After more than a decade of planning and three years of construction with a multi-disciplinary team of archaeologists, architects, curators, researchers, designers, and creatives, the new Tower of David Jerusalem Museum opens to the public in the ancient citadel as the capital’s official museum on June 1st with a completely immersive experience that combines ancient Jerusalem and interactive technology. And, for the first time in its history, the ancient citadel is now accessible.
Model of Dome of the Rock. Credit Ricky Rachman
The Tower of David ancient citadel, Jerusalem’s iconic symbol, located between the old and new city, is uniquely placed to tell the story of Jerusalem, a city that has no equal in the world. With its new visitor flow – from the Jaffa Gate sunken entrance pavilion through the galleries, the Phasael Tower observation point, and exiting into the Old City – the Tower of David Jerusalem Museum becomes the gateway to the exploration of Jerusalem.
The renovations included:
- New multi-level sunken entrance pavilion at the Jaffa Gate offers a new gateway to the Old City. The new visitor flow, integral to the museum’s concept, allows visitors to first better understand Jerusalem’s history through its new exhibition and provides food for thought to contemplate the complex reality of the Old City before entering its streets and alleyways.
- 10 completely new thematic galleries, telling Jerusalem’s 4,000-year story, and its centrality to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam with models of the Second Temple, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Dome of the Rock.
- Innovative and engaging content, including interactive, 12-meter multi-media wall (largest in Israel), 3-D digital modeling, video mapping, immersive 360 video installation, interactive sphere (first in Israel), 14 interactive maps, new animation films by Ari Folman and others
- Authentic artifacts, some dating back to approx. 1500 years BCE and many displayed in-situ for the first time.
- Citadel accessible to all visitors with ambitious Accessibility Program and first-of-its-kind elevator in Israel, chair lifts and ramps.
- Conservation of ancient citadel’s walls and minaret.
- Museum area doubled to over 20,000 square meters.
The 4000-year story of Jerusalem and the significance of the city to the three largest monotheistic religions is told skillfully through different interactive ways making the visitor participatory in their exploration of the city’s past. The 10 completely new thematic galleries are found hidden in the old guard rooms of the structure surrounding the open-aired courtyard filled with archaeological findings dating back 2800 years. Some galleries are in a structure built by the Ottomans in the 17th century but others date back to the time of the Crusaders in the 12th century, and others to King Herod, some 2000 years ago. Authentic artifacts, many displayed in situ for the first time dating back to approx. 1500 years BC, have each been carefully chosen to represent a different aspect of Jerusalem’s long and colorful past among them are minute ancient coins from the 6th century BC, stone cups from the 1st century, a Roman sword from the 2nd century, golden coins from Byzantine Jerusalem and many more. Models of the Second Temple, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Dome of the Rock center the rooms that trace Jerusalem’s sanctity to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These original artifacts and models lie side by side with innovative and engaging multi-media displays. The result is a sensory experience that encourages active engagement and allows visitors to explore Jerusalem’s history in various dynamic, stimulating, and enjoyable ways.
Model of Church of Holy Sepulcher. Tracing Sanctity Christianity. Credit Oded Antman
The 12-meter interactive multi-media wall, Sands of Time, that runs the length of the introductory gallery allows visitors to discover for themselves Jerusalem’s 4000-year history with just a quick touch. Other highlights include the animation of maps from the Middle Ages, the 3D scanning of a bird’s eye view of a 19th-century model of Jerusalem, interactive projection onto a mosaic map, a copy of the famous Madaba Map, and an interactive sphere of the world which with one touch measures the distance between different cities in the world and Jerusalem.
Films created for the museum include an animated history of 4,000 years of Jerusalem history in just three minutes by Golden Globe winner artist Ari Folman; several animated short films related to different periods based on archaeological and historical evidence and research, a 360-degree touch film of inside the Al Aqsa Mosque; an original film of Jerusalem from 1896, including footage by the Lumiere brothers, has been edited to bring to life Jerusalem at the turn of the 20th century. The “Circle of the Year” is an immersive experience in which a montage of images from different religious festivals is projected onto one of the vaulted ceilings in a guardroom. The soundtrack is original music created with choirs from the different religious communities living in Jerusalem. Created by David Polonsky, one of the most important illustrators working in Israel today, the seven-minute experience allows the three calendars of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to converge in an only-in-Jerusalem manner.
Director and Chief Curator, Tower of David Jerusalem Museum Eilat Lieber: “No other museum can tell Jerusalem’s story in such a distinctive setting, within this citadel, that has witnessed so many eventful periods in the city’s past. The iconic architecture, massive Jerusalem stone walls and beautifully arched ceiling guard rooms create a unique setting for this museum which will become the gateway to this unique city. Alongside the physical conservation of the walls and towers of this ancient site, we have developed a completely new permanent exhibition and creative programming that tells Jerusalem’s long, complex and colorful history in respectful, innovative and engaging ways. Whether it is a school child from Israel – or a visitor from overseas, I hope that the Tower of David can give them a basis for dialogue, tolerance and respect. Visitors from near and far will leave the museum with a better understanding of Jerusalem, this eternal city.”
The $50 million renewal and conservation of the Tower of David Jerusalem Museum was led by Dame Vivien Duffield through the Clore Israel Foundation together with the support of the Municipality of Jerusalem, the Ministry of Jerusalem and Jewish Tradition, the Ministry of Heritage, the Ministry of Tourism, the Patrick and Lina Drahi Foundation, Keren Hayesod, The Jerusalem Foundation, the American Friends of Museums in Israel and the P Austin Foundation.
There are daily guided tours in English at 10:00 am Sunday – Friday (except on National Holidays) included in the entrance ticket.
Located at the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City, the Tower of David Jerusalem Museum resides within the ancient citadel, once the fortress defending the city. Today, it stands as a prominent cultural institution, intertwining the historical narrative of Jerusalem with its significance to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Its archaeological excavations reveal the city’s evolution across 3,000 years, while educational programs, guided tours, workshops, and lectures offer immersive learning experiences. The museum showcases temporary exhibitions featuring Jerusalem’s contemporary expressions in art, design, architecture and more. The museum rests on the seam between modern and ancient Jerusalem and its towers offer spectacular 360-degree views of the entire city, new and old. As daylight fades, the citadel walls transform into a canvas for mesmerizing sound and light displays, projecting the history of Jerusalem and the tale of King David in huge breathtaking images. The museum, an independent nonprofit, strives to honor its commitment to preserving Jerusalem’s rich heritage.
Eilat Lieber – Director and Chief Curator of the Tower of David Jerusalem Museum, Tal Kobo – Curator of the Permanent Exhibition, Yael Brandt – Assistant Curator, Kimmel Eshkolot Architects: Prof Etan Kimmel Co-Founder and Lead Architect Yotam Cohen-Sagi, Studio de Lange: Prof. Chanan de Lange and Arch. Tal de Lange – Concept and permanent exhibition design, Yoav Cohen – Creative and Digital Media Director