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Top Models of Jerusalem (2008)

I would like to present to you two of the top models of Jerusalem. One is only six years old, is quite a view, and is now being seen by more and more. The other is over 40 years old, but is now more attractive then ever.

I am referring to city models of Jerusalem, of course. Why, what did you think? 😉

The most famous model of Jerusalem was constructed in the 1960’s by Mr Cherny, the owner of the Holy Land Hotel in Jerusalem. It depicts Jerusalem as it may have looked like in the first century CE. It also echoes the image of the city as Jesus saw it in the 30’s of the first century CE, and for this reason it is also visited by manyChristian pilgrim groups. The scientific consultation for the model was done by Professor M. Avi Yona, from the Hebrew University, and a few years ago I learned that the contractor who shaped the hill to match the topography of the ancient city was a far relative of mine, Mr. Haim Alon. To this day it is the most detailed model ofJerusalem during Roman times. It shows in the most vivid way the city with its walls, gates, buildings and shrines. Yet recently this model had to be relocated. The whole ridge where the Holy Land Hotel and the model were located is now a major construction site for a large residential complex. Mr. Cherny sought a few destinations for the model. He first wanted it to be on a hill around the old city, where, from certain angles, the visitor could see both the model and the real-life subject of the model. Yet after some time he decided to donate the model to the Israel Museum. The Israel Museum was more than pleased with this offer, and so work to move it began. The transportation was a complicated task. Each building in the model is made from cement and coated with small stones and tiles to look old. After a few experiments it was decided to move the model in many small blocks. Each block was sawn from the concrete floor, and then “sewn” together back at the new site, by recoating the stones at the seams. Cranes were required to lift the blocks, which weighed a few hundred kilos each. The heaviest block, of the “Antonia” fortress, weighed 13 tons. Amazingly the whole project was achieved much faster then speculated, and was completed in only 66 days. At the new site some alterations were made to the model. The biggest change was the addition of the image of the Kidron and Hinnom valleys around the city model. This proved to intensify the genuine feel of the model. Another alteration was the removal of the Hippodrome. Although Josephus clearly mentions one in Jerusalem, its location was never known. It used to be placed in the city of David, but this location, right next to the Temple Mount, is quite unlikely. Since no archaeological evidence was ever discovered to support this theory, or to suggest a different location for the horse racing arena, the hippodrome is now completely absent from the relocated model.

The Israel Museum in general has been under a major renovation project in recent years. Its archaeological wing, for instance, is completely closed. Yet the Shrine of the book and the newly added “Holy Land model” right next to it offer a good compensation for the time being. The two features revive the nature and feel of the city from some two thousand years ago, when Jerusalem and its temple were the political, geographical, and spiritual center of the whole Jewish race.

The model of the temple in Jerusalem before the city and temple were destroyed by the Romans

The model of the temple in Jerusalem before the city and temple were destroyed by the Romans under Titus in 70 CE. There is no way of knowing for sure what the temple looked like but this is an attempt at reconstruction. Photo © Archaeological Diggings

A general view of the Jerusalem Model from the east. Photo © Archaeological Diggings

A general view of the Jerusalem Model from the east. Photo © Archaeological Diggings

To see photos of the site relocation, you can go to: http://www.imj.org.il/model/index.html

The other model depicts Jerusalem in a different period – the Byzantine era. It was constructed around the year 2000 near the entrance to the church of st. Peter inGallicantu (“Cock crow”) on Mt. Zion. The church commemorates the supposed site where Peter denied Jesus after his arrest (Luke 22:54-62).

The first church constructed at the site is from the Byzantine period (325-638 CE). Today a modern church is adorning the site, but in its foundation various ancient remains are exhibited.

The Model, near the entrance to the church, provides a most detailed image of Jerusalem at the end of the Byzantine period, when it was dotted with many churches and Christian institutions (such as st. peter in Gallicantu). In fact it depicts the city with more Christian institutions then there are today.

For me, the most striking part of the model was the partially ruined and abandoned hill of the temple mount.

Destroyed already in 70 CE, most of the mountain was left ruins throughout the Late Roman and Byzantine periods. For the Romans it was a monument to perpetuate the Jewish punishment for their rebellion.

For the Christian Byzantine authorities it was a visual manifestation that the prophecy of Jesus has been fulfilled: “Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”” (Luke 21:5-6)

The center of the model of Jerusalem in the Byzantine period

“The center of the model of Jerusalem in the Byzantine period. The big dome on the right is above the supposed tomb of Jesus. It is part of the “Holy Sepulchre” which in the Byzantine period was linked to the main street of the city (The Cardo Maximus) by a large basilical church. West of the holy sepulcher (above, in the photo) the large open space is of the ruined and abandoned temple mount. To the right of the temple mount the large “Nea” church can be seen. Photo © Danny Herman

The model of Byzantine Jerusalem is based much on the "Madaba map"

The model of Byzantine Jerusalem is based much on the "Madaba map", a 6th century mosaic map of the holy land, depicting Jerusalem in its center. A comparative view shows how similar are the two cartographic works, both presenting the main street of the city (Cardo Maximus), the Holy sepuchre in the center of the city, and the Nea church in its southern end. Photo © Danny Herman

The model of Byzantine Jerusalem is based much on the "Madaba map"

The model of Byzantine Jerusalem is based much on the "Madaba map"