July 30th 2015
Jerusalem is home to dozens of compelling museums that cover topics ranging from the pre-historical artifacts to contemporary experimental digital multimedia. Iconic institutions like the Israel Museum and the Bloomfield Science Museum may get the lion’s share of the press and attention, but visitors exploring the depth of the cultural riches that Israel’s vibrant capital has to offer would do well do venture a bit farther off the beaten track.
For museum hounds visiting Israel who are interested in niche subject matter that is no less compelling than the mainstream, here are three Jerusalem museums worthy of consideration.
Menachem Begin Heritage Center
Overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City and Mount Zion is the official memorial institution of Menachem Begin, the sixth prime minister of Israel. But this site is so much more than a memorial. It begins with the requisite multimedia presentations that include video, touch screen interaction, photographs, and historical reconstructions. All these work together depict Begin’s life – from his Polish childhood, through his rise as a hawkish Zionist in the founding of the State of Israel, and his time as prime minister, during which he rode the waves of dramatic social change.
But the Center is also a venue for a research institute on Israel’s security and development, and it houses Begin’s personal library. The grounds of the Center include the Al Reich Archeological Garden and ancient burial caves, as well as ample event space and lecture halls. A lovely structure with enough history and beauty to warrant a visit, the Begin Center is a relatively new museum with some hidden treasures.
Museum of Underground Prisoners
Often, historical museums are housed in structures not directly connected to the subject matter covered by the museum. The Museum of Underground Prisoners, which documents the Zionist underground that helped establish the State of Israel, falls squarely in the opposite category.
Located in a Russian Compound building initially built for women on pilgrimage, the structure was later used by the British Mandatory government to imprison those deemed to be political threats – particularly the fighters in the Haganah, the Irgun and the Lehi, all Zionist para-military groups whose goals of achieving Jewish sovereign statehood were less than welcomed by the British authorities on the ground. An important piece of Israeli and Jerusalemite history, the Museum of Underground Prisoners offers a poignant springboard for discussing the use of militant means for successfully achieving ideological goals.
You may have actually heard of the Ticho House and its landmark café in the historic City Center stone villa, with the lovely oasis of shady lawns outside. What you probably haven’t heard about is the newly renovated Ticho House, opening in the fall of 2015. The site was the former home of Dr. Albert and Anna Ticho, the latter having bequeathed the residence to the people of Jerusalem, to be converted into a center for art upon her passing in 1980.
Under the auspices of the Israel Museum, the house functions as a gallery for Anna Ticho’s many drawings and paintings, mostly landscapes of the Jerusalem hills, and it also features special exhibitions and concerts on a regular basis. The renovation is refurbishing the galleries, creating a permanent exhibit of the former residence itself and rejuvenating the café. Look for special exhibits and musical performances to enhance your visit here.