To Israelis, Pessah signifies the start of the tiyulim season. The weather is at its best and most people are filled with an irrepressible longing to get out of the house, probably due in part to the amount of time spent indoors cleaning in the run-up to the festival.
One advantage to living in Israel is the large number of parks, beaches, zoos and historical, archeological and biblical sites within a leisurely day’s outing for most of us.
Take a boat ride out of Jaffa port, along the Tel Aviv coastline. A round-trip lasts about 40 minutes, and from out at sea you get a chance to point out familiar landmarks from a different vantage. While you’re in Jaffa, take a stroll around the art galleries, shops and cobbled alleyways of the Old City and take in a sunset to remember over the Mediterranean Sea.
During the intermediate days of the festival (Hol Hamoed
), boat trips run continuously and don’t have to be booked in advance, but it’s best to call and check that the boats are running (050-760-7170).
Traveling further north, the whole family will enjoy a day out at another ancient port, Herod’s old capital, Caesarea. The multimedia tourist center is split into three parts.
First, the film entitled The Caesarea Experience
will take you on a whirlwind tour of Caesarea’s vibrant history. Then you can chat (virtually) to some of the city’s most famous past residents such as Rabbi Akiva, Hannah Szenes, Saladin, Baron Rothschild and King Herod. In The Time Tower, you look out over the National Park and, using computerized animation, see the way Caesarea looked in the past superimposed over the ancient archeological findings uncovered in recent years.
Afterwards you can stroll around the national park, visit the Roman theater, the ancient hippodrome and the ruins of Herod’s Palace and examine some of the ancient sarcophagi, including the recently discovered Medusa sarcophagus cover.
Park Utopia in Emek Hefer, not far from Netanya, is a delight to visit. The enclosed tropical rain-forest area with its abundance of waterfalls, paths and bridges, contains thousands of species of orchids, including carnivorous ones which will open up and catch a flying meal. In the shaded park outside you can try and work your way out of the mazes, enjoy the peacocks, deer, and variety of other creatures, including a butterfly farm, and wander around the hills and gardens.
Holon has undergone a metamorphosis from a town of sand dunes to a children’s dream town. Driving around, you’ll notice the many story parks with models and sculptures of favorite characters and scenes from popular children’s books. Take the time to stop off and stroll around these parks, which have plenty of playground activities for young children as well.
In Peres Park there’s a boating lake and a children’s museum, as well as two unforgettable experiences for older members of the family: “Dialogue in the Darkness” and “Invitation to Silence,” which introduce the seeing-hearing to the worlds of darkness and silence.
Mei Kedem in Alona Park, inland between Caesarea and Zichron Ya’acov, is a 2,000-year-old water tunnel which supplied water to ancient Caesarea. You can enjoy a fun guided walk through the 280-meter tunnel, but be warned: The water is waist-deep for adults, so don’t bring very small children unless you want to hoist them onto your shoulders. Remember also that if there is a heat wave, your wet clothes may dry quite quickly when you’ve emerged from the water – but if the weather is cool or cloudy, bring clean clothes to change into after your tunnel walk. Shoes for walking in water and torches are also recommended.
Zichron Ya’acov is a delightful combination of old-world ambience, sites connected to aspects of modern Israeli history and hi-tech wine production.
The Museum of the First Aliya tells the story of the first immigrants to the area. Various films show their very difficult agricultural trials and disease-ridden lifestyle which cost thousands of them their lives, as well as their rocky relationship with Baron Rothschild’s emissaries.
The beautiful Ohel Ya’acov Synagogue is the shul the baron built and named in his father’s memory; it is still in use today.
Beit Aharonson, the home of the Aharonson family, founders of Zichron, is now a museum in their memory and also of the Nili spy ring in which their son Aaron and daughter Sara were involved. The ring operated in Turkish-occupied Palestine at the time of WWI and tried to help the British oust the Turks. A carrier pigeon which lost its way gave away their secret and Sara was captured and tortured in her family home. She eventually shot herself in the bathroom where her gun was hidden.
Carmel Mizrahi Winery will be holding an open house during Hol Hamoed
and visitors can visit the famous winery, newly renovated, and see how hi-tech has helped to improve wine production.
During Pessah, an extra attraction is the reconstructed main pedestrian thoroughfare, which will be alive and rocking to the beat of the Street Musicians Festival. There will also be street artists and a large children’s area with games and activities.
On the other side of the country, if you stop off at Eretz Bereshit
(Genesis Land) nestled in the Judean Desert between Kfar Adumim and
Mitzpe Yeriho, don’t be surprised to be greeted by Eliezer, Abraham’s
trusted servant. He’ll be happy to introduce you to many other familiar
characters and scenes from the early stories in the Bible. As Moses
(Moshe) is the prominent personality in our minds at Pessah-time, there
will be a special workshop to show you how to be a shepherd, Moses’s
original profession. A clue here is that it’s not as easy as it looks,
but you’ll have a chance to find that out for yourself.,
Bookings have to be made in advance even during Hol Hamoed
at (02) 997 4477.