10 of Israel's best museums

10 of Israel's best museums

With the highest number of museums per capita in the world, museum fatigue looms for travelers in Israel. This should help
Yad Vashem
Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum is one of the Middle East's most important attractions.

Israel is known for many things -- a complex history and its religious pilgrimage sites for starters.

But here's something you probably don't know: with more than 200 museums, it also has the highest number of museums per capita in the world. 

Your cultural education starts here. Just be careful to note somewhat eccentric opening hours. 

1. Israel Museum, Jerusalem

best israel museum Designed by Russian-born architect Al Mansfield, the Israel Museum is home to the Dead Sea Scrolls.


The Israel Museum is the largest cultural institution in the country.

Recently renovated and reorganized, its major feature is the Shrine of the Book, a massive domed structure built as a showcase for the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient manuscripts.

Admission 50 shekels (US$13) for adults, 37 shekels for students, 25 shekels for children and seniors.

11 Ruppin Blvd., Jerusalem; +972 2 670 8811; open Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday 4-9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; www.imjnet.org.il

 

2. Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv 

best israel museum Not everyone considers this art.


A topic of conversation among Tel Avivians is still the new wing of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which opened in 2011.

Many adore it, others hate it -- both sides are passionate about their opinion.

A visit to the museum -- founded in 1932 it's one of Israel's leading art and culture institutions -- should start with the new wing and end in the older complex. This circuit takes in a complete tour of the museum's many displays of art, architecture and design.

Admission 48 shekels (US$12.50) for adults, 38 shekels for students, 24 shekels for seniors, free for children.

27 Shaul Hamelech Blvd., Tel Aviv; +972 3 607 7020; open Monday and Wednesday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 pm, closed on Sunday; www.tamuseum.com

 

3. Museum of Art, Ein Harod 

best israel museum The Museum of Art, Ein Harod is designed to allow soft natural light to illuminate exhibition spaces.


The Museum of Art, Ein Harod was established in the 1930s in a temporary wooden stucture in a kibbutz (collective community).

In 1948, it moved into a permanent building to become Israel's first museum.

The structure is a fine example of Israeli Modernism, heralded for its beauty and simplicity.

The museum highlights Israeli art and has amassed more than 16,000 permanent pieces since opening. 

Admission 26 shekels (US$6.80) for adults, 13 shekels for students, seniors and children.

Kibbutz Ein Harod; +972 4 648 5701; open Sunday-Thursday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4:30 pm.; www.museumeinharod.org.il

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4. Design Museum Holon, Holon

best israel museum The Design Museum Holon is just as impressive on the outside as it is on the inside.


It's a challenge to draw Tel Avivians out of Tel Aviv, but the Design Museum -- located in Holon, a 20-minute drive from Tel Aviv -- seems to have the secret.

This is a bustling museum that constantly hosts industrial, fashion, textile and jewelry design weeks, exhibitions and events.

Designed by London-based Israeli architect and designer Ron Arad, the building itself is considered a work of art, with its flowing steel strips painted in various shades of red.

Admission 35 shekels (US$9) for adults, 30 shekels for youth (ages 11-17), students and seniors, 20 shekels for children (ages 5-10).

8 Pinhas Eilon St., Holon; +972 73 215 1515; open Monday and Wednesday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; www.dmh.org.il

 

5. Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

best israel museum A visit to Yad Vashem is a solemn experience.


A tour of Jerusalem is inconceivable without a visit to Yad Veshem, the Holocaust Museum, which commemorates the millions of Jews who perished as a result of Nazi persecution in World War II.

The 45,000-square-foot museum attracts more than a million visitors a year from all over the world.

It's also the site where many formal diplomatic visits to Israel begin, most of which are then publicized with a photo in major newspapers the following day. 

The main building is a concrete triangle chiseled into the side of a mountain.

Once inside, visitors follow a route taking in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary presentations that document what the museum calls "the story of the Shoah from a unique Jewish perspective, emphasizing the experiences of the individual victims through original artifacts, survivor testimonies and personal possessions."

It's a singularly moving experience.

Admission to Yad Vashem is free.

Har Hazikaron, Jerusalem; +972 2 644 3802; open Sunday–Wednesday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.-2 p.m., closed on Saturday; www.yadvashem.org

 

6. Umm el-Fahem Art Gallery, Umm el-Fahem

best israel museum Common ground for Jewish and Arab artists.


In 1996 a group of residents and artists decided to enrich Umm el-Fahem (a northern Arab-Israeli city with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country) with a high-quality gallery showcasing contemporary Arab and Palestinian art. 

The gallery rapidly evolved into a vivid cultural center, connecting Arabs and Jews with art and culture.

In 2007 the municipality granted the gallery land, where the current museum was erected. 

Admission 15 shekels (US$4) for adults, 10 shekels for students, free for children.

Umm el-Fahem; +972 4 631 5257; open Saturday-Thursday 8 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Friday; umelfahemgallery.org

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7. Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem

best israel museum Politics meets art.


Museum on the Seam
 is the most provocative museum in Israel.

The exhibitions are aimed at raising controversial social questions regarding national, ethnic or economic differences.

The museum refers to itself as a "socio-political museum," and displays unflinching exhibitions taking on various political concerns.

In addition to the exhibits, the museum offers dramatic views of the city and a pleasant café on its roof.

Admission 30 shekels (US$8) for adults, 25 shekels for students and seniors.

4 Chel Handasa St., Jerusalem; +972 2 628 1278; open Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; closed Saturday; www.mots.org.il

 

8. The Museum for Islamic Art, Jerusalem

best israel museum Unique showcase for Islamic art.


This special museum is located next to the Israeli president's official residence and contains one of the most impressive archives of Islamic art in the world.

Permanent exhibitions are displayed in chronological and geographical order, showing various periods of Islamic art.

The museum is also known for its vast collection of antique watches, which became famous in 1983 when professional burglar Naaman Diller managed to steal 100 watches valued at US$204 million from the exhibition.

Diller stashed his haul in safety deposit boxes around the world. They were recovered only after his death in 2004 when his widow confessed to police.

Admission 40 shekels (U$10.50) for adults, 30 shekels for students, 20 shekels for children and seniors.

2 Hapalmach St,, Jerusalem; +972 2566 1291; open Sunday, Monday and Wednesday 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; www.islamicart.co.il

 

9. The Negev Museum of Art, Beer Sheva 

best israel museum Treasures in the "capital of the desert."


The Negev Museum of Art displays contemporary Israeli art and hosts a range of live summer concerts in its courtyard.

Located in the old town of Beer Sheva, also known as "the capital of the desert," the museum building was constructed during the Ottoman period at the beginning of the 20th century.

Thanks to a recent renovation, its original splendor has been restored.

Admission 15 shekels (US$4).

60 Ha'Atzmaut St., Beer Sheva; +972 8 699 3535; open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Wednesday noon-7 p.m., Friday-Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., closed Sunday; www.negev-museum.org.il

 

10. Madatech, Haifa 

best israel museum A full day of hands-on science.


This funky museum of science, technology and space is lodged in what used to be the Israel Institute of Technology. 

The Madatech features numerous permanent and temporary science-themed exhibitions, all hands-on and interactive. Naturally, it's a hit with kids. 

Admission 75 shekels (US$20) for adults, 65 shekels for children, 37.50 shekels for students and seniors.

25 Shmariyahu Levine St., Haifa; +972 4 861 4444; open Monday–Wednesday 10 p.m-4 pm, Thursday and Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Sunday noon-4 p.m.; www.madatech.org.il

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Netta Ahituv is a journalist based in Tel Aviv. 

Read more about Netta Ahituv
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