JERUSALEM’S UNIQUE ZOO IS A LIVING BIBLICAL BESTIARY
The Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, a concept inspired by the Prophets, is the only one of its kind in the world—a source of amazement not only to laymen like myself but, in even greater degree, to visiting zoologists and theologians. Here on thirty-two acres of the Holy Land’s rugged brown soil, the beasts and the birds mentioned in the Old Testament have been brought together. On their cages appear the Biblical quotations applicable to each creature. As you glance down from the contemptuous eyes of two splendid ostriches, both towering ten feet high, you read in Hebrew and English: “I am a brother to monsters and a companion to ostriches.” (Job 30:29) And where three of the most beautiful lions ever raised in captivity roar for their food, a placard quotes: “The lion hath roared—who will not fear?”(Amos 3:8)
The first glimpse of the Biblical Zoo may be something of a shock. This is not an exquisitely landscaped zoological garden such as you find in other cities. As you enter its creaking gate, crude paths lie ahead. All about them are massive boulders pockmarked by erosion. And among the rocks are growths of untended underbrush, clumps of twisted trees.
Yet this very crudeness is deliberately preserved because it establishes a proper mood for the zoo. Surely this is the way the Holy Land must have looked when some of these animals roamed its ancient hills, when some of these brilliantly plumed birds flew screaming from tree to tree. As you pass, they still scream at you—parrots and peacocks, magpies and ravens, just as they screamed at men in the years of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Today, they screech at more than 120,000 visitors a year.