Ask ten different people touring Mini Israel what they like best about this unique and exciting site, and you will get ten different answers. The artistic-minded will rave at the detailed perfection on thousands of true to life models and figures. Veteran Israelis talk about the thrill of recognizing streets they have walked, highways they have driven, soccer stadiums they still frequent and army ceremonies in which they have taken part. Tiny tots not yet able to verbalize can be seen jumping up and down with joy as they view "ships" sailing into port and "airplanes" taxiing on the tarmac.
But no matter how different their reactions, on one point everyone is in complete agreement: a journey through Mini Israel is the easiest, fastest, and most pleasurable way to visit every historic and important site in this country at a single blow. Or, as the say at Mini Israel: See it All ? Small!
Incredibly, no matter how many times you travel through this unique miniature Holy Land, there is always something you didn't notice before – or a new feature to explore. And because the entire site is spread out along flat, even paths, you can "walk" the Land of Israel – from the Hermon Mountains to Eilat - in a wheelchair, with strollers, by electric cart and, of course, by foot!
Appropriately for a site that encompasses all of Israel, the park is located in the Ayalon Valley, smack in the center of the country and in one of the most biblical regions in the world. For thousands of years pilgrims, armies, and merchants traveled through the valley on their way to and from Jerusalem.
Biblical battles were fought here — and modern ones as well. Here in the valley the sun stood still for Joshua and gave him a victory over 5 Canaanite armies. Here Judah the Maccabee lured the Greeks into a trap. And here, heavy fighting took place between Israeli forces and the Arab Legion during the War of Independence.
Every geographical region in Israel is represented at Mini Israel, north to south and east to west. Israel’s northernmost point is the Mount Hermon which, at 2814 meters above sea level, is almost double the height of Israel?s other hills. No wonder sport lovers fill the miniature ski lift, and glide along its snowy slopes.
Wow, the wind must really be blowing up north, for red propellers can be seen twirling madly in the air. These whirling dervishes are exact replicas of turbines on Tel Gassaniya in the Golan Heights, and are busy harnessing wind to provide us with clean electricity. The Golan Heights are bursting with history. Indeed, the region, settled for thousands of years, held nearly three dozen flourishing Jewish villages during the Talmudic (Byzantine) era. Some decades ago, the village of Katzrin, with its splendid synagogue, was discovered and partially reconstructed for visitors to the Golan. And, magically, it appears in miniature, in the center of the country, at Mini Israel!
Bells ring around the Sea of Galilee, heard most clearly at the magnificent Church of the Beatitudes above the lake. An unusually lovely ancient synagogue stands next to St. Peter’s house at Capernaum, near the Church of Loaves and Fishes — site of a famous New Testament miracle.
Tombs of rabbinical sages and miracle workers are scattered in and around Tiberias — both the actual northern city and in its miniature counterpart at Mini Israel. It’s hard to miss the tomb of the Maimonides’, with its black-coated pilgrims and very strange red metal pinnacle. Nearby, a grandiose complex is spread out atop the tomb of Rabbi Meir, who lived exactly a thousand years before the medieval sage. Here visitors include a number of women in a variety of colorful head coverings and apparel.
Children often wander through Mini Israel calling out "Trees! Trees!‘ And no wonder: actually, every one of the park’s 70,000 plants — including 17,000 dwarf trees — are real! Visitors often have to rub their eyes, as they view ’people‘ eating at tiny picnic tables in Jewish National Fund Forests near the ubiquitous green and blue penguin that is the JNF symbol. And, believe it or not, even the miniature gardens leading up to Haifa’s Bahai Temple, are real.
Haifa, at Mini Israel, is a wonderful mix of water (Haifa Port), religion (the Al Jireena and the Ahmadi Mosques) historic sights (the Turkish Train Station), modern settlement (the tomb and memorial site of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the funny ball-shaped cable cars on the mountain, and the all-important Oil Refineries, steam rising from its towers into the air.
Nearby, and strange as it might seem to some, even Israelis have been heard to wonder allowed why Acco holds such a prominent place at Mini Israel. They are familiar, of course, with the city’s prison and its Great Escape. But this may be the first time they view the impressive Crusader complex recently uncovered beneath the modern city. Modern Jewish settlement all over the country is represented in plenty at Mini Israel.
Pioneers were trained to farm on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, at Kinneret Courtyard, established in 1908. Soon afterwards, they founded the first communal settlement. Nahalal, in the lower Galilee, was not only the first cooperative farm in Israel, but it was built in concentric circles! Scaled smaller than the other models in the park, Mini Israel’s Nahalal features dozens of tiny, highly diverse animals and figures — and includes nearly 1,000 different buildings. Above the very first neighborhood outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, youngsters are fascinated by the realistic windmill.
