Entertaining young children during a long vacation is always challenging, but add blistering heat, long car drives and ill-timed afternoon naps to the mix, and the task seems almost impossible. Fortunately for overwhelmed parents in Israel, God invented the Kinneret, picturesque waterfalls, chocolate factories, cable cars and carpentry workshops. Oh, and the well maintained, clearly marked trails of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority’s nature reserves.

This summer we took our children to the Upper Galilee to sample the many offerings of its well-developed tourist industry. We didn’t exactly manage to escape the heat, but we focused on indoor activities and water-based outdoor ones. The lines and crowds at some of the venues were mind-boggling (think large extended family with at least 18 kids crammed into a chocolate workshop), but it was good to see business flourishing during these tough economic times. To avoid the bustling tourist attractions in the summer you’d have to stay home, but that was hardly the point.

As always, after several fun-filled days we felt that we had jam packed our time with activities but there were still so many more attractions we would have liked to visit.

There’s always next year!

KURLENDER FARM

There are around 400 cows at Milky Way on Beit Hillel’s Kurlender Farm, but on a recent summer’s evening the cowshed was so quiet you could almost hear a tail swish.

This, our friendly tour guide told us, is because cows only moo when they’re unhappy. That was one of many facts we learned on our tour. (Did you know that a heifer that has a male twin is almost always barren?) The Kurlender Farm was established in 1951 when the Jewish Agency gave the Kurlenders, recent immigrants from Romania, a pregnant heifer and a timeshare horse. Since then, run by three generations of Kurlenders, it has grown to include 150 milk-producing cows, as well as calves and cows at the end of their pregnancy that are no longer expected to work.

Over a pre-tour glass of chocolate milk made with freshly produced liquid, we were informed that milk usually takes several days to reach the supermarket. After our milk break, the children watched in awe as cows were hooked up to the milking machines, and the kids were even given the opportunity to try their hand at milking. The calves also starred as we fed them from huge bottles.

Where?
Moshav Beit Hillel
For more information: (04) 695-9826 or www.kurlender.co.il


TEL DAN

In between visits to commercial tourist attractions, it’s a healthy change of pace to fit in a hike (or in this case, a leisurely stroll) at one of the country’s many well-appointed nature reserves. In the summer, it’s even better if the site includes some water to plunge into. Tel Dan is next to the Dan River, one of the Jordan’s three tributaries.

It has three hikes that take between 45 minutes and two hours. One of the walks includes a visit to a flour mill that operated until 1948.

We traipsed the shortest trail, part of which is stroller and wheelchair accessible; but even at its most difficult, it is quite manageable for young children.

It is forbidden to enter the water at any point on the hike until you reach the pool at the end of the trail. The water, which comes from the mountains, can at best be described as refreshing but is colder than one could imagine. But that didn’t stop the dozens of kids who were happily splashing around in it.

Where: On Road 99, 11 km. east of Metzudot Junction Price: NIS 27 per adult; NIS 14 per child over five For more information: www.parks.org.il MENARA CLIFF When you look down from the Menara Cliff cable car, you will see either a breathtaking view of the Hula Valley or your life passing before you in excruciating detail.

At 1.9 km. and taking passengers to a height of 740 m., the cable car is reputed to be the longest in the country. At the top there is a variety of activities for children, including arts and crafts activities and a play center.

A “train” ride around Kibbutz Menara takes you within a stone’s throw of the Lebanese border.

Back at ground level, there are more thrills to seek. The under-seven crowd loved the roller-coaster ride in carriages for two, begging to go back for more.

The over-30 contingent, on the other hand, was chastised over the megaphone for trying to slam on the brakes while traveling at hair-raising speed… For those who have no issues with vertigo, the site also offers a bungee trampoline.

Attached to a harness, jumpers can reach a height of up to eight meters.

Where?
On Road 90, just south of Kiryat Shmona
Price: From NIS 60 for the cable car during the holiday period to NIS 100 for the cable car, roller coaster and bungee trampoline. For more information: www.cliff.co.il


DE KARINA CHOCOLATES

A third-generation chocolatier, Karina Chiplinsky fulfilled her dream of continuing the family profession after she moved with her family to Kibbutz Ein Zivan from Argentina in 2004. The company was more successful than she could ever have imagined, and she moved to new premises, complete with a visitors’ center, in 2006.

