Jerusalem’s Ice Festival: It’s a Zoo Out Here

The world was filled with chaos during the ultimate mythical winter wonderland: the biblical storm that destroyed the world and all the sins that once took place in it.

Only Noah and his family, chosen by God, managed to survive. They built a giant wooden chest – one that could resist water damages – and brought in pairs of each animal around. The idea, says, the biblical story, was to salvage the good of the world and allow it to re-populate once the purification ends.

Some credibility issues might strike you. How could humans and wildlife – and various kinds of wildlife among themselves – co-existence in one box, no matter how large it was? How could wood survive such a storm? How was there enough food for every single one of the participants of the journey?

The bible offers no explanation, and the easiest answer would either have you admiring old tellers’ imagination or, better yet, believing that miracles do exist.

Yet, to me, the more important questions this story arises are the social-moral questions. Reading this story in the twenty first century, one could possibly find questionable the focus on Noah as the sole representative of goodness when he wasn’t the only one saved. One could wonder, for example, why wasn’t it his wife that was the representative as well. One could find questionable the focus on couplehood, heterosexuality and the survival of only one family. One could also possibly question the educational value of celebrating the survival of few at the face of destruction for the majority of the world, lives included.

I’ve known this story ever since I was a child. We learned it in school. Growing up, I took this story for granted: the bible is filled with miracles like this one and people living the impossible, such as a life span of several hundred years for various bible “characters”. Plus, good won over evil, what can be more reassuring than that?

Today, things are a bit different as this story reminds me not only the destruction of lives and peoples, but also of capitalism and globalization. Few survive and very few can thrive as the world grows warmer, as it loses natural resources, as people die of starvation.

That, of course, doesn’t mean I wasn’t impressed by the massive brown chest that waited patiently for discovery behind a couple of ice monkeys statuses at one of the corners of Jerusalem’s ice festival.

Pairs of icy animals stood before the chest, enjoying the winter wonderland outside the chest.

It was obviously after the storm, as a pigeon stood outside as well. Noah knew the storm had ended thanks to this pigeon. Noah sent the pigeon away to discover the state of the world. At first, it came back carrying no news. The second time he sent it away, it returned carrying an olive branch. The third time she did not return, therefore Noah concluded the land has dried and the pigeon had found a place to rest its feet on the ground. These days, the pigeon is a symbol of peace in many cultures.

The biblical story did not reign the space. Rather, it shared it with the animals of the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. The zoo, which you can visit when you come to Jerusalem, works with the goal of preserving unique animals at risk of distinction, while focusing on Israeli animals and animals that were mentioned in the bible.

I was surprised to see panda bears at the exhibition, as, to the best of my knowledge, there are no panda bears in Israel, not even in zoos. I then realized it might have been a tribute to the 35 artists and construction workers that were flown in to Israel to spend a month sculpting and building the majority of the ice exhibition.

As in defrosted zoos, there was a sign requesting people not to feed the animals.

Please don't feed the icy animals

Both animal-filled parts shared this royal walkaway, which might have been built to represent the journey Noah’s family and animals made on their way to the safety of the chest, and then back outside, to freedom.

I wonder if there are any icy animals asleep down here....

To leave the world of animals and make it to other enchanted paths, you had to walk, once again, through a gate that symbolized Old Jerusalem. It was like walking inside a palace made of ice.


Which animal do you think deserves its own ice sculpture?



  1. The pandas are so cute! I wonder what one would feed to an ice sculpted animal? It’s a pretty impressive display of ice carving to be sure. Lucky you for getting to see it.
    Steve recently posted..Crazy Camp ConversationsMy Profile

    • Pandas are definitely adorable. I wonder the same, because visitors were not allowed to feed them so I never found out! 😉 I loved every minute there, and was really impressed. I hope there’s another ice exhibition next year!

    • I guess the flood story is really pretty epic. I would love to see dinosaurs made of ice next year! (and fixed the e-mail :))

    • Hahaha, if they let visitors vote next year, I’m nominating the komodo dragon! Well, and dolphins.

    • It does look like that, yet they proof that they’re made out of ice came when the festival almost melted: more people came than expected during a holiday. They had to take people out and limit the number of people who go in for a while. I wondered the same about the coloring. I think it would have been fascinating to have signs with info at the sight, or even better yet – a workshop to experience this kind of art first hand.
      Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..Jerusalem’s Ice Festival – Fairy Tales on IceMy Profile

    • The panda was a nice surprise. I wish they did a workshop for visitors – I’d love to see how they create and color the ice.

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