(photo credit: )
For many families, the Pessah vacation provides a rare chance to catch up on quality time. This year, an impressive array of festivals and events promising fun for the entire family will help ensure that it is time well spent.
You can start off the holiday by taking a stroll down the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian walk in the center of old Tel Aviv, where 63 trees have been decorated with handcrafts and where some 280 artists and artisans have set up outdoor shops. The event begins today and runs through Tuesday. There'll be street performances and a Druze tent baking up kosher-for-Pessah pitot.
Tel Aviv celebrates Pessah with a fun-packed festival taking place at Tel Aviv port. Running Sunday through Thursday, this year's event will be headlined by the Vertigo dance group's performance of its internationally acclaimed environmental piece, "Birth of the Phoenix." The festival will also feature a performance by the Reaction Circus replete with acrobats, trapeze artists, clowns and fire eaters, as well as a host of workshops suitable for adults and children. Prices for the performances and workshops range from NIS 25 to 60. For information, call (03) 604-5000.
The beautiful Suzanne Dellal Center, located in Tel Aviv's picturesque Neve Tzedek quarter, hosts My Childhood, a celebration of children's theater, Sunday and Monday. Among the selection of plays on offer are Peter and the Wolf, with the Animal Carnival, an original production combining these two popular children's tales, along with Elephants Don't Do Ballet the story of an elephant determined to learn dance. Prices for the performances are either NIS 45 or 65. For information, call (03) 510-5656.
Uptown at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Fairy Tale Festival offers plays and activities for children between ages three and 10, from Sunday through Tuesday. Click on shelanu.tapuz.co.il or call (03) 571-1999 for information.
Tel Aviv's Opera House offers two performances of its opera appreciation series for children during the holiday week: a general overview entitled "Let's Sing Opera" on Sunday morning at 11, and segments from Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretl on Monday morning, also at 11. Entrance to the hour-long shows is NIS 25.
Futher north, the expansive Ra'anana Park hosts the Florentine Circus at its Spring Festival, with acrobats, "flying" acts, trapeze artists, clowns and more from around the world performing under the festive big top. A circus skills workshop follows. Performers will take the stage today and Tuesday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; Saturday, Monday and Wednesday at 11 a.m. and 1 and 4 p.m. For tickets and information, call 050-485-4701 or (03) 518-6169.
The Weizmann Institute in Rehovot will host a science fair Sunday and Monday featuring science workshops, competitions, robots, magicians, lectures by scientists and more. For details, call (08) 934-4084.
Holon residents can also enjoy scientific fun at a family- oriented convention examining the role of free choice and destiny in science fiction. Running from Tuesday to Thursday at the Holon Mediatheque, the conference will feature lectures on popular science fiction movies and TV shows such as Lord of the Rings, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek and more. The event's highlight will be a question and answer session with the guests of honor, Babylon Five star Claudia Cristian and X Files actor Dean Hagland. Prices for the lectures vary from NIS 25-60. Click on www.mediatheque.org for further information.
From Sunday through Thursday, the Holon Children Museum's Hagadah Celebration brings the Pessah tradition to life for children aged four to eight. Four booths, each representing a different part of the Pessah story, will incorporate a selection of activities including matza baking, building model pyramids, playing games with Pharaoh, Egyptian-style belly dancing and more. Admission is NIS 35 for adults and NIS 15 for children.For opening hours, see www.mediatheque.org.il.
The Azrieli Group provides cheap relief for parents whose wallets have borne the brunt of the vacation in the form of free children's workshops and performances at a number of their malls. Children can enjoy a street theater at Herzliya outlet, a giant pyramid at the Azrieli center, Tel Aviv as well as activities at the Margali Mall, Hod Hasharon, Jerusalem's Malha Mall and the Ayalon Mall. For times and dates call 054-466-6362 or (03) 577-5013.
In the center of the country, the Mini Israel miniature park hasn't forgotten it's Pessah, with special holiday activities. On Thursday, April 20, it's still vacation for the kids, and the Latrun park will put on the traditional Moroccan Pessah afterparty, Mimouna. Call (08) 922-2444 or click on www.minisrael.co.il.
"Next year in Jerusalem" is the rallying cry at the end of the Haggada. That ancient booklet comes to life in the Old City Sunday and Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hagadda Yerushalaymit happening. Lined along the ancient streets will be reproductions of historic haggadot from around the world. Actors in biblical dress will be posted in front of the old quarter's historic sights, where they will stage the history of each. Alongside the city's ramparts, a 50-strong contingent of bugle and drum players will herald the holiday at the top of every hour. For details, call (02) 627-1155 between 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Tour the environs of the Old City on 4x4 safari vehicles, wade through the waters of the Hezkiyah tunnels, tour ancient underground paths, attend antiquity-inspired street performances and workshops - all at the Ancient Jerusalem Adventure, also on Sunday and Monday. Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m., pianist and singer Arkadi Duchin will give a show, and Monday the time slot features Rami Kleinstein. See www.cityofdavid.org.il or call *6033 for details.
