An animal kingdom in Jerusalem

When one thinks of Jerusalem, all sorts of Biblical characters might
spring to mind. Most tours will take in the sites where famous historical
figures made their fame and fortune. However, there can be times when a
change of pace is called for. So it’s a refreshing change to gaze upon
lions, monkeys, rare birds and other exotic creatures not far from the
heart of the capital.

The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens popularly known as the Jerusalem
Biblical Zoo is a zoo located in the Malha neighborhood of Jerusalem,
Israel. It is famous for its collection of wild life featured in the
Hebrew Bible, as well as its success in breeding endangered species.
According to Dun and Bradstreet, the Biblical Zoo was the most popular
tourist attraction in Israel from 2005 to 2007, and logged a record
738,000 visitors in 2009. The zoo had about 55,000 members in 2009.

The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo opened in September 1940 as a small "animal
corner" on Rabbi Kook Street in central Jerusalem. The zoo was founded by
Aharon Shulov, a professor of zoology at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, Mount Scopus. Among Shulov's goals were to provide a research
facility for his students; to gather animals, reptiles and birds mentioned
in the Bible, and, as he wrote in 1951, to break down the "invisible wall"
between the intellectuals on Mount Scopus and the general public.
Early on, the zoo ran into several difficulties in its decision to focus
on animals mentioned in the Bible. For one, the meaning of many names of
animals, reptiles and birds in Scriptures is often uncertain; for example,
nesher in Hebrew commonly translated as "eagle", could also mean
"vulture". More significantly, many of the animals mentioned in the Bible
are now extinct in Israel due to over-hunting, destruction of natural
habitats by rapid construction and development, illegal poisoning by
farmers, and low birth rate. Zoo planners decided to branch beyond
strictly biblical animals and include worldwide endangered species as
well.

Yet there is another aspect of this zoo that should be stressed. It
provides an almost rural flavor just minutes away from the most popular
shopping mall in Jerusalem. It is a place to stroll around at a leisurely
pace. The zoo is also children friendly, of all ages, and can make an
otherwise challenging day be turned into a special memory.

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