Jerusalem is home to a number of archeological finds with important cultural and religious significance. The Holy City can easily take up a high priority on your bucket list especially if you are religious. It is the birthplace of Islam, Judaism and Christianity and spiritual home for millions of devotees. There are so many things for you to see and enjoy here, including the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens, a.k.a Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.
You know what gardens and zoos are but a Biblical zoo is definitely a first. What is it about and why is it important to visit?
Located in Jerusalem’s Malha neighborhood, this is the only zoo in the world that specifically focuses on animals that were mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Hundreds of thousands of guests and tourists visit the Biblical Zoo every year and was considered Israel’s most popular tourist attraction from 2005 to 2007. As a non-profit organization, the zoo now has more than 55,000 members.
It was built in the 1940s and was founded by Aharon Shulov, a Hebrew professor of zoology whose primary intention was to provide a research center for his students to study biblical animals. He opened a small animal corner with a few animals, reptiles and birds that were mentioned in the Bible.
Today, the zoo is much larger than Shulov could have dreamed of. It is owned and maintained by the Jerusalem Development Authority, Municipality of Jerusalem and Jerusalem Foundation. Through the Foundation, the Tisch family in New York significantly financed the modern development of the zoo to what it is today. The all-new Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, now also known as Tisch Family Zoological Gardens, was re-opened in 1993.
Still known primarily for its biblical animals, the zoo had expanded to include other species, including the endangered kinds. Even Shulov himself realized the difficulty of collecting biblical animals during his time since many have been extinct.
As of 2009, the zoo housed 2,200 animals from more than 250 species, 28 reptile species, 11 amphibian species, 60 fish species, and 104 bird species. Mammals are almost always the star attraction of any zoo. Here you will see the usual lions, elephants, monkeys, zebras, bears, and chimpanzees, along with the rare cheetah, capybara, alpaca, and tapir among others. There are also sheep, goats and donkeys, which are among the most frequently mentioned animals in the Bible. For every biblical animal, there is a Bible verse written to show guests exactly where those animals were mentioned in Scripture.
In addition to the animals, other zoo attractions are a lake, a waterfall called Moses’ Rock, sculpture garden, jungle gym for children and an art gallery, snack shop and computer station inside the visitor center that is designed to resemble Noah’s Ark. The zoo offers benches and picnic areas all over the place. There is a children’s zoo where the little ones can pet goats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and sheep.
To better serve and understand the animals they care for, the Biblical Zoo is equipped with an animal medical center, laboratory and quarantine unit. The zoo also runs educational activities, summer camps for children and a program that breeds animals in captivity and releases them back to the wild.
The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens is open every day, including holidays. To get there, simply take a public bus number 26a, 33 or 99.