Options in Jerusalem include a visit to The Tower of David Museum, which celebrates Pessah with a recreation of Jerusalem in the times of the Second Temple complete with a Second Temple daily newspaper, a theatrical storytelling of adventures of pilgrims and a fact-finding mission throughout the citadel. Tours of the permanent exhibition will also be available. A special family entrance fee of NIS 80 is offered. For opening hours, see www.towerofdavid.org.il.
Entrance for children will be free at The Israel Museum, which will feature a seder night exhibition of different artists' interpretations of the seder table, along with a display of selected seder table items from the museum's collection. Activities and workshops for the whole family will also be available for a fee. Call (02) 670-8811 for opening hours and workship times.
Just south of Jerusalem, in Gush Etzion, the Herodion castle comes back to life on Sunday, as actors accompany tours of the ancient hilltop fortress facing the panoramic vista of the Judean mountains. Call (02) 993-1387/8 or (052) 834-7205 for details, or visit www.k-etzion.co.il.
The fifteenth annual sculpture symposium, running Sunday through Wednesday at Monoport Lake in Ma'alot, features the work of twelve Israeli and international sculptures on the theme of "practical art." The artists, selected from over a hundred entrants, will be on hand to answer questions about their works, which will be judged on the last day of the event. Guests, including kids, are encouraged to make their own creations, as well as enjoy the 180 sculptures from previous symposia located throughout Ma'alot. A farmers market and a sculpture workshop will also be on offer. Attractions for children include performances by pop band the Gameboys and the stars of Born to Dance. There will be an animal petting corner and more. NIS 20 for parking. Details at 050-562-6584.
For a more meditative approach, The Wilfrid Israel Museum of Oriental Art and Studies at Kibbutz Hazorea will hold an Awakening Festival with art and workshops for the whole family, Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m to 4 p.m. Activities include tai chi and meditative walking. For details, see www.wilfrid.org.il.
The south of the country provides its share of holiday activity as well. A gourmet festival takes a gastronomic tour of the area's kibbutzim, showing off products ranging from goat cheese to boutique wines, as well as food-themed workshops. For information, visit www.desertmagic.co.il or call (08) 655-4418.
Down south, Kibbutz Orim plays host to a different kind of festival. Israel's first ever Soosyada celebration on Monday (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) takes place in a newly built hippodrome and features horse races, horse riding and acrobatic shows, pony rides and a variety of other children's activities. Tickets are NIS 60 for adults and NIS 30 for kids if purchased at Yellow convenience stores at Paz gas stations, or NIS 80 for adults and NIS 40 for kids if purchased at the event. Free for kids under six. For information, visit www.soosyada.co.il.
Arad's Lot's Wife artists' quarter is holding the first ever Recycling Festival, set to take place Sunday and Monday with loads of performances and activities for kids, as well as a waste-sculpting competition. For details, call (08) 995-4160. A Nabatean Souk at an ancient World Heritage Site runs today through Thursday - call (08) 655-6478 for details. Kids can see the antelopes roam free at an African desert safari near Arad. For information, call (052) 366-6041 or (054) 479-1533.
Those looking forward to experiencing the dawning of spring can choose from an impressive array of hikes and activities taking place in national parks and nature reserves throughout the country. Keren Kayemet Le Yisrael lead the way with a variety of organized hikes and bike tours. Highlights include Sunday's "On Wheels Through the Path of Sculptures" a family orientated bike ride passing through a sculpture exhibition in the Tzarah Forest and "Spring has Come," a series of guided tours and activities taking place at a selection of KKL forests, Sunday - Thursday. Prices vary. Details at 1-800-350-550. The Israeli National Parks Authority will hold events at a number of its parks. Re-enactments of children's fairytales at Nahal Alexander (Sun.-Tue.) and games for all the family at Appolonia park (Mon.-Wed.) are just some of the activities on offer. Call *3693.
Take advantage of the fact that this holiday week entrance to many of the national parks, such as the Yodfat Monkey Forest (Ya'ar Hakofim) in the north, and to a slew of other fun and education sites - such as the Bloomfield Science Museum and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Eretz Yisrael Museum in Tel Aviv (now displaying a colorful paper mache Had Gadya exhibit) and The Joe Alon Museum of Beduin Culture in the Negev - will be free this Pessah, thanks to Bank Hapoalim. Call 1212-332-585 for the list of 37 sites and for their opening hours.
See the Billboard's events section for more details on these and other Hol Hamoed activities.