External links

  1. ^ "Israel Museum Welcomes One Millionth Visitor Since Inauguration of Renewed Campus" (Press release). Israel Museum. August 21, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b A Haven National and Universal, New York Times
  3. ^ "Search the Israel Museum Collections". Retrieved 2012-09-19. 
  4. ^ Kleiman, Shelley (March 22, 2003). "Museum and Vision". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved May 6, 2009. 
  5. ^ Bronner, Ethan (July 20, 2010). "Cleaning Up Intersection of Ancient and Modern".  
  6. ^ Transparency Is Only the Beginning, New York Times
  7. ^ (PDF). Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Retrieved January 1, 2012. 
  8. ^ Nemy, Enid (October 2, 1997). "Esther G. Gottesman, 98, Zionist With Role in Scrolls Acquisition". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c Muschamp, Herbert (August 19, 2001). "A Surrealist And the Widow Who Keeps The Flame". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2009. 
  10. ^ a b c "Israel Museum, Jerusalem". Sacred Destinations. Retrieved May 6, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Model of Jerusalem from the late second Temple era". Huliq News. Retrieved May 6, 2009. 
  12. ^ Rachum, Stephanie (November 1, 2006). Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Painting and Sculpture in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Harry N. Abrams.  
  13. ^ "Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe", An exhibition focusing on this collection was presented at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem March 11, 2014-October 18, 2014
  14. ^ "The Israel Museum, Jerusalem". Israel Travel Center. Retrieved May 6, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Rockefeller Archaeological Museum". The Israel Museum. 
  16. ^ "Ticho House". The Israel Museum. 
  17. ^ Rachel Somerstein (February 16, 2010), Better than Bilbao? ARTINFO.
  18. ^ Charmaine Picard (May 20, 2009), Israel Museum receives $12m from Safra foundation The Art Newspaper.
  19. ^ "Visitor Figures 2012" (PDF). London:  
  20. ^ Fern, Allen (13 April 2014). "Kol HaOt Illuminated Haggada Fair". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 16 March 2015. 
  21. ^ Ronnen, Meir (6 September 1990). "Sandberg Rrize for Gabi Klasmer".  


  • The Jewish Wardrobe: From the Collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Concept and Project Director: Daisy Raccah-Djivre, Editor: Dr. Esther Juhasz, Associate Editor: No'am Bar'am-Ben-Yossef, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and 5 Continents Edition, Milan, 2012.
  • Benjamin, Chaya, Early Israeli Arts and Crafts: Bezalel Treasures from the Alan B. Slifka Collection in the Israel Museum, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 2008.
  • Benjamin, Chaya, The Stieglitz Collection: Masterpieces of Jewish Art, The Israel Museum 1987.
  • Shachar, Isaiah, Jewish tradition in art; The Feuchtwanger collection of Judaica, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem 1971.

Further reading

See also

Among the prizes awarded by the museum is the Jesselson Prize for Contemporary Judaica Design, which recognizes outstanding design of Jewish ritual objects.[20] Winners include Moshe Zabari (1990).[21]

Prizes awarded by the Museum

As of 2012, attendance is about 827,000 per year.[19]


The Israel Museum receives only 10% to 12% of its operating budget from state and municipal sources. The Israeli government provides varying amounts of funds each year. The institution must raise 88% of its yearly operating budget, all of its $150 million endowment[17] and $100 million for its recent capital project, while paying 17.5% VAT as well as real-estate taxes on the campus property. The most active of the international support groups of the museum, the American Friends of the Israel Museum raised $270 million in cash, of which $47 million is in endowment funds, and donated $210 million in art from 1972 to 2008. In 2009, the Israel Museum received $12m from the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, towards the renovation, reinstallation and endowment of its fine arts wing, which will be renamed after Edmond and Lily Safra.[18]



