Monday 16th June 2014
After being given input on the Gospel of Mark in the morning, in the afternoon I joined a group of fellow participants in the Ecce Homo biblical programme for a visit to the Israel Museum in Western Jerusalem (the new city). It is the national museum of Israel. I only had a couple of hours there, which was all the ‘free’ time we had today, but could have spent at least twice as much time there. For general information on the museum see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_Museum.
The museum is located near the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament.
The first section of the museum that I visited, for which the museum is rightly famed, is The Shrine of the Book. This houses the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran, the place which we had visited last week on the western shore of the Dead Sea.
The shape of the white roof is designed to represent the lid of a pottery jar in which Dead Sea Scrolls were hidden and found 2,000 years later. The fountains of water spraying onto the roof are not for cooling, as I had supposed, but to represent purification, for the members of the Qumran community were noted for taking ritual baths for purification. I am told that the building is especially designed that in the event of an attack the structure which holds the precious ancient manuscripts will sink deep into the floor and be covered over out of harm’s way. Another floor in the same complex contained an exhibition on the Aleppo Codex, a 10th century text of parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. For detailed information on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Aleppo Codex see the relevant sections of the Museum’s website: http://www.english.imjnet.org.il
Adjacent to the Shrine of the Book there is a large scale model of Jerusalem of the Second Temple Period, the time of Herod the Great, the time also in which Jesus preached here, was arrested, suffered, was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. It was fascinating to see the model bring to ‘life’ much of what we had been told in our guided tours of the city, where it had been explained to us in words where and how buildings and access points had been, especially in regard to the Temple, filling in the gaps, as it were, in the remnants of the buildings that remain to this day. In the model you can see how prominently it towers over the ancient city. I overheard a guide saying that the Temple building was three times higher than the Dome of the Rock, the gold dome of which glistens in the contemporary cityscape of Jerusalem today. So it certainly must have been impressive.
I spent much of my remaining time in the archaeological section, wandering through the exhibitions on the original settlement of the land in ancient times, the arrival of the Israelites, the various kingdoms, the Greeks, the Romans, the Christian Byzantine era, the advent of Islam, the Crusades and so on. Again, it was good to see items that corresponded to people and events about which we had heard from our various tour guides and visits to places around Jerusalem and in southern Israel.
As I was making my way out the museum I went past an exhibition on “Journeys” that I did not have time to visit. However, my eye was caught by this description of the exhibition and the reference to journeying, which resonated with my recent experience of walking the Camino in Spain.
When the museum closed at 5.00, we caught a bus and visited the
Machane Yehuda Market. The official website is http://www.machne.co.il/en/
It was very similar to the Carmel Market I had seen yesterday in Tel Aviv (and to other markets in other parts of the Middle East and Asia), except that it was more institutionalised. The produce and goods and food-stalls were more or less the same contents but in a more established structure.
Shalom, Peace, Salaam