Flashes of History in Jerusalem

"The Night Spectacular" show at the Tower of David complex includes this scene of 19th-century Jerusalem. The display covers thousands of years of the city's history, but it avoids mentioning the political clashes of modern times.
"The Night Spectacular" show at the Tower of David complex includes this scene of 19th-century Jerusalem. The display covers thousands of years of the city's history, but it avoids mentioning the political clashes of modern times. (By Amit Geron)

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By Linda Gradstein
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Talmud says that "ten measures of beauty were given to the world, and nine were given to Jerusalem." The holy city is especially beautiful at night, when the heat and dust settle and the sectarian tensions fade with the day's light. One of the most striking features of the Jerusalem landscape at night is the Tower of David complex, part of which was constructed 2,000 years ago by Herod the Great. There are still remains from that time. One of the most famous landmarks of the city, and part of that complex, is the minaret built by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century.

During the day, the whole complex is a museum on the history of Jerusalem with interactive exhibits that are well worth the trip. Now there's reason to come back after dark.

A new outdoor sound and light show called "The Night Spectacular" offers a virtual-reality experience that shouldn't be missed. There is no narration, just a few biblical verses spoken in both Hebrew and English. Most of the 45-minute show is vignettes from different time periods presented with blazing colors and dramatic soundtracks.

There's no screen and no need for one. The dramatic computer-generated scenes cover every inch of the walls, towers and turrets, surrounding you with images that can make you gasp. The images emanate simultaneously from 20 projectors operated by four computer systems.

If you're not familiar with the city's 4,000-year history, the show might be somewhat confusing. The brochure at the ticket booth helps, but the display is really not about matching each image to its time period. It is about feeling the history of Jerusalem and some of the characters who lived there. There's something different to see everywhere you look.

Each time period melds seamlessly into the next. Here is King David playing his harp on the rooftops of the city, there is the Queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon's palace. Later there are scenes of the city's churches and monks. As the bells ring, you almost feel you can walk into one of the churches. Another beautiful scene is of Muhammad's night journey from the al-Aqsa mosque to heaven.

The show avoids politics, skipping from the early 20th century to schoolchildren who "pray for the peace of Jerusalem." There is no mention of the 1967 war in which Israel conquered and later annexed the site on which the show is held. Palestinians have never recognized the Israeli move and say that East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

The show was produced and orchestrated by the Skertzo group from France, which specializes in technical productions at historic sites. It took a year to put together and cost more than $2.5 million.

Museum director Shoshi Yaniv says she has seen people moved to laughter and tears by the show.

"This is not a history lesson," she said. "I want you to be moved like when you go to the ballet or opera using all of your senses. I see people walk out of the show with a smile on their face. How many things in Jerusalem make you smile?"

"The Night Spectacular," Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem.

The show runs most nights, several times a night, until December, when it will go on hiatus until the spring. Information and tickets can be found at http://www.towerofdavid.org.il or at 011-972-2-626-5333.

Admission about $13; $10 for children, students and seniors. And remember to dress warmly this time of year: Jerusalem gets quite cold at night.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company


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