A week of 'Sundays'

There is no need to dent your wallet to show the children a good time over Hol Hamoed this Pessah.

kids show 88 (photo credit: )
kids show 88
(photo credit: )
There's no "Sunday" in Israel, as veterans know and olim quickly discover. True, there are weekends, and Israelis are known to take a couple of days off here and there for mini-getaways, but there's one time of year when everybody has off at the same time, and converges on the same leisure spots - Hol Hamoed Pessah. And while many Westerners sort of wish that there was a Sunday in this country, just imagine what it would be like battling the crowds and lines every week, instead of just twice a year! Fortunately, though, the powers that be provide lots of activities to handle the rush, and some of them are actually free. So no matter what your taste and budget, you're guaranteed to find something to suit your family's taste in day trips. So, with the matza-laden masses seeking some springtime good times, here are some ideas for day trips: TEL AVIV: For city-loving folk, the Tel Aviv Municipality, along with Israel Discount Bank, will hold a Tel Aviv Family Festival for kids of all ages in the center of it all - Kikar Rabin. Singing, dancing, kids' concerts, craft stations, technology and science projects, cooking for kids, and even an outdoor library will be the order of the day on Wednesday and Thursday, April 4 and 5. A dozen different plays and shows are scheduled - and you'll even be able to sit while you watch (an unheard of nicety at these festivals), because the city has thoughtfully promised a 350-seat mini outdoor "theater." Not to mention the star attractions: performances by the Russian Circus (fire fun, clowns, and unicycles galore), the Chinese Circus (big-time acrobatics), and a show by kids' star Rinat Gabay. And would you believe, it's all free? When you're done in the Square, hop on downtown to the Nahlat Binyamin Pessah Crafts Fair, where parents will have a ball shopping at the country's premier outdoor crafts fair (March 30 through April 10, except on Shabbat and the holiday), with over 300 vendors, plus street theater, contests and a kosher-for-Pessah Druse-style hospitality tent. Again, for free. If you're still in a Tel Aviv mood, bring the kids on over to the fourth annual "Our Festival" at the Tel Aviv Museum (April 4-6), with activities, workshops, street theater, fun and games for one and all. This year's theme is "Storybook Heroes," so don't be surprised if the Mad Hatter or Peter Rabbit comes up and shakes your hand. Plus, there'll be a Disneyland-style storybook hero parade at various times throughout the day, as well as storytelling. And, in addition, there will be performances inside the museum of a several kid-friendly plays, like Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes." The festival itself is free, and the plays are NIS 65 per ticket (NIS 50 for TA residents). JERUSALEM: Once again, the Old City of Jerusalem is at the center of things, as the Municipality sponsors the always-fun "Haggada Yerushalmit" festival (April 4 and 5). There are walking tours of the Old City and the City of David, crafts, theatrics, and of course, the Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall). And all the sites, museums and holy places are wide open! Be prepared to do a lot of walking, though, since parking is a at a premium, and taxis can be hard to come by. Another Jerusalem event this year will take place at the Bloomfield Science Museum, where everyone is invited from April 4-6 to have a fun, free time playing with the latest scientific gadgets and hands-on toys. On display now is a show that will really mess with your head - buildings and structures that defy gravity, the "magic" of dance (that one costs NIS 10), and everything you ever wanted to know about Einstein! SHARON: Hee Haw! Come on down to Tel Mond, pardner, and have a Wild West of a time at the Great Pessah Rodeo - the first one ever in the Middle East, with cowboys and cowgirls doing the tricks they're rightly famous for. You know, the ones you see on TV, like standing on a galloping horse, jumping through hoops of fire, and more. There's room for all, and free parking too. The rodeo promises pony rides, big blowups for jumping, arts and crafts, and kosher-for-Pessah victuals. It's the biggest roundup this side of Texas, and its free for kids under six (NIS 30 for kids 6-18, NIS 50 for adults). At Tel Mond (follow the signs on Road 4 north of the Ra'anana Junction). For more info, call 054-625-6300 (Hebrew only). PETAH TIKVA: The Petah Tikva Municipality gets into the Pessah day-trip big leagues with a huge festival in Sirkin Park, where Israel's premier sculptors will work in front of the crowds, showing off their skills. On display will be 60 works from the world-famous "Milestones for Peace" project, in which sculptors from around the world developed works to inspire folks in our region to think outside the box on war and peace issues. All the works are made out of little pieces of Jerusalem stone, and most of them have traveled the world on display in exhibitions in the US, Germany, South America, and other places. And of course, there'll be plenty of sculpting fun for the family, with workshops that put emphasis on using recycled products. Everything, including the workshops, will be free! (April 4-6 at Sirkin Park, near the Tel Aviv Sportek) JNF Parks: The Jewish National Fund goes all out every Pessah, and this year will be no different. In Caesarea National Park, the horses will be running in the Hippodrome with Roman soldiers displaying their derring-do on saddleback, jumping through hoops of fire and lancing those that get in their way. At the Carmel Hai-Bar Nature Reserve you can get up close and personal with eagles and mountain goats. And at the Appolonia archeological site near Rosh Ha'ayin, you'll take a trip back in time to a Nabataean-era village, with plays, activities, a hike through "fire and water" (you'll have to show up to find out just what that means!), a playground with toys and games from 3,000 years ago, and a marketplace where wily Phoenicians will be happy to sell you stuff. For more information on these and other JNF events over Pessah, call the Nature Line at *3639 (times, dates and prices vary, so be sure to ask for details). FREEBIES GALORE: Bank Hapoalim, which is putting its money where its mouth is when it talks about giving back to the community, is paying to keep no fewer than 48 museums and attractions open to everyone for free during the week of Hol Hamoed. Among the places you can take the whole family without denting your wallet are: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv; Gan Guru Kangaroo Farm near Sakhnin; The Beth Hatefusoth Museum of the Diaspora, Tel Aviv; the Crocodile Pool at Beit Hananya; Hai Bar Yotvata; Tzipori, Beit She'an and Avdat national parks; the Latrun Memorial (lots of tanks!); the Haifa Zoo; the Haifa Technology and Science Museum; the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, and much more. You can get more information by calling (03) 606-6111.