Israel Museum Brings Biblical Artifacts to Life

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Every year Israeli archaeologists dig up more artifacts which shed new light on Bible times. A museum that houses many of those ancient objects has been re-opened to the public.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem first opened its doors in 1965. Now after three years of renovations, the museum is re-opening its unique treasure of archaeological artifacts, Judaica and fine art to the public.

"We're kind of a crossroads in the world," said James Snyder, the museum's director. "And certainly in ancient times this was so. But even after the western world entered the picture, somehow Jerusalem sits at the center of the universe. So ideally you could create an encyclopedic museum."

Snyder said the museum is the largest, most active museum in Israel's region of the world.

"What we have here in the end indeed is a really rich and strong universal collection of 500,000 objects beginning a million and half years ago and coming to contemporary art today," Snyder added.

Thousands of artifacts on display in the museum help to bring biblical times to life.

"The archaeology wing has a story to tell that you can't get anywhere else in the world," said Michal Dayagi-Mendels, chief curator of archaeology.

The wing focuses on story of the land of Israel through a narrative about man in the country - how he lived, whom he worshipped, and even how he was buried.

"We are trying to emphasize the story of the Bible - the birth of monotheism, the first and second temple periods and the emergence of the three monotheistic religions that you can see in one gallery," Dayagi-Mendels added.

An inscription from the 9th century B.C. is the earliest of archaeological evidence of the dynasty of King David.

Two shrines from the about the 7th to 8th century B.C. were discovered about 30 miles apart. They show the struggle that existed between belief in the one God of the Bible and pagan idol worship at the time.

"We learned a lot about the living from the burials," Dayagi-Mendels continued.

Archaeologists found two silver amulets inside one burial chamber. They both bear verses from the Book of Numbers -- the earliest biblical verses ever found, dating to about 600 B.C. predating the Dead Sea scrolls by 400 years.

Also on display for the first time is a huge crusader period fresco discovered near Gethsemane.

"It's very exciting to have archaeology and make it so clear, so fascinating that for all those thought in the past see something we cannot come close to they will be absorbed into it," Dayagi-Mendels said.

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