Although it might not feel like it while temperatures are still soaring, the end of summer vacation will soon be upon us. It’s been a long, hot summer, and many families are feeling how light their wallets are after shelling out lots of money on vacations and outings with their families.
Somehow, by the middle of August, many of us have realized we’ve already exceeded the budget we’d set for ourselves at the beginning of the season, so it’s only natural that we make a bit of an effort to search out activities and attractions that won’t break the bank. Every year, it seems to get more difficult to drag our kids away from their smartphones and social media, but it’s important for all of us to get outdoors and spend time in nature and get to know Israel’s nature parks and heritage sites. Luckily, many of these national parks have free entrance or affordable entry fees.
Not all of us are great at planning day trips. But don’t worry – there are organizations like Eshkolot and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund that offer guided tours and day trips all around the country. Moreover, there is Tiyuli, which organizes guided tours on Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings for a mere NIS 10. Here are a few of these interesting and affordable tours.
1. Hayarkon National Park
When most Israelis think about hiking along a nice, cool stream, images of both southern and northern Israel usually come to mind. But did you know that a natural river flows right through the heart of Tel Aviv? The Yarkon River, which is located right in the center of Tel Aviv, flows through Yarkon National Park and is a great place to spend time on a hot summer day. And if you don’t live nearby, this is a great place to start a day trip to Tel Aviv.
KKL-JNF and Eshkolot, together with BishviLod, are currently leading tours along the Yarkon River and the surrounding heritage sites. The tour begins at Napoleon’s Hill (aka Tel Gerisa), an archaeological site in Tel Aviv on the southern bank of the Yarkon River. From this spot, you will be able to look over the towers of Ramat Gan and the Reading Terminal Complex. From there, the tour moves on to the Seven Mills, located west of the popular boating lake. The mills were originally built by the Ottoman Turks, and three of the flour mills were constructed in the 19th century. You’ll notice, there’s also a dam next to the Rosh Tzipor Bridge over the river.
Length of tour: Two km. (2.5 hours)The tour is circular and is appropriate for baby strollers.Date: Thursday, August 24
2. Slihot Tours of Jerusalem
Elul, the Jewish month leading up to Rosh Hashanah during which it is customary to engage in self-reflection in preparation for the High Holy Days, is a great time to visit Jerusalem and join a tour through the narrow alleyways of the first neighborhoods that were constructed outside of the Old City.
A tour led by Reishit Jerusalem will begin in the Russian Compound, which features a large Russian Orthodox church, as well as the Museum of Underground Prisoners, which was originally erected as a hostel for Christian pilgrims. During the tour, participants will hear about how in the 19th-century Jews slowly began building homes, and then entire neighborhoods, outside of the Old City.
The next stop is Nahalat Shiva, which was named for the first seven families that created the new neighborhood; then the Mahaneh Israel neighborhood, which was the first Jewish community built after Mishkenot Sha’ananim, and was home to Jewish families of Sephardi heritage.
The last stop is the Moses Montefiore Windmill. During the tour, participants will hear stories connected to the holiest time of year on the Jewish calendar and be treated to High Holiday liturgical music.
Length of tour: 1.5 km. (2.5 hours)The tour is linear, so participants will need to return to their cars on their own. It is not appropriate for baby strollers.Date: Thursday, August 24
3. Hadera Stream
I recently went on a tour of the Hadera Stream, and boy was I shocked at how amazing it was! The tour was organized by Bishvileinu. We were taken along the bank of the Hadera Stream, for which poet Natan Yonatan penned a poem titled “The Shores Sometimes Yearn for the Stream.” During the tour, participants will see how much effort has been invested in the restoration and beautification of the region, and hear about the nearby communities, their sustainability projects and nature preservation.
Participants will also learn how energy is produced by the Orot Rabin power station.
The next stop of the tour is the eucalyptus grove, where participants will hear how these trees were brought in to help dry the swamps. And there’s almost always someone who asks why sharks like to congregate in the warm water just off the coast of the power station. When the tour is over, guests are welcome to relax and have a picnic on the benches and grassy areas. There are also bathrooms on site, as well as a playground and a great beach area.
Length of tour: 1.5 km. (2.5 hours)Tour is not appropriate for baby strollersDate: Friday, August 25
4. Nesher Park
Over 20 years ago, KKL-JNF and the Nesher Municipality inaugurated Nesher Park, which is famous for its two suspension bridges that span the Katia Stream gully just beneath the University of Haifa, and its thick, lush forests that are covered by oak, terebinths, and Greek strawberry trees. The Galilee Learning Center will be leading a tour of Nesher neighborhoods and the park over which the bridges tower.
The starting point of the tour is the playground inside the park. The path is named for Lt. Ori Binamo, who was killed when he protected others from a suicide bomber with his own body.
Visitors will learn about the animals that are native to this region and are often found inside Nesher Park, though many of them are well camouflaged and difficult to spot. The highlight of the tour is, of course, getting to walk across the two remarkable suspension bridges.
Length of tour: Three hoursTour is not appropriate for baby strollers.Date: Friday, August 25
5. Canada Park
In the biblical Ayalon Valley, just up the road from Latrun, is Canada Park, where you will find lots of hiking and biking trails, spacious picnic areas in the middle of nature, breathtaking views, and intriguing remains of ancient homes. It’s the perfect place for family outings or romantic picnics.
The public is welcome to join a guided circular tour organized by the Rimon Center for Touring and Learning in Canada Park. Beyond its beauty, the park is mentioned in numerous stories connected to the history of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. In the Book of Isaiah, the name Givon is mentioned, an ancient city that is not far from Canada Park. Moreover, there are also remains in the park dating back to Israel’s War of Independence and the Six Day War.
The tour begins at Khirbat Akeed and continues on to Cannon Hill, an area where archaeological remains can be seen, and also the Arch Cave.
Length of tour: Four km. (2.5 hours)Tour is circular and is not appropriate for baby strollersDate: Friday, August 25
Translated by Hannah Hochner.