Abigail Klein Leichman
January 3

In a country bursting with history, science, creativity and innovation, it is not surprising that Israel has more museums per capita than any other nation on Earth – roughly 250, though most lists of Israeli museums include fewer than 100, probably because they can’t keep up with them all.

On your first trip to Israel, stop by some of these top 12 destinations such as the Israel Museum and Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem and the Eretz Israel Museum and ANU in Tel Aviv. For kids, find the best choices here.

When you’re ready for something different – ranging from highly unusual to wonderfully weird — consider the sites listed below. All these museums have signage and/or tours available in English.

Be sure to click on the links provided to check updated details on location, hours, fees, reservations and suggested ages.

1. Museum of Illusions, Tel Aviv Port

15 very unusual Israeli museums
Where’s her body? Find out in the Head on a Platter room. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Illusions

Fifty exhibitions combine entertainment with education for a uniquely fun experience. Not only will you float in the Anti-Gravity Room, feel like the floor is moving in the Vortex Tunnel, walk on the walls in the Rotated Room and shrink to miniature size in the Ames Room, but you’ll also learn the secrets behind these optical illusions and get tips on snapping the perfect social media-worthy photo.

For information, click here.

2. World Jewish Sports Museum, Kfar Maccabiah, Ramat Gan

15 very unusual Israeli museums
Image courtesy of World Jewish Sports Museum

The recently opened Iris Smith World Jewish Sports Museum in Ramat Gan features multimedia displays and more than 1,000 original, rare items from over 130 years of Jewish sports across the world – everything from Olympic rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram’s leotard to the baseball glove of American pitching superstar Sandy Koufax.

For information, click here.

3. Museum of Tractors, Ein Vered

15 very unusual Israeli museums
A vintage 1945 tractor at the Museum of Tractors in Ein Vered. Photo by McKaby via Wikimedia Commons

In this gem of a museum southeast of Netanya, farmer/collector Erez Milshtein displays more than 100 salvaged tractors and other agricultural machinery used in Israel since the beginning of the 20th century. Though kids can’t climb on the vintage vehicles, they can play with a tractor in a sandbox, enter a real fire truck, commandeer a variety of riding toys and more. On Saturdays, a tractor-drawn cart takes visitors on a tour the surrounding orchards.

For information, click here.

4. Nisco Museum of Mechanical Music, Ein Hod

Nisco is a portmanteau for Nisan Cohen, founder of the Museum of Mechanical Music at the Ein Hod artist village in the Haifa region.

ניסן מנגן על אורגן

ניסן מנגן על אורגן

Posted by ‎Nisco Museum – מוזיאון ניסכו‎ on Saturday, April 9, 2022

Cohen, a nonagenarian American émigré, gives hourly musical tours of his collections of antique music boxes, hurdy gurdies, gramophones, hand-operated automatic pianos, a player piano and other antique musical instruments. Among the treasures in the gift shop are handmade mezuzah cases that play tunes including “Hatikvah.”

For information, click here.

5. Uri Geller Museum, Old Jaffa

15 very unusual Israeli museums
Yitzhak Rabin’s binoculars at the Uri Geller Museum. Photo by Abigail K. Leichman

Two thousand twisted pieces of cutlery adorn a 1976 Cadillac parked in the Uri Geller Museum, a former soap factory where the world-famous spoon-bending psychic displays 200-plus rare items from the rich and famous – Pablo Picasso’s easel, Harry Houdini’s handcuffs, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, a gilded “extraterrestrial” egg from John Lennon, a jacket signed by Michael Jackson, the death mask of Frédéric Chopin, and much more.

For information, click here.

6. Museum of Yemenite Judaism, Rosh HaAyin

15 very unusual Israeli museums
A display about Operation Magic Carpet in the new Museum of Yemenite Judaism. Photo courtesy of the Council for the Preservation of Heritage Sites

This brand-new museum is housed in a building formerly used as a reception center for 49,000 Yemenite Jews flown to Israel between June 1949 and September 1950. The multimedia displays depict life in long-ago Yemen; sacred objects, traditional clothes, jewelry and music; as well as the story of the massive airlift operation and personal profiles of the Yemenite founders of Rosh HaAyin. Visitors can listen to the songs of Israeli Yemenite singers such as Shoshana Damari, Ofra Haza, Gali Atari, Dana International and Achinoam Nini (Noa).

For information, click here (Hebrew) or email ronnih@shimur.org.il

7. Shulman Chocolate Museum, Kibbutz Dafna

15 very unusual Israeli museums
Dmitri Shulman at his chocolate museum in the Upper Galilee. Photo courtesy of Shulman Chocolate Museum

In the Upper Galilee is a unique museum about the art of making chocolate. All displays and videos have English translation, and workshops in English can be arranged for groups of 15 or more. The proprietor, Dimitri Shulman, is a chocolate artist whose sculptures include a Golda Meir portrait, a guitar, a hanukkiah and a pair of stilettos.

