Are Mickey and Minnie Mouse coming to Israel? Not quite, but the Negev city of Dimona is in the “advanced stages” of planning a Disneyland-like theme park, The Jerusalem Post has learned.The “Park of Wonders” is slated to have a similar layout to Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Florida, but with Jewish and Israeli themes.US entrepreneurs have been in contact with officials in Israel in recent months about the development of the amusement park, Channel 10 News reported on Monday night.
“We are very good at many things in Israel – hi-tech, medicine – I think it is also time for us to be good at something that is fun and enjoyable,” Lea Malul, CEO of the theme park project at Plaim (Wonders), the organization behind the initiative, told the Post.Plans for the park are already drawn up, designed by the same company that planned Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Malul said.In its initial stage, the park will sit on some 25 hectares (60 acres) of land at the entrance to Dimona and will include five “worlds,” each with four or five rides. The “worlds” will be called Oasis, World of Spirits, World of the Jewish Nation, World of Society and the World of Time.“The park will have the same rides and the same layout [as Disney World] but with content,” Malul explained. “It will be 90% fun and 10% content.”Disney’s popular Splash Mountain ride, for example, will be modified to include a theme of six work days, and a “calm zone” after a drop that signifies the day of rest.Malul stressed, however, that the park will have nothing to do with Bible stories or mitzvot, but rather is supposed to reflect “life and what surrounds us with values that are not only Jewish but universal.”Additionally, instead of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, the park aims to create and develop alternative characters that will become the “cultural heroes of tomorrow.”The idea for the park was brought forward by Rabbi Eli Taragin, a New Jersey native who would visit Disney World as a child with his grandparents in Florida and who dreamed of bringing that experience to Israel.A private investor has already put some $1.5 million into the project over the course of the past three years.Malul said that there are private investors lined up to fund the estimated $400m. project once it receives the necessary permits, a process that will take a couple of years.“We are developing the whole area to actually build a new destination that deals with entertainment and fun,” she said. “This is going to be a very big game-changer for the whole country – it will become an international destination.”The theme park is just the tip of the iceberg. She explained that surrounding it will be outlet malls, hotels and other major attractions, sitting on a total of 100 hectares of land.“We need to start to look ahead to the future and connect to the next generation in their language,” Malul said.Avi Hilki, CEO of Calcalit, the executing arm of the Dimona Municipality, told the Post that the city appropriated the land to promote initiatives such as the theme park in an effort to attract visitors and increase interest in visiting the Negev.“Every year there are around four million cars passing by on the route from Beersheba to Eilat, as well as Dimona,” he said. “We want to make Dimona a place where they come and visit.”Hilki said the municipality is in “very advanced stages” of pushing forth the initiative and is in contact with Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who has given the project his full backing.Dimona Mayor Benny Biton is set to meet with the entrepreneurs, investors and government officials on March 20 to move ahead with the project.
Promotional video for the "Park of Wonders" (Youtube/Effective video productions)