The summer way: Accessible activities

Accessible summer activities in Israel (photo credit: Courtesy)
Accessible summer activities in Israel
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Summer is well and truly here. As always, there are summer camps for kids and umpteen treks, sites and all kinds of vacation packages on offer all over the country. That goes for people with disabilities of various kinds as well. Today, numerous tourist and leisure facilities have made it easy for people with physical challenges to gain access to their services. For starters, there are 100 beaches that now offer wheelchair access, as well as dedicated parking spots for disabled drivers. That takes in all the beaches along the Tel Aviv coastline, as well as the Shikmim Beach at Lake Kinneret near Tiberias. The Tel Aviv beaches offer walkways that enable wheelchair users to get right up to the water’s edge, as well as to facilities that provide indispensable shade. Other wheelchair-friendly beaches can be found at Herzliya, Nitzanim near Ashkelon, Yanai Beach and Eilat.
There is also no reason why people with special physical needs cannot enjoy a good day out in pastoral domains. There are now plenty of scenic picnic sites that can be enjoyed by one and all the length and breadth of the country. In the far north, the Slukia parking lot in the Golan Heights is fully accessible and is located close to the Ein Slukia spring, the pools of which are awash all year round. Over to the west, the Gabbai Forest picnic area is also tailored for the use of those with disabilities. And you can catch a view of Lebanon from the picnic facilities in the Tal Forest. In the North, there is plenty of gushing water to behold near Kibbutz Sde Nehemia at the compact stop- off