Jerusalem, with its street-level mystics, self-proclaimed messiahs and spiritual snake-oil merchants, is enough of a human zoo that it's easy to overlook that the city is also home to one of the regular, animal-centric zoos – in fact, the only zoo of its kind in the entire world. Officially dubbed the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem, Jerusalemites know it by a different name: The Biblical Zoo. As its nickname would imply, the zoo deals especially with the conservation and display of animals mentioned in the Jewish scriptures, with convenient textual references in front of every pen.
This zoological feat is more impressive than is immediately apparent; by the time the State of Israel was founded, many species from the Biblical era had been driven to local extinction, so the zoo had to cast further afield to find its fauna. Not only does the zoo display these Biblical species, it has also been instrumental in efforts to reintroduce them to their ancient habitats (other, non-Israeli endangered species are also kept at the zoo in hopes they will breed and bolster their numbers).
The massive 62-acre zoo is beautifully landscaped and contains more than enough to keep any single visitor or family occupied for a whole day. Children will enjoy the Sculpture Garden, an assortment of Niki de Saint Phalle sculptures of weird and wild animals, tailor-made for climbing and clambering, emanating forth from a central sculpture of Noah's Ark.
Open Sunday to Thursday 9:00 to 18:00; Friday 9:00 to 16:30; Shabbat 10:00 to 18:00, entrance until 1 hour before closing.
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