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Museums in Jerusalem: The Tower of David Museum

It is a place rich in history. For centuries it guarded the Western entrance to Jerusalem. It was built at this specific location because it was considered the weak link in the city's defense.

Not only do many tourists regularly pass it by, many Israelis did not know of its existence, until recently. The place is The Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, also known as the Citadel. It doesn't just tell the story of the history of Jerusalem, it is history. It is also a very beautiful site for a museum.

According to its director, Shosh Yaniv, the museum that she has headed for close to five years is the place where Jerusalem begins. It is a unique blend of modern exhibits, housed in the former guardrooms of an impressive stone structure, located atop the Mount Zion ridge, at the entrance to the Old City.

Yaniv said, "So many tourists get their picture taken here, they walk through the Jaffa Gate and never know that there is a museum inside and they walk right by. In fact, many Israelis are shocked, they come in and they say, since when has this been here?"

The museum has existed for almost ten years. It was a project of the Jerusalem Foundation and the main donor at the time of its creation was the Clore Foundation of the UK. Both foundations continue to support the museum.

Thanks to a special exhibition, attendance at the museum has surged. Since early July of this year [1999] the Tower of David has been hosting, Chihuly In the Light of Jerusalem 2000. This is an exhibition by world-renowned American glass artist, Dale Chihuly whose works are featured in over 100 museums worldwide and in the private collections of the White House and Buckingham Palace.

Yaniv noted that like all good things in life, the exhibition came about by accident. Chihuly was in Israel for less than 24 hours. He came to attend a memorial service for Izzika Gaon, who was a former General Curator at the Israel Museum and later its Design Curator. Chihuly visited the Tower of David museum and met with Yaniv and the idea for the special exhibition was born.

Chihuly In the Light of Jerusalem 2000, is the largest exhibition of Chihuly's works. It is composed of 10,000 pieces which were made in five countries. Forty-two tons of glass were shipped to Israel in 12 containers.

At the Tower of David they had to get used to the idea of bringing such fragile material as glass into an environment made totally of stone. The contrast between the the two is striking and one of the reasons that this exhibition is so special.

The actual installation of the exhibits was a logistically complex project. "This is the largest amount of glass ever brought to one place, anywhere in the world," said Yaniv.

The museum director explained that to get one of the exhibits into the museum they had to rent the largest crane in Israel and actually close the Jaffa Gate for one night, something that is unheard of. Another exhibit was brought in one piece at a time, because it was too big. Pieces were specially wrapped and the containers were carried in box by box.

During the Chihuly exhibition plan on spending two to three hours at the museum, otherwise an hour and a half should suffice. It's worth inquiring about Chihuly by Night, which is only available on certain dates. Viewing the exhibits at night with special lighting renders a totally different experience.

Tickets for Chihuly by Night are in high demand, so plan on buying tickets in advance. The museum's regular exhibits are closed during the special night viewing.

At the time of this interview, a definite closing date for the Chihuly exhibition had not been determined.

The museum offers a variety of educational and special programs, which are available in a number of languages. Special events may also be held at the museum.

Whether you're in Israel during the wonderful Chihuly exhibition or not, don't pass up the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem on your visit to Israel.

The museum is located inside the Jaffa Gate, parking is available nearby. Bus lines from Jerusalem's central bus station include, 1, 6, 13A and 20.

Telephone numbers:
02/626-5333 - Main.
02/626-5310 - 24 hour recorded information (an English version is available after the Hebrew greeting).
02/626-5335 - Group reservations.

Source: Copyright Text © 2000 Gems in Israel. All rights reserved. Reprinted with Permission.