Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

Many people say that when visiting The Land of Israel it is almost as if the bible comes to life, for wherever you set your foot you are stepping on ground with biblical associations. However, there is a place where your imagination can be put aside and your eyes can take a close look on biblical animal species that can only be found in The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. Some of these animals have become extinct in the present-day Israel. Factors behind their extinction, mainly in the twentieth century, are hunting and destruction of their natural habitat as the result of rapid construction and development. Animals such as bears, lions, Persian fallow deer, Arabian Oryx, the cheetah and the Nile crocodile are no longer seen in the region.

A few animals at the Biblical Zoo were confiscated from smugglers, but the vast majority was born in captivity. As a matter of policy, none of the animals are collected directly from the wild, which the zoo believes is cruel, aside from being illegal in Israel. The zoo is coordinating a number of projects that involve preserving rare species originated in the Land of Israel and returning them to the wild. The ultimate goal is to restore species that are endangered or locally extinct. Research projects are under way to collect empirical data and anecdotal information on various animals, particularly those threatened with extinction. Again, the chief goal is to provide scientific backing for preservation and breeding programs. Most of the animals in the zoo reside in large enclosures designed to resemble their natural habitats. Efforts are being made to provide the animals with a maximal amount of living space and a stimulating environment.

The Biblical Zoo was originally established in 1940 as a tiny little children's zoo on Harav Kook Street in central Jerusalem. The zoo was founded and established by the late Prof. Aharon Shulov, one of the pioneers in the field of zoology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since its opening, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo has been operated by a company that was specifically established for this purpose. The zoo is therefore being run as a corporation, while at the same time being recognized as an NPO (Non-Profit Organization) both in Israel and abroad. The zoo is the product of the combined efforts and investments of the Municipality of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Foundation, the Jerusalem Development Authority, and the Israel Ministry of Tourism.  In 1993, after changing many locations within Jerusalem and being closed for 2 years, the newly designed zoo officially reopened its doors to the public in its current location near the southwestern Jerusalem neighbourhood of Manahat (formerly Malkha). It stretches across an area of 250 dunams (25 hectares) in a lovely valley surrounded by green hills and new neighbourhoods. The establishment of the zoo in its present form was made possible thanks to the generosity of Tisch family of New York, under the auspices of the Jerusalem Foundation.

It is not surprising that The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is ranked for the third time this year for the most popular tourist site in Israel. Dun's 100, the leading business information company in Israel and abroad, listed the most popular tourist sites in Israel and with 693,115 visitors in the year 2007 the Biblical Zoo is still today one of the most interesting and enjoyable sites in Israel.