A Guide to the Bible Gardens

Under the rubric Broadway , New York Daily News columnist Danton Walker reported this item:

New York realtor Leon Shipper leaves for Israel July 24 to develop a new idea in cemeteries (a “Garden of Israel,” with token soil from that land).1Walker, Danton, Broadway, New York Daily News, July 14, 1953, p. 41BL.

Leon Shipper’s concept to make “an authentic ‘piece of Israel’ transplanted here as a permanent Land of the Bible exhibit”235 Tons of Sculpture from Italy Arrives for ‘Garden of Israel,’ Central New Jersey Home News, July 10, 1955, p.5. began around 1951. He consulted various experts, including landscape architect Allan Dalsimer, Harold N. Moldenke of the New York Botanical Gardens, Michael Yohary at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and Stephen Kayser at New York’s Jewish Museum, who introduced Shipper to an Israeli designer, Ismar David.

Traveling by car throughout Israel for four weeks in the summer of 1953, Shipper visited important Biblical sites, choosing and carefully documenting specimens of rocks, boulders and sand to be excavated and sent to the United States. He also selected marble from quarries in Jerusalem, Galilee, Mount Carmel and Mt. Giboa, to be finished in the Carrara studio of Bernard Zuckerman, a prominent sculptor of memorial works.3Hundreds of Tons of Biblical Boulders To Become Monument In Garden Of Israel, The Freehold Transcript and Monmouth Inquirer December 24, 1953, p.29. On October 28th of that year, the first shipment of material— one hundred tons of stone from Safed, the Red Sea, Elat, the Negev, the Ayalon Valley, Galilee and Gilboa—arrived in New York, but it was not until midsummer 1955 that the 36-tons (packed in 62 crates) of marble which made up most of the main feature, the Bible Archway, arrived from Italy. The 12-ton center monolith from Mt. Carmel, “the largest block of marble ever quarried in the Holy Land since ancient days”4Vineland Daily Journal, May 25, 1957, p.3 arrived at Pier 9 in Jersey City from Mt. Carmel on August 2, 1955.5Marble From the Holy Land Here for Woodbridge Garden, Central New Jersey Home News, August 2, 1955 The “world’s only bronze map-portrait of the Holy Land,”6Ibid. sculpted in the New York studio of Rochette and Parzini and cast in bronze by the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, arrived in late October.7Bronze ‘Portrait’ Shown Depicts Old Testament, Ridgewood Sunday News, October 23, 1955.

Ismar David designed many features for the Bible Gardens, including the 60 x 18 foot Bible Archway colonnade, featuring the twelve tribes of Israel, an inscription from Deuteronomy and the bronze Land of Israel map; and a wrought iron Moses.

In 1959, Beth Israel Memorial Park published a guide to the plants and features of its Bible Gardens.

Bible Gardens of Israel
The Bible Retold Through Plant Life
and Works of Art and Architecture

Photographed by Jiageng Lin.
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