Day 4: A visit to the Israel Museum

Jerusalem Travel Blog

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The Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum

This morning we are up bright and early for a tour of the Israel Museum.  First we hear a lecture and see a slideshow presentation of the some of the museum's highlighs (torah coverings and personal items of people lost in the Holocaust are among the highlights).  Next the curator of the museum comes to speak to us about the Dead Sea Scrolls which are housed here. 

The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of roughly 1000 documents from the Hebrew Bible written prior to the year 100 AD.  They were found in caves along the West Bank beginning in 1947 and continuning through the 1970s.  They are significant because they are the oldest Biblical texts in Hebrew.  The first discovered scroll was purchased by an Israeli archaeologist on November 29, 1947--a noted date here as it was the date the UN approved the creation of Israel.

New age music at the Church of Notre Dame
  Later four scrolls were put up for sale (by a seller who clearly didn't know what he was selling) and advertised in the classifieds of the Wall Street Journal on June 1, 1954.  Today they are housed here.  Only occasionally are the actual scrolls put out on display--usually it's just photocopies on display.  Today we get to see the Book of Isaiah scroll on display.  It's the second longest scroll at 734cm in length and it's out as part of a special exhibit celebrating Israel's 60th birthday.  President Bush toured the exhibit two months ago when he was here.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are all housed in a special part of the museum called the Shrine of the Book.  From the exterior, the building has an odd shape.  Our bus leader Leah calls it "a dollop of whipped cream" and Sara says it looks like "a white Hershey's Kiss.
Pommegranates growing in the garden.
"  It is actually designed to look like the clay pots that the scrolls were discovered inside. 

Afterward, we very briefly tour the outdoor model of the Old City and the surrounding sculpture gardens before visiting the art museum.  There are six museums in the country exhibiting art from the last sixty years of Israel's history (again as part of birthday celebrations).  This museum features work from 1998-2008.  We see a lot of cool, modern pieces including a photographer's recreation of the Last Supper using Israeli soldiers as Jesus and the apostles. 

Next we go back to Ramat Rachel for lunch and another lecture.  Then in the early evening we depart for the Ein Karem neighborhood and a visit to the Church of Notre Dame.

Sara and I strike a pose in the garden.
  As soon as we enter, we are "challenged" to remain silent for the remainder of our stay.  We're led to a chapel where three new-agey musicians play for us.  I am a little uninspired until we follow the musicians outside into the lovely gardens of the church.  The music becomes more tranquil and less Yanni-esque and were allowed to just sit and take in our surroundings.  When the music is over, we are allowed to roam freely (but silently) through the gardens.  I stop in one courtyard to sit and it suddenly dawns on me that I am in one of the most peaceful places on earth.  It's so quiet, beautiful and serene here.  I'm also in one of the most conflicted places on earth (I'm still in Jerusalem after all).
Just a beautiful plant with purple leaves
  It's an amazing juxtaposition.  So many times I have felt relaxed and soothed in this city yet I can never forget how volatile my surroundings are.  I'm thinking about this contrast when the silence is broken by the wail of a distant police siren reminding me once again that everything is at odds in this city. 

We leave the church and walk a short distance to a neighborhood restaurant where we have a catered, outdoor BBQ dinner in the garden above it.  It's a beautiful setting.  We watch the sun set on the city as we enjoy BBQ (including soy patties-yum), salad, pita, hummus and for dessert....watermelon. 

Afterward, it's back to the hobbit beds for some sleep.

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photo by: daynnightraveller