I found out about the Saxum center at the IMTM-2019 tourism exhibition in Tel-Aviv, where it was presented as a new interactive center dedicated to the period of Second Temple and Jesus story.
I was intrigued, but also confused – usually Christian places of interest in Israel are positioning themselves separate from the Judaism. While more then a million tourists from Christian countries come to Israel every year, unfortunately few of them actually understand the links of Jews to Christianity and the links of Jesus to Judaism and the Roman conquest of Judea.
Saxum Visitor Center was opened under the patronage of the Catholic Order of Opus Dei. It is aimed to close the gap, telling the story of life and sacrifice of Jesus in the context of Jewish history and geography.
The experience starts already in the courtyard, where you can see a timeline of Biblical history – the history of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel vs the timeline of the world history. Seeing both in parallel is amazing: for example, I realized that the First Temple was destroyed at the same time when Acropolis in Athens was built, etc.
The map on the floor marks the Abraham Path and the route of Exodus of Jews from Egypt (just in case you were curios where were Moses and his people wandering for 40 years).
I remember this surreal feeling of my first visit to Jerusalem many years ago, when I realized that all the legendary locations from the Bible are real places: the Gardens of Gethsemane with 2000-year old olives, Via Dolorosa, Golgotha. In the Saxum center the history is coming alive with the assistance of interactive exhibits and a short film depicting the history of Jews from Exodus to the Cruxifiction of Jesus Christ.
You will see the volume model of how the Second Temple in Jerusalem may have looked like according to historians and archeologists. You will hear how the languages sounded in the Holy Land in the 1st century AD.
I think that for pilgrims and tourists interested in history of Christianity, Saxum Visitor Center is an ideal place to wrap up the journey around Christian holy places of Israel. After you have walked Via Dolorosa, touched the Golgotha stone, went north to Nazaret, Cana of Galilee, Church of Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha, visited Bethlehem, it is worth to come to Saxum in Abu Gosh to reflect and put all the puzzle pieces together in you head.
Most of the Center's visitors now are the groups of pilgrims. But anyone interested may come, you just need to book the visit in advance on the website. The entrance is free now, they are planning to introduce a small fee in about six months, after the center is fully functional (they are still working on cafeteria and some minor details). The exhibition would mostly be interesting for adults, it is not a place for kids entertainment. There is a plenty of parking at the site of the center.
Saxum Visitor Center is also a starting point for 18 km-long Emmaus pilgrim walking trail. In 4-5 hours of walking you would get to Emmaus Nicopolis near Modiin, the place where Jesus is said to have appeared after his death and resurrection. This is one of the shorter pilgrim trails in Israel, which does not require a tremendous physical effort to walk.