In case you are wondering if Israel is a land without culture, think again! Mini Israel boasts dozens of this country’s world-famous museums, theaters, its Opera House and dancers doing the ’hora‘ at the annual Carmiel folk-dancing festival! A leading musician even holds a master class at the Music Center in Jerusalem, shouting with passion. As for sports, all kinds of athletic events take place simultaneously at the Hadar Yoseph stadium, ecstatic fans cheer wildly at a soccer game at Teddy stadium and players are shooting hoops at Yad Eliahu!
One favorite stop in the park is an enormous construction site, an all-too familiar scene in Israel. Cranes carry heavy blocks from building to building, while tiny people check out model apartments and landscape developers beautify completed projects. Trucks move back and forth, even giving off that annoying beep that tells you to move out of the way as they back up!
Tel Aviv is celebrating its 100th birthday this year! The city built on sand is, today, a busy metropolis with the most eclectic architecture in the country. Parking in Tel Aviv (and just driving on its streets) is a nightmare. But who needs the headache, when lining the paths of Mini Israel are structures from the 19th-century along with the famous Bauhaus architecture that won Tel Aviv the honor of being named a World Heritage Center. Dizengoff House, once the home of Tel Aviv’s first mayor, stands on one side of lovely Rothschild Boulevard. That noise coming from one of the buildings is the voice of David Ben Gurion, declaring the independence of the State of Israel!
Massada has gone down in Jewish history as the desperate struggle of a people who refused to surrender. At Massada National Park, across from the Dead Sea, visitors watch a wonderful presentation that includes a portion of the movie ’Massada‘ with Peter O’Toole as the Roman Commander who smashed through the walls and found that 900 Jews had committed suicide rather than become Roman slaves. Mini Israel’s perfectly scaled model of that historic site brings the story to life as well, with Herod’s palace, zealots, an actual earthen embankment, Roman soldiers, and battering ram.
The vast diversity of cultures and ways of life in Israel are hard to define and even harder to describe. Yet Mini Israel does it for you, with its painstakingly accurate houses of worship, religious insitutions, and figures of people at prayer. Perhaps the most spiritual site at Mini Israel is Jerusalem’s Western Wall, just below the Temple Mount. Teeny tiny men, women and children bow and sway to the clatter of dozens of mixed ethnic groups praying out loud. The shofar blows, and the noise level increases. At the same time, and on the Temple Mount, men bow low in unison to the call of ’Allah Hu Akbar‘ (Allah is Great), this assortment of religious sounds intermingling with one another.
Only a few meters away, the sounds of Judaism blendswith Christianity, as well. From the famous amphitheater at the Mount Scopus branch of the first Hebrew University in the world, famous singer Yehoram Gaon sings ’Jerusalem, Jerusalem‘ while ’next door‘ on the Mount of Olives tiny people visit the many stunning churches scattering on the slopes. And across the Kidron Valley, site of massive, ancient Jewish tombs, bells ring from Dormition Abbey atop Mount Zion — where, according to tradition, King David was buried and where, according to a far different tradition, Jesus held a Passover Seder (the Last Supper).
Other cultures and ethnic groups are also represented at Mini Israel. Nebi Shueb, the shrine of the most famous Druze prophet, is filled with ’men" wearing religious headdress and long, flowing robes. Unknown to many, the Ethiopians in Israel pray in an unusual round church, with the Lion of Judah proudly displayed on its gate.
Many and varied are the ways for visiting this unique and wonderful site. You can simply saunter along, passing the different models, appreciating their unique beauty and learning a bit about the country. You can focus on places that you may never visit. You may drink in the details at sites with which you are familiar, or you may want to concentrate on one theme, one area, or one subject.
You can take an audio guide with you on your journey through the park, so that you can delve more deeply into the history of each site, learning spicy and fascinating details. The audio guide is filled with humor, suggesting you stop and listen to the sounds of the Israeli national pastime (paddle balls on the beach next to the Tel Aviv Promenade).
You can also run from attraction to attraction, pressing the buttons and thrilled at the sight of the soccer players actually passing the ball, fascinated as the pile of oranges at the frozen citrus juice plant gets smaller, swelling with pride as an athlete gets a medal at Hadar Yoseph, and excited to watch the Changing of the Guards at the Knesset. But take care - the safari's elephant likes to squirt water out of its trunk!