Israel on the move

Though many have already been enjoying the flora and fauna, Pessah is the traditional season for excursions.

Rosh Hanikra 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rosh Hanikra 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
1. Rosh Hanikra
Traveling northward is always a pleasure at this time of year, and you can’t get much further north on the Mediterranean coast than Rosh Hanikra. Hold your breath and take the short but steepest cable car in the country down to the grottos.
Enjoy walking through these ancient caves, hollowed out by centuries of the sea’s pounding and the rain seeping through the rocks. It’s a pleasure to feel the spray on your face and body as you wander around the maze of caves.
Inside the old train tunnel, you can watch a short film explaining the geological formations of the grottos and the history of the tunnel, which was dug into the rock to connect Haifa and Tripoli (in Lebanon) during the British Mandate.
During the week of Pessah, the mini-train will be operating between Rosh Hanikra and Achziv, a fun, 40-minute guided return trip which the whole family will enjoy. You can also walk or take a family multi-cycle along the promenade.
2. Manara cable car
Stop off just south of Kiryat Shmona at the bottom station of the Menara cable car. This 1,940- meter-long ride brings you out, at the top, at Kibbutz Menara, high on the Naftali Ridge, 750 meters above sea level.
But this isn’t the only form of transportation at the site. You can also travel down the mountain slide. After being pulled up the 250 meters by cable, you are then released to control your own way down. Your car can reach up to 40 k.p.h. on your downward journey.
If you, or your children, have the stomach for it, there’s also the longest zip line in the country taking you to the bottom of the rock; or, for the even more daring, rappelling and bungee jumping.
But don’t worry: For those who prefer to stay closer to terra firma, there’s an artificial climbing wall, as well as more gentle arts and crafts in the Children’s House.
3. Golan Wineries
The Golan Heights have many sites of interest to visitors, and their streams and rivers are a special delight in the spring, when they are full and fast flowing.
The Golan Wineries in the industrial area of Katzrin have reopened their Visitors Center, and it is well worth a visit. It is not suitable for very young children, but the tour of the winery, bottling plant, video and wine-tasting make a very interesting afternoon for the slightly older members of the family.
4. Ein Gev
Drive down from the Golan to Ein Gev on the shores of Lake Kinneret. Here you’ll be able to enjoy a boat trip across the lake and a train ride around the kibbutz while you hear about the history of the settlement.
Take a stroll along the promenade with its beautiful view over the lake, and visit the Anchors Museum, which was painstakingly set up by a fisherman kibbutz member with a collection of equipment telling the history of fishing.
The children will also enjoy visiting Saba Yossi’s carpentry shop, where they can buy a toy kit and put it together with real tools under the careful guidance of Saba Yossi and his wife, Yochi.
Afterwards, they can paint their creation.
There’s a wooden fun play area if you have children too young to join in the workshop, and you can also buy ready-made wooden toys and games.
5. Kibbutz Gesher
Travel down the Jordan Valley and stop off at Kibbutz Gesher, just past Naharayim.
This small settlement contains a tremendous amount of history and activities.
The bridges referred to in its name are both ancient Roman ones and a more recent railway bridge from the last century. The Roman bridge, which had to be blown up during the War of Independence to halt the attack from Jordan and Iraq, has now been declared one of the world’s 100 selected monuments for restoration.
Being situated in such a vulnerable position, the kibbutz suffered severely during the war; one of the main underground bomb shelters has now been turned into an underground museum showing the clinic, communications room and the hospital used during the war.
The Naharayim electricity plant was destroyed in 1948, and a model of the plant was built at Gesher, with the cooperation of the Israel Electric Company, to show exactly how it worked. Visitors can walk along the walkway and get a real feel of how the plant operated.
One of the most popular workshops is the “Legend of Bread,” a baking experience which can be booked in advance by groups and families. Although this will not be operating on Pessah, if you visit at any other time of the year, be sure not to miss it.
6. Qumran
Springtime is the best time to visit the Dead Sea area. The weather is warm, sometimes hot, but not the burning heat that it reaches in summer.
There’s still a lot of speculation surrounding the exact origins of the Dead Sea Scrolls and who used them. They were discovered by a Beduin shepherd in 1947 in the caves above Qumran. The scroll fragments had been preserved through the centuries by the arid climate and the clay pots in which they were hidden or stored by the inhabitants of Qumran.
At the Visitors’ Center, you can see a film that explains the story behind the discovery of the scrolls – which can be seen in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum – and tells us as much as we have been able to discover about the life of the sects which fled the capital and came to build a new home here in the wilderness as the Romans occupied and then destroyed Jerusalem. You can then tour the excavated buildings outside which were used by the settlers.
7. Ein Gedi
Drive further along the Dead Sea and visit the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. Take a guidebook at the entrance which clearly delineates the three main hiking paths. If you’re with children, take the shortest of the paths. On your walk, look out for the ibex and hyrax, which are indigenous to the area. They can be approached without fear, but don’t try and touch them.
Finish your walk with a refreshing dip in the deliciously cool Nahal David waterfall.