This 50:1 scale model, covering nearly one acre, evokes ancient Jerusalem at its peak, meticulously recreating its topography and architectural character in 66 CE, the year in which the Great Revolt against the Romans broke out, leading to the destruction of the Temple and the city in the year 70 CE.
The model, a Jerusalem cultural landmark, was originally built at the initiative of Holyland Hotel owner Hans Kroch in memory of his son, Jacob, who fell in Israel's War of Independence. Kroch argued that Israel, in general, and, in particular, its capital Jerusalem – which was cut off from the Old City at the time – lacked a historical monument that could compare with the antiquities of Athens and Rome.
In 1962, Kroch approached Michael Avi-Yonah, professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University, commissioning Avi-Yonah to create the Model and provide its topographic and archaeological basis and architectural design. The model was opened to the general public in 1966, immediately becoming a popular attraction and educational site for Israelis and tourists alike.
In 2006, the Second Temple Model was transferred to the Israel Museum campus, where it offers a concrete illustration of the period documented in the Dead Sea Scrolls, when Rabbinic Judaism took shape and Christianity was born.
Providing a vivid context for the Shrine of the Book and the Dead Sea Scrolls and for many contemporaneous archaeological artifacts displayed throughout the Museum, the Model Illustrates one of the most formative periods in the history of the Jewish people and bears a deep connection to the symbols of modern statehood that surround the Museum campus.
The model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period first opened to the public at Jerusalem’s Holyland Hotel in 1966 – one year after the inauguration of the Israel Museum – and rapidly became one of the city’s major landmarks. Forty years later, on July 5, 2006, it reopened on the Museum campus, at a breathtaking site adjacent to the Shrine of the Book. The addition of the model to our campus provides a vivid context for the Shrine of the Book and the Dead Sea Scrolls and for many contemporaneous archaeological artifacts displayed throughout the Museum and its campus. Illustrating one of the most formative periods in the history of the Jewish people, as well as the era in which Jesus lived and Christianity was born, it also bears a deep connection to the symbols of modern statehood that surround the Museum campus.
The model is a reconstruction of Jerusalem in the year 66 CE, on the eve of the Jewish (Great) Revolt against Rome. Jerusalem was then at its greatest extent, with an estimated population of 50, 000-80,000, and an area of some 450 acres, more than twice the area of today’s Old City. It spread over two ridges separated by the Tyropoeon Valley: the Temple Mount and its southern spur (the City of David), and the Western Hill, occupied by the Upper City. Jerusalem enjoyed the natural protection of the deep Kidron Valley to the east and the Hinnom Valley to the west and south. The Hasmonean royal house (late 2nd/early 1st century BCE) enclosed that area with a fortification that the Jewish historian Josephus Flavius would later refer to as the “First Wall.”
As the city prospered and flourished, it was only to the north, where there was no natural barrier that it was able to expand during the last hundred years before its destruction. With time, the “Second” and “Third” Walls were added on that side of the city. Yet it was from the north, as prophesied in the Bible, that the evil eventually came – this time in the guise of the Roman legions that besieged the city and breached its walls.
With the exception of its northern neighborhoods, Jerusalem was developed on an unprecedented scale, first by the Hasmoneans, but especially during the reign of Herod the Great, who died 70 years before the date represented by the model. Unquestionably it was that builder-king more than any other ruler who must be credited with the splendor of Jerusalem and the magnificence of its buildings.
At first glance, the city seems to have a clear Hellenistic-Roman character. Indeed, its royal builders – the Hasmoneans, but particularly Herod and his successors – were greatly influenced by Greek and Roman culture. They adopted Greek names, surrounded themselves with foreign counsellors, and imitated the Roman way of life and form of government. The architecture reflects this well: the urban plan, the style of buildings and streets, the presence of a sacred hilltop enclosure, the splendid public water installations, the massive monuments, and sport and entertainment facilities.