With the summer vacation fast approaching, parents, couples, individuals and groups are starting to cast their minds in the direction of getting out and about to extra-urban pastures. While there is no shortage of hotel accommodation and mainstream cultural items available all over the country, there are also plenty of spots to pitch tents and engage in wholesome outdoor activities and grab some affordable entertainment in the process.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority in cooperation with the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
KKL and other organizations initiated a national program to encourage affordable nature holidays for the public, offering a plethora of activities going on all over Israel.
While it may not suit the air-conditioned, sauna, plasma TV crowd, the INPA offers a wide variety of events to keep people of all ages, socioeconomic standing and tastes happily occupied in the months to come.
Take, for instance, the informative slots dotted around the richly appointed Tzipori National Park in the Galilee. Members of the public can get a better handle on all sorts of fascinating topics connected to the history of the site, such as water-related issues that feed off the gargantuan subterranean water system, which includes an enormous reservoir that was built in the first century CE and operated for more than 600 years. There is also slot devoted to the subject of local stone and construction, using the magnificent third-century Roman villa as the thematic substratum. A presentation of the more spiritual side of life is featured at Tzipori, centering on the ancient synagogue there.
Meanwhile, at another national park in another part of the country, which offers very different vistas but has a similarly rich history, the INPA runs a fun and instructional experiential activity at the Western Palace atop the Masada outcrop.
The tour conveys the heritage of the iconic site and the fascinating archeological finds unearthed there. The visitors’ package features a theatrical presentation of the events that took place at Masada.
Back north, the Nimrod Fortress offers an imposing vista to visitors as they climb up the road towards the more elevated sections of the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon. The INPA has devised a suitably dramatic way of literally getting into the nooks and crannies of the 13thcentury edifice. The nighttime lantern-lit excursion takes visitors along secret passageways into impressive halls, guard towers and reservoirs, designed to resurrect the history and ambience of medieval times.
The tour also includes stories of yesteryear that add color to the historical facts.
Over to the west, fans of sea sports and enthusiasts of all ages can have some fun at the Beit Yanai beach end of the Nahal Alexander National Park with a program of games, beach soccer and volleyball contests, as well as a surfing circle. And while you’re in the vicinity, you can pop along to nearby Moshav Michmoret and pay a visit to the National Sea Turtle Rescue Center, where INPA staff administer treatment and care to ailing and injured turtles. The instructors there teach the public about the lives and habits of the gentle sea creatures and advise visitors on how to aid sea turtles.
Further up the coast to the north, Achziv National Park offers stories and music that feed off the centuries-old traditions of seafaring folk. The Friday Song of the Sea program, devised by the INPA, together with the Treasures of the Galilee tourism association and the Mateh Asher Regional Council, leads visitors through an ancient fishermen’s village, which includes a storytelling session with tales of the sea. It culminates with a Kabbalat Shabbat ceremony and a community session of seafaring songs as the sun sets on the horizon.
If all that sounds a bit difficult to pack in and might end up costing an arm and a leg, the INPA has an annual membership offer for the whole family, which covers unlimited entry to 55 national parks and nature reserves. The offer also includes special free activities and other items at a reduced price.
Naturally, when parents and children take to the road for a few days and nights, accommodation can end up being rather expensive. However, the INPA offers overnight camping facilities near trails all around Israel at knock-down prices. Many of the spots have hot showers, and you don’t have to schlep equipment from home – you can rent tents and mattresses at the various locations.
If you live in the environs of Tel Aviv and don’t fancy the idea of straying too far from home, you and the family can go to the Yarkon National Park Overnight Campground, just off Route 40 between Hod Hasharon and Petah Tikva. The large site covers an area of 2.5 acres, most of which is shaded, and there is floodlighting. There are showers and washrooms, two cooking areas and a storeroom, and a wide variety of challenging activities and workshops at various times of the day.
Other well-equipped camping spots include Hurshat Tal, Mishmar Hacarmel and Belvoir in the north; Ashkelon, Ein Hemed and Beit Guvrin in the center of the country; and Eshkol, Mamshit and the Hai Bar Nature Reserve near Eilat in the south. For more information go to: http://www.campingil.org.il/ or call *3639 or (03) 500-6261.
This article was made possible with the help of the Israel Ministry of Tourism (www.goisrael.gov.il and www.goisrael.com).