If you are heading off for your gap year in Israel in or after September 2018 then you are in for a treat. In September 2018, the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History in Tel Aviv will fully open and it is set to be the biggest of its kind in the Middle East.
The museum is home to over five and a half million specimens and according to Professor Tamar Dayan, the museum’s chair, it tries to reflect “both the natural history of Israel and the general biological phenomenon as well as bringing the wonders of nature and the wonder of science to the general public”.
The museum is also a national resource infrastructure and it is home to eight exhibition galleries, including one temporary exhibition. When you first enter, you are greeted with a re-enactment of the avian migrations from Africa to Europe through Israel’s Hula Valley, complete with stuffed birds circling the ceiling.
Among the many exhibits is a hands-on map of Israel and videos on the topic of climate change, interlaced with live bugs and stuffed creatures. Dayan has said that thanks to modern technologies, they are able to make the exhibits far more interactive than those that are traditionally found at natural history museums.
At the museum, you can see items that have been collected since the end of the nineteenth century, including the collection of German zoologist Ernst Johann Schmitz, who lived in Israel around 100 years ago. His taxidermy pieces include a bear from 1916, an Asiatic cheetah from 1911, and the last crocodile from the Taninim River, all of which are species that have become extinct in Israel.
Another exhibit includes a 20-foot interactive map of Israel showing current environmental problems, such as the depletion of the Kineret and the Dead Sea. Other exhibits include “Life in the Dark”, which focuses on animals that live without daylight, “Israel’s Landscapes”, which looks at the impressive range of habitats in Israel, and “What Makes Us Human?”, which looks at the biological and cultural evolution of mankind.
The museum has a “Human Impact” exhibition, where they will aim to education the public about what can be done to try to minimise climate change, and address issues such as littering on beaches, which endangers the sea turtle population.
The entire museum occupies 100,000 square feet and is designed to look like a cross between a treasure chest and Noah’s Ark. It took two decades of planning, and it is now Israel’s national centre for biodiversity studies. According to the museum’s curators, the main goal is to increase public awareness of the natural world and environment on both a local and global scale.
They are expecting to host at least 150,000 visitors every year, many of whom are expected to be tourists interested in learning about the region’s unique natural history, both ancient and modern.
When you go on your Israel gap year, make sure that you do not miss out on the opportunity to visit this brand new world class museum.