Life Below Water
The Israel Aquarium in Jerusalem - An Underwater Wonder
On an ordinary visit to the new Jerusalem aquarium one is promptly plunged into the magical and mysterious realm of stingrays, clownfish, seahorses, jellyfish and sharks (yes, even sharks). But there is order among the whirlwind of water inhabitants. The aquarium’s path leads visitors on a voyage through Israel’s largest habitats of water – the Mediterranean, The Red Sea, the Kinneret and the Dead Sea.
The first conversations about the aquarium began in 2008. The Jerusalem Aquarium became a part of the discussion about the future of the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, and so it was determined that it should be the first “anchor” project of the zoo. The dialogue about the aquarium project culminated with a meeting of the International Zoological Committee, headed by Professor Avi Provolotsky. The aquarium’s new home was destined: a 5 acre portion of land adjacent to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.
In 2012 builders of the aquarium broke ground. Thanks to a generous donation by the Gottesman family of New York (for whom the aquarium is named) – as well as other generous donors in Israel and abroad, the Biblical Zoo, the Jerusalem Municipality and the Ministry of Tourism – a healthy sum of money was raised, enough to realize the dream. Lenny Raviv, of the architectural firm Raviv-Tal was enlisted for the project, along with the OK Bay company, the staff of the Biblical Zoo, experts and consultants the world over. One year later building began, and in 2017 the dream became a reality – the Israel Aquarium of Jerusalem, of the Gottesman Family, was opened to the public.
The vision of the aquarium is the preservation of the abundant array of aquatic life in Israel. At present the wildlife, the coral, even the habitats themselves are under extreme ecological threats – beach and ocean pollution, over-fishing, tourism and commerce, desalination, gas and oil drilling. The aquarium – aside from being a dazzling place to visit – is above all a center of aquatic research and education, bringing public awareness to the preservation of Israel’s beaches and waters.
Putting these principles into something palpable, the aquarium features a gigantic “Wall of Commitment” in the Saving the Sea gallery. The wall was the brainchild of the educational staff of the aquarium and was built with the support of the Azrieli school of Engineering. The goal of the wall is to harness the public to take a few simple steps that will go a long way toward protecting the aquatic environment of Israel.
Upon approaching the wall, visitors enter their names and email addresses into computers and commit themselves to the following actions:
- When I visit the sea, I am responsible for safeguarding cleanliness. I will pack up any trash and dispose of it far away from the beach. I will not throw trash into the water for fear of destroying the ocean animals’ natural habitat.
- I will recycle so that plastic will not reach the water and harm aquatic life.
- I will volunteer to join or initiate beach cleanups or run campaigns to save beaches and oceans. I will learn about endangered aquatic species and share my knowledge with friends and family.
- I will not eat fish that are endangered, and I will only eat fish from sources of sustainable development. I will fish only in approved areas for fishing, and only with approved fishing gear. I will not fish for threatened species of fish.
- If I come across a hazard on the beach or in the ocean, I will alert the authorities by phone or application.
- As a diver I am obligated not to touch or destroy so that all can benefit from the ocean. I will not take or buy souvenirs from the ocean – nor in Israel or abroad.
- I will not free fish into streams or into the ocean in order to prevent the entry of invading species into the ecological system.
The experience of the aquarium is at once delightful and dizzying. But don’t just take us on our word about this extraordinary place, visit the aquarium and see for yourself!
Life Below Water It will be a momentous point in history when, after unwrapping the plastic off your new headphones or new top you throw