Summer trips packed with fun

Israel’s size means you can venture almost anywhere and back the same day. So collect the kids, and away you go!

Caesarea (photo credit: courtesy)
(photo credit: courtesy)
One of the great advantages of this small country is that unless you live in the far North or South, you can travel almost anywhere and return home in the course of a day. This is especially beneficial during the summer school vacation, once the kids’ summer camps are over and the youngsters are bored, but you can’t afford to go away for the remaining weeks of no school.
There are quite a few fun options around the center of the country.
1. Jaffa boat ride Most children enjoy a boat ride – especially on a hot day, when it’s a pleasure to feel the wind and sea-spray on your face. A round-trip from the old Jaffa port along the coastline of Tel Aviv lasts about 40 minutes and gives you a completely different view of the twin cities, and the stark contrast between the ancient and modern coastlines.
When you return to port, take a walk around recently renovated Jaffa. Visit the new zodiac fountain and pool in Kedumim Square. See if the children can tell you what sign of the zodiac each symbol represents. And see where else you can spot the zodiac symbols which characterize the town.
To check when the boats run, call 050- 760-7170.
2. Caesarea You may remember Caesarea for its famous Roman amphitheater, used for musical performances, and the ruins discovered and displayed in the beautiful National Park. Now another section of Caesarea has been developed a few meters further along the coast. Though obviously aimed at tourists, the film showing the history of Caesarea through the centuries has a lot to teach, and any student who has had to grapple with the complicated, multilayered history of this country and its various conquerors and religions will find it helpful and fun.
A trip up the Time Tower will also show you the original glory of Caesarea superimposed (virtually) on the ruins outside the window.
Afterwards take a walk along the ancient hippodrome, past the ruins of Herod’s palace to the National Park.
There are restaurants and cafes as well as a variety of stores selling locally crafted items.
3. Holon A entire day can easily be spent in Holon. Once the butt of jokes calling it a city of sand dunes, Holon has been developed into a paradise for children.
Dotted around town are a variety of “story parks” where you can see small sculptures representing various favorite characters in popular children’s books. If your children read Hebrew children’s books, they’re sure to recognize some of the characters and the incidents portrayed.
Peres Park has many attractions for all ages. There is a boating lake and children’s playground as well as a Children’s Museum with different tracks for various age groups.
For older children and adults, don’t miss the two “experiences” offered – each one unique in its own way.
The more unnerving of the two, I found, was “Dialogue in the Darkness” a one-hour experience of life as a blind person. The blackness inside the building is total; you can’t see your hand in front of your face. With the help of a blind guide and a stick to feel around so you don’t bump into anyone or anything, you are led through various areas of life: a walk in a forest, shopping in the market, sailing a boat, eating in a cafe, etc. It’s an experience you won’t quickly forget.
“Invitation to Silence,” takes you into the world of the deaf. Here, with the help of deaf guides, you learn to communicate totally without sound and speech. Hand gestures and body language and other non-speaking methods form this interactive experience.
The minimum age for both experiences is nine, and under-12s must be accompanied by an adult. They are very popular, so visits must be booked well in advance – up to a month before during the summer.
Call (03) 650-3005.
4. Parrot farm – Kfar Hess This unpretentious, fun-filled farm right off the beaten track is a treat for children of all ages. The parrots are friendly and will happily perch on your or your child’s arm or neck and let you stroke and feed them. Having grown up on the farm and been bottle-fed by humans since birth, they are completely at ease around humans.
Uri, the owner, will tell you lots of funny stories about talking parrots and, hopefully, you’ll get to meet the beautiful, Hebrew-speaking “queen” with her crown.
There is an incubator in one corner, and you can see parrots and chicks in various stages of growth around the farm.
A slide show will help you learn to recognize parrots’ identifying features, apart from their long, powerful beaks.
There’s also a play area, craft tables, a cafe, a petting corner and a collection of other multicolored birds.
For more details call (09) 796-1957.
5. Coca-Cola – Bnei Brak If you thought Coca-Cola was just a popular drink, think again. It’s a lifestyle, and today it wants to give the impression of an active one. If you drive along Route 4 – a.k.a. the Geha Road – on your way between Tel Aviv and Haifa, it’s hard to miss the imposing Coca Cola factory just off the main highway, at the entrance to Bnei Brak.
There in the visitors’ center, you’ll discover the active world of Coke, complete with exercise bicycles, musical instruments and a “circle of senses.” You’ll also “meet” Coke’s founder.
Parents will probably recognize, and appreciate, all the Coca-Cola memorabilia displayed here.
Children under eight are not admitted. Visits have to be booked in advance.
Call (03)-671-2226.
6. Sarina chocolates – Ein Vered It’s hard to find a child (or adult) who doesn’t like chocolate, so you will probably all enjoy a visit to Limor Drucker’s “Sarina” chocolate workshop in Ein Vered, a village just outside Netanya.
Apart from tasting a fair amount of chocolate – all in the interest of learning the difference between dark, milk and white chocolate, of course – you’ll also get some hands-on experience in making and decorating chocolates.
There’s a film about chocolate-making and Drucker has a small shop selling chocolate-related gifts.
She is a pioneer in the field of growing cocoa trees in Israel. She set up her hothouse – the only one in Israel – just a year ago, and admits she has no idea if the cocoa beans will be useable for chocolate when they grow. In the meantime, she is importing the raw chocolate from Europe.
To arrange a visit, call Gil Drucker at 077-525- 5370 or 054-801-3558.