Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo has become so popular it even has its own railway station!
Spreading over 62 acres, the two-tiered park centres on a vast man-made lake complete with waterfalls and side pools, surrounded by spacious lawns and shaded beauty spots. The park includes a wildlife savannah with free-roaming animals and a visitor's train that provides transportation throughout the park with several stations along the route - excepting Saturdays and holidays.
On view - over 170 species, most of them mentioned in the Bible and some almost made extinct in the interim. This does not mean that regular animals are not present: they even have penguins here.
A children's zoo includes a petting corner and a playground with an adjacent snack bar for watchful parents. On holidays, the Friendly Animal Houses (Bayit Hai in Hebrew) enables guided, hands-on encounters with less-fearsome animals. And the Noah's Ark Sculpture Garden is an exotic new playground designed by sculptress Niki de Saint Phalle (creator of the renowned Mifletzet or Monster children's slide in Kiryat HaYovel) and architect Mario Botta (designer of Tel Aviv University's Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Cultural Centre). The zoo's visitors' centre, which overlooks the African savannah - is shaped in the form of an ark, with an auditorium, a temporary exhibits gallery, computer information stations, a souvenir shop and a cafeteria situated on the ark's deck.
The original zoo was a tiny establishment in the center of Jerusalem - the pet project of Hebrew University zoologist, Prof. Aharon Shulov. Following the War of Independence, the zoo was relocated in 1951 to a 15 acre plot in what was then the outlying neighbourhood of Romema, where it remained for forty years. During this time, the quaint and not-overly developed zoo - at one point managed by Talmudic authority Rabbi Adin Steinzaltz - became a local institution that was oft and quite widely frequented, if not for intellectual edification, then as a form of identification with the city and its idea of a zoo.
The zoo reopened in 1993 in the city's south-western sector - nearby the Malha Mall and industrial park, the new train station, and the up-and-coming Malha neighborhood. A joint effort of the Municipality of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Foundation, the Jerusalem Development Authority, and the Israel Ministry of Tourism, its current management stresses its role as an educator - primarily in topics of nature and animal protection, preservation and environmental awareness. Recreational and educational activities target all ages and social groups, with an inclination towards inter-racial encounter programs. These include after-school activities, summer camps, guided tours, and other activities that involve observation and physical contact with the animals.
The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem - The Biblical Zoo.
Open Sunday to Thursday 9am - 5pm; Friday 9am - 4:30pm; Saturday and holidays 10am - 5pm.