For information, contact shulmanchocolate@gmail.com or 972-(0)54-590-2198.

8. Great Mini World, Yokne’am Illit

15 very unusual Israeli museums
A miniature kitchen at Great Mini World. Photo courtesy of Great Mini World

Great Mini World is the creation of the late miniatures craftsman Herbert Moshe Samter. A former bookbinder, Samter began building models in 1986 using natural materials such as sticks, seeds and leaves. Here you can see amazing miniature houses, shops, gardens, libraries, musical instruments, doll furniture and more.

For information, click here.

9. Vidor Center, Hazeva

15 very unusual Israeli museums
Vidor Center is an interactive museum on desert agriculture. Photo by Abigail K. Leichman

The Vidor Center in the Arava region of the Negev, established in 2014, uses a variety of interactive exhibitions showing how Israel makes the desert bloom and introducing the farming families living off this arid land. You can buy Arava-grown products at the end of the tour.

For information, click here. To arrange a tour in English, email visit@arava.co.il

10. Fetter Nanoscience & Art Museum, Ramat Gan

15 very unusual Israeli museums
Elad Shniderman’s multiscreen work on chaos theory. Photo by Michael Amar/Fetter Nanoscience and Art Museum

Opened last summer at Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA), this museum shows what happens when scientists and artists put their talents together. The artworks give a dynamic view of the microscopic magic in BINA’s 71 biology, physics, chemistry, engineering and computer science labs. In one display, 150,000 rubber bands depict the healing process of damaged neurons; in another, 16 electric violin players pinpoint the moment that synchrony transitions to chaos.

For information, click here.

11. Mizgaga Museum, Nahsholim

Mizgaga, an unusual pairing of archeology and glass, is housed in a 19th century two-story stone structure at Kibbutz Nahsholim on the northern coast. It was built as a factory for producing glass wine bottles, managed by none other than Meir Dizengoff, who was later to become the first mayor of Tel Aviv.

The venture failed, partly because of the local sand’s unsuitability for glassmaking. The factory sat abandoned until 1980, when members of the kibbutz began to restore the structure. They decided to display archeological treasures from nearby Tel Dor, along with contemporary glass and ceramic art.

Tours can be booked in advance for English-speaking groups of 10 or more.

For information, click here.

12. Tzedaka for Centuries, Jerusalem

15 very unusual Israeli museums
Learn all about charitable giving in Israel at Tzedaka for Centuries. Photo courtesy of Pantry Packers

This exhibition about the history of charitable giving (tzedakah) from biblical to modern times housed in Pantry Packers, the food distribution arm of Tzedakah Central/Colel Chabad, a network of social services established in 1788.

Among the artifacts are 19th century documents from Sir Moses Montefiore, a major benefactor of pre-state Palestine. Peruse the informative displays when you arrive for a scheduled visit to pack food for distribution to food-insecure Israelis.

For information, click here.

13. Beit Ussishkin Museum, Dan

This unique nature museum in the Upper Galilee is devoted to the nature, geography and archeology in the lush Galilee panhandle. The beautiful stone structure was designed by noted 1930s Bauhaus architect Leopold Krakauer. It was built in the 1950s by stonemasons from Jerusalem at the time that Lake Hula, later to be rewilded, was being drained to create farmland.

15 very unusual Israeli museums
Beit Ussishkin Nature Museum in the Upper Galilee. Photo by Dov Greenblat/SPNI

Individuals can tour the museum’s three-dimensional dioramas, beautiful nature films and special exhibitions on life in the biblical period. Groups can book an English-speaking guide who will add custom-tailored activities, games and lesson plans.

For information, click here.

14. House of Copper, Safed

15 very unusual Israeli museums
Arieh Merzer’s copper carving of the Ari Synagogue in Safed. Photo courtesy of the Merzer family archive

Israel’s newest museum, House of Copper, just opened in the home of the late Arieh Merzer, one of the founders of the Artists Quarter of Safed (Tzfat).

This preserved heritage site presents Jewish copper art, a genre that Merzer helped develop as the only survivor of a group of Jewish coppersmiths in Nazi Europe. Among the works curated by his grandson is Merzer’s copper carving of the famed Ari Synagogue of Safed.

Visits must be scheduled by appointment; 052-471-7092.

15. Otzar HaSTAM, Safed

Otzar HaSTAM is the largest center in the world engaged in writing scrolls for Torahs, tefillin and mezuzahs (the Hebrew acronym for these items is STAM, and otzar means “treasure”).

15 very unusual Israeli museums
A sculpture of the Hebrew letter “tav” in the garden of Otzar HaSTAM in Safed. Photo by Abigail Klein Leichman

Sitting in a revolving theater, visitors watch a 3D movie about Jewish scribal arts and the Hebrew alphabet. Then a professional scribe guides them in trying their hand at the craft. At the end is an automated quiz on the topic. Outside, giant sculptures of the Hebrew letters are set in a landscaped garden with a magnificent view.

For information, click here.

Comments