Nestled behind the clusters of orange orchards and lines of palm trees at Rehovot’s Weizmann Institute of Science, thousands of children and their families swarmed the interactive exhibits of the Clore Science Garden on Wednesday.
“Little kids come and touch everything that moves, but when you can understand things it’s much more interesting,” Yonatan Elgavi, a 15-yearold from Jerusalem, told The Jerusalem Post that afternoon.
Elgavi had come to the Science Garden with his parents and three younger siblings.
While he recalled enjoying the park very much as a child, he said it was much more meaningful to him now, as a teenager eager to learn and explain scientific principles.
“We are geeks – we like science,” his mother Orit added.
Scents of skewered meat, so prevalent on this and other holiday periods, were absent as children splashed their hands in wave pools and learned why bubbles take the shape of spheres.
One of the first activities to greet child and adult science enthusiasts was playing music on a “xylostone,” whose tones change based on varying vibrations along the different-length stones.
Near the xylostone, children clamored to pull on a string that guided the behavior of a wave machine, which resembles a twirling DNA helix and allows visitors to send transverse waves up the dangling metal rungs.
Up a small hill, families traveled to the “Court of Energy and Environment,” where they were able to learn and understand the mechanisms behind a solar water heater and view photovoltaic panels powering a circulating disc. Intermittently, tour guides came to demonstrate how a parabolic solar mirror could ignite wood, while a traditional red windmill stood tall, continuously pumping water.
Like at Disney World, long lines led up to the “Archimedes Screw,” where children ran on a wooden platform as if hamsters on a wheel, turning a screw submerged in a pond of lily pads below. The screw then carried the water up and up – illustrating what had been discovered by Archimedes of Sicily in the third century BCE.
A moonwalk activity used a swing to mimic the gravitational force on the moon, allowing children to scale and hop about a vertical, circular wooden platform.
Across the path from the moonwalk was a “moon cradle,” a metal swing set that also imitated the gravity of the moon, which is one-sixth that of Earth.
Throughout the grounds children took part in interactive playground activities, learning to build an arched bridge out of trapezoidal blocks and discovering that a roller pin could stay aboard a winding coaster track only if shaped a certain way. Statues of the five Platonic solids – the only polyhedrons with the same number of faces meeting at every vertex – provided visitors with a short lesson in mathematics.
While some families said they had come to the Science Garden because it was close by, others, like Yonatan Elgavi, reveled in the opportunity to spend a day in science – and even help answer the questions of other young science aficionados.
Outside the walls of the Weizmann Institute, about a quarter million tourists took to the country’s natural parks and nature reserves, with 7,500 people visiting Gan Hashlosha, 5,000 traveling to Ein Gedi and 4,000 each to Caesarea and the Yarkon, according to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Meanwhile, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund reported large numbers of visitors to its nature sites around the country, reaching more than 100,000 people total. In comparison to last year, the number of travelers to KKL-JNF sites represented a 10 to 15 percent increase. The organization reminded visitors to continue to be conscientious and keep Israel’s forests clean, as well as take all necessary precautions to prevent fires. •