Many international travellers think of Israel as a nation of spiritual sights, where the histories of the world’s three great monotheistic religions come together to create a cultural landscape like no other. Diverse, spiritual, and always controversial, Israel offers a trip that believers and non-believers alike will never forget. Still, art and creativity are cornerstones of today’s Israel. Cities like Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa all showcase the country’s creative innovations.
The Holy City, sacred to three religions, Jerusalem normally tops the ‘to do’ list for most visitors to Israel. Regardless of personal belief, there’s something especially moving about seeing men praying at the Western Wall, stepping inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, admiring the gilded Dome of the Rock, or walking the paths of Gethsemane.
Eventually however, you’ll want to escape the ever-present crowds of the Old City. A good place to start is at the Terra Sancta Museum. This stunning collection invites you to step back into biblical times, surrounded by items and artifacts from the era. There’s a lot to explore, including the brand new archeology wing, where the inaugural exhibition, titled The House of Herod: Life and Power in the Age of the New Testament displayed more than 300 artifacts from the years of Herod the Great, through to the 6th century AD.
The Israel Museum, located just to the west of the Old City, is a great place to continue your history lesson, before you segue into the culture of today’s Israel. This is one of the world’s finest collections of Holy Land artifacts, but it also contains an extensive showcase of Israeli and international art, both traditional and contemporary. Special exhibitions are hosted throughout the year, such as the I to Eye exhibit, which invited guests to explore the ever-changing nature of human connectivity in mid-2018. No matter what’s on offer, a visit here is a chance to frame biblical history in the context of today.
Famously ‘prickly on the outside, but warm and sweet within,’ Israelis enjoy art that asks tough questions and pushes boundaries. Israel has always been a place of politics as well as pilgrimage, and nowhere is this better highlighted than at the aptly named Museum on the Seam. A self-professed socio-political contemporary art museum, this is one for Globetrotters who like their art charged with new and challenging ideas. Pushing buttons and provoking thought is the whole point at MOTS, which has been hailed by The New York Times as one of the leading art venues around the world.
Jerusalem’s devotion to contemporary culture isn’t confined to its museums. The city, along with neighbouring Tel Aviv (which is also rapidly emerging as a major foodie destination) boasts a year-round calendar of performances across all genres and forms. In the late summer, the Mekudeshet multidisciplinary arts festival takes over venues right throughout Jerusalem. Mekudeshet is a platform for challenging and often powerful performance pieces such as Kulna (an Arabic word meaning All of Us), a concert bringing together Jewish, Arab, and North African music, with the participation of high profile soloists from the region and the Jerusalem Orchestra East & West. The concert’s statement is simple: “One day, this is how every night will sound in the Middle East.” After sold-out crowds in 2017, Kulna returned to Mekudeshet in 2018. Other creations embodied themes and titles such as Dissolving Boundaries, Running in Jerusalem, Sacred Music, and One Night in Atlantis, which invited participants to don a swimsuit and participate in the installation.