The business might be the culmination of Chiplinsky’s dream, but an hour surrounded by chocolate makes a child melt.

The tour begins with a short film describing the chocolate process, from its origins until it reaches the supermarket – or in this case the boutique store – shelf. Visitors then see where the real work is done as they watch Karina and her team make delectable pralines and other treats. After the observing comes the tasting, where a sampling of pralines is offered from least to most sweet.

For those who want to try their hand at chocolate-making, De Karina offers workshops. They’re short and sweet, and participants can take home the fruits of their labors – or eat them in the coffee shop outside.

Where?
Kibbutz Ein Zivan, northern Golan Heights
Price: The tour costs NIS 22 per adult and NIS 18 per child.

The tour and workshop cost NIS 65 per adult and NIS 55 per child.

For more information: www.de-karina.co.il or (04) 699-3622

KIBBUTZ EIN GEV

There’s enough to do at Kibbutz Ein Gev to keep tourists busy for at least an entire day. There’s Saba Yossi’s carpentry workshop, the House of Anchors, a ferry ride on the Kinneret and a train ride around the kibbutz.

And there’s no need to look outside the kibbutz for a meal, with two restaurants located at the port.

We started off with a visit to Saba Yossi’s workshop, where children can glue, hammer, drill and paint their own wooden toys. With a variety such as trains, cradles, rocking horses and puppies to choose from, every child will find a toy they will want to take home and play with. Afterward (or before), children can play to their hearts’ content in the pirate ship gymboree – made from wood, of course.

Lunch was a trip down memory lane. I first visited Ein Gev’s famed fish restaurant 25 years ago as a child. I don’t remember exactly how the eatery looked then, but the inside, with its dining-room feel, adds to the kibbutz atmosphere. Out on the patio, too hot for lunch in August but far more pleasant at this time of year, diners can enjoy a quiet meal overlooking the Kinneret.

The salads that opened the meal were fresh and flavorful. My grilled whole trout was perfectly cooked and thoroughly delicious, and the kids – by far the most discerning eaters present – practically inhaled their pizza and spaghetti Alfredo.

The hordes of tourists streaming into the restaurant as we left confirmed that its reputation preceded it.

Next was a ferry ride on the Kinneret, where we all took pleasure in the fresh air, and the kids were thrilled to take the wheel.

Price: The wooden toys at Saba Yossi start from NIS 57. A ferry ride costs NIS 39 per person.

For more information: www.eingev.co.il or (04) 665-8008.

KFAR BLUM KAYAKS

There are three kayaking options at Kfar Blum: the standard one-hour route; the longer two-and-a-half-hour route; and a gentle outing on a rubber raft for children under five.

A bus takes you upstream to the regular, family route, and you then travel downstream on the Hatzbani Stream and the Jordan River in a kayak for two or a six person raft. Children will love bumping into the sides of the river and whooshing down a waterfall at the end of the route.

Where?
Next to Kfar Blum
Price: The standard route costs NIS 85.

For more information: www.kayaks.co.il

HAMAT GADER

If it weren’t for the overhead sprinklers that spray a fine mist as you walk around Hamat Gader, the heat would be unbearable there during the summer months. But the cooling spray makes a visit there very pleasant. No matter how many times I go there, watching crocodiles chow down a whole chicken in one gulp at feeding times never gets old.

In addition to the 250 crocodiles and alligators, Hamat Gader boasts a large variety of animals, including a petting zoo. A highlight is the parrot show, which takes place daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. over the holidays.

The pool and fountain are perfect for kids to play in on a hot day, while parents can choose from a roster of relaxing treatments at the Spa Village.

And don’t forget to take a dip in the hot and cold springs that give Hamat Gader its name (hama means “hot spring” in Hebrew).

Where: Golan Heights Price: NIS 78 weekday/NIS 88 Shabbat and holidays For more information: www.hamatgader.com 

The writer was a guest of the sites and the hotel.



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