When you think of Jerusalem, you probably don’t think of lemurs, do you? Then you have not been to the Jerusalem Zoo. You’ll get up close to adorable lemurs and see a lot more at this world class zoo.
“Ugggggh Mooooom , not another pile of rocks!” my kids complained after a week of touring ancient ruins. This to me signaled a time to pivot to a different sort of activity.
I was a bit surprised to discover that a wonderful, world class zoo exists just outside the city center in Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is a rambling property, lovingly created in homage to the animals that are native to this region of the world.
I live near San Diego, and the world famous San Diego Zoo. It’s fair to say my zoo standards are high. I didn’t expect to be blown away by the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. However, I quickly learned that the Jerusalem Zoo is worthy of respect and well worth the visit.
There are many Afro-Asiatic animals at the Jerusalem Zoo that you might not see anywhere else in the world.
The zoo is also full of art, gardens and unique and clever playgrounds. You’ll find a nod to Noah here, which is not at all surprising, considering it is the land of the bible. A large wooden ark can be found crowning the hillside. Large as it is, I doubt all the Zoo’s animals would fit inside!
Conservation efforts and breeding programs include the likes of Asian lions, the Syrian brown bear, the Asiatic cheetah, the Nile crocodile, and the Persian fallow deer, to name a few.
We spent a half an hour watching zoo staff lovingly interact with these marmosets at the feeding hour.
You’ll see many familiar animals at this zoo and many new ones as well. The Asian elephants are particularly beloved.
It’s not just the animals that are well loved at the Jerusalem Zoo. All children, are welcome here.
We observed both Arab and Israeli children happily picnicking, touring and playing together here. I was delighted to learn about the zoo’s multi-language educational programs and efforts to promote cross cultural understanding. If peace starts with a day at the zoo, for two kids full of wonder and love for nature, so much the better.
The Jerusalem zoo is built on two main levels. It’s quite hilly. Be prepared to get some exercise. There is a sweet little train to transport you between areas if the distances feel too far for little feet. Wear walking shoes, and you can see all the animals while getting a decent workout, over the course of 4-5 hours. Watch for interesting playgrounds and sculpture gardens along the way – including colorful tiled work by the artist Niki De Saint Phalle.
Here’s a look at the Biblical zoo map which will also give you an idea about what the assorted exhibits are.
I found the exhibits to be a little more close up and personal than most U.S. zoos, but not to a point where I felt myself or the animals threatened.
Our favorite experience was the Lemur enclosure. It’s a large area and you walk right in. The Lemur exhibit reminds me of aviaries that I have visited in many zoos, however the residents here are not birds. They are small, furry and extremely entertaining.
Be forewarned, Lemurs nap a lot. I’ve been to this zoo on three occasions and two out of three times, the Lemurs were asleep in an adorable pile. Patience pays off. We parked ourselves on a bench and before long the Lemurs were all around us, keeping a safe distance.
I’m not sure why Lemurs are so entertaining to watch. Maybe it’s their impossibly casual stance, perched jauntily on a tree branch. They look like mischievous creatures, as amused by people as we are by them. You can get pretty close if you don’t move too quickly. Lemurs may poop on you if you linger under them when they are up in the tree branches above you. Consider yourself warned.
The Jerusalem zoo is a welcome change of pace. It’s a great place to run, play, stretch your legs and see another side of Israeli life, as well as Lemur life!
Watching families, and school groups visiting alongside us was a wonderful way to slow down, get off the beaten tourist track, and feel local.
For more information about hours and pricing, visit the Biblical Zoo website.
Need help planning your family’s trip to Jerusalem? Check out the Fun in Jerusalem website for even more ideas and assistance!