In addition to the extensive programming offered on its main campus, the Israel Museum also operates two off-site locations: the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum that opened in 1938 for the display of artifacts unearthed mainly in the excavations conducted in Mandatory Palestine, in the 1920s and 1930s;[15] and Ticho House, which offers an ongoing program of exhibitions by younger Israeli artists in a historic house and garden setting.[16]

Rockefeller Archaeological Museum and the Ticho House

The Ruth Youth Wing for Art Education, was opened in 1966. It is unique in its size and scope of activities, presents a wide range of programming to more than 100,000 schoolchildren each year, and features exhibition galleries, art studios, classrooms, a library of illustrated children’s books, and a recycling room. Special programs foster intercultural understanding between Arab and Jewish students and reach out to the wide spectrum of Israel’s communities. The wing combines annual original artworks of Israeli and international artists, with educational activities. There are also a variety of workshops for children and adults.[14]

Youth Wing


Henry Moore-A Woman-Israel Museum

Art Garden

The information center offers access to resources of the collections as well as virtual tours in former exhibitions in order to broaden and deepen knowledge behind the objects in the Wing’s collections.

The Information Center has a research library and a unique archival collection, constantly growing, of some twenty thousand photographs. Many of them are extremely rare, documenting the daily life of Jewish communities around the world, some no longer exist, including images of synagogues, cemeteries, ceremonial objects and many other subjects.

Isidore and Anne Falk Information Center for Jewish Art and Life

  • The Rhythm of Life: Birth, Marriage, Death - highlighting the coexistence of joy and sadness, life and death, memory and hope at each of these junctures in the life cycle.
  • Illuminating the Script - a display from our collection of rare medieval and Renaissance Hebrew manuscripts, shedding light on their history and revealing their artistry.
  • The Synagogue Route: Holiness and Beauty - Four restored interiors of synagogues from Europe, Asia, and the Americas, along with Torah scroll ornaments, show the unity and diversity of Jewish religious architecture and ritual objects.
  • The Cycle of the Jewish Year - The sanctity of the Sabbath and the traditional celebration of religious holidays, as well as the new commemoration of special days in the State of Israel, have given rise to a wealth of finely crafted objects and imaginative artworks.
  • Costume and Jewelry: A Matter of Identity- Environment, custom, and religious law all play their role in creating the rich variety of Jewish dress and jewelry from East and West presented here.[13]

Five principal themes unfold as you walk through the galleries:

The wing's collection contains many unique treasures, among them are rare manuscripts, four reconstructed synagogue interiors, a wide variety of ceremonial and ritual objects, as well as diverse material culture including dress, jewelry and everyday artifacts. In the new permanent display, important objects drawn from this extensive collection from the public and the private realm, are integrated into a multifaceted narrative. This comparative display explores the objects’ history and the social context in which they were used, while underscoring their aesthetic qualities and emotional resonance. It reflects a vivid cultural tapestry weaving together the individual and the communal, the sacred and the mundane, the heritage of the past and the creative innovations of the present.

The origins of the collection can be traced to the early twentieth century with the establishment of the Bezalel National Museum under the directorship of Mordechai Narkiss, who expanded significantly the collection of ritual art objects through important treasures rescued between the two world wars and after the Holocaust. Later on, this treasure was integrated in the newly established Israel Museum in 1965 into the departments of Jewish Art and of Jewish Ethnography. In 1995 they were united into a new independent wing. Over the years the Wing's holdings have been strengthened through gifts and acquisitions of individual objects; gift of private collections; and fieldwork within communities in Israel and abroad. The Wing's prominent collections are the Stieglitz Collection and the Feuchtwanger Collection for Jewish ritual objects, Torah scroll ornaments and life cycle objects, as well as the Schulmann Collection and Rathjens Collection for North African and Yemenite material culture, dress, jewelry and ritual objects.

The holdings of the "Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life" represent the religious and secular material culture of Jewish communities worldwide, spanning centuries from the Middle Ages to the present day. The collection reflects the depth and beauty of Jewish heritage and creativity as well as the aesthetic and stylistic influences of other cultures in places where Jews lived.

Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life

The Israel Museum holds a large collection of paintings representing a wide range of periods, styles, subjects and regions of origin. Painters in the collection include such international figures as Rembrandt, Marc Chagall and Camille Pissarro as well as such Israeli and Jewish artists as Abel Pann and Reuven Rubin.[12] The Israel Museum’s commitment to Israeli art is central to the Museum’s mission. As Israel’s national museum, it plays a major role in preserving Israel’s artistic heritage by collecting works by Israeli artists - in Israel and abroad - and by encouraging Israel’s artists to develop in their careers. The Museum’s Israeli Art collection spans the late 19th century through today, and it reflects the evolution of Israel’s cultural history in the visual arts. The Information Center for Israeli Art provides scholars and the interested public with comprehensive archival information on several thousand Israeli artists, including biographical notes, press materials, videos, photographs and other forms of documentation.

European, Modern and Israeli art

Highlights newly on view include: The Noel and Harriette Levine Photography Collection, The

The Edmond and Lily Safra Fine Arts Wing reflects the wide-ranging, interdisciplinary nature of the Museum’s collections, encompassing works of art from across the ages in Western and non-Western cultures. The wing has been reorganized to highlight connections among works from its diverse curatorial collections, which include: European Art; Modern Art; Contemporary Art; Israeli Art; the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; Asian Art; Photography; Design and Architecture; and Prints and Drawings. Installations are organized to underscore visual affinities and shared themes and to inspire new insight into the arts of different times and places, as well as an appreciation of the common threads of human culture. The reconfigured wing includes the Museum’s first permanent galleries for Israeli art; more than doubled gallery space for the Museum’s extensive collections in modern art; providing meaningful connecting points between Western and non-Western holdings; and a full 2,200-square-meter (7,200-square-foot) gallery floor devoted to changing displays from the Museum’s collection of contemporary art.

Fine Arts Wing

Adjacent to the Shrine is the Model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, which reconstructs the topography and architectural character of the city as it was prior to its destruction by the Romans in 66 CE, and provides historical context to the Shrine’s presentation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Originally constructed on the grounds of Jerusalem’s Holyland Hotel, the model, which includes a replica of Herod's Temple, is now a permanent feature of the museum's 20-acre (81,000 m2) campus.[11]

Second Temple model at Israel Museum

Second Temple model

As the fragility of the scrolls makes it impossible to display all on a continuous basis, a system of rotation is used. After a scroll has been exhibited for 3–6 months, it is removed from its showcase and placed temporarily in a special storeroom, where it "rests" from exposure. The museum also holds other rare ancient manuscripts and displays The Aleppo Codex, which is from the 10th-century and is believed to be the oldest complete Bible in Hebrew.[10]

The building consists of a white dome over a building located two-thirds below the ground. The dome is reflected in a pool of water that surrounds it. Across from the white dome is a black basalt wall.[9] The colors and shapes of the building are based on the imagery of the Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness, whereas the white dome symbolizes the Sons of Light and the black wall symbolizes the Sons of Darkness. The interior of the shrine was designed to depict the environment in which the scrolls were found.[10] There is also a permanent display on life in the Qumran, where the scrolls were written.[10] The entire structure was designed to resemble a pot in which the scrolls were found.[9] The shrine was designed by Armand Bartos and Frederick Kiesler, and was opened in 1965.[9]

The Shrine of the Book houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, as well as rare early medieval biblical manuscripts. The scrolls were discovered in 1947–56 in 11 caves in and around the Wadi Qumran. An elaborate planning process of seven years led to the building's eventual construction in 1965 which was funded by the family of David Samuel Gottesman, the Hungarian émigré, the philanthropist who had purchased the scrolls as a gift to the State of Israel.[8]

Shrine of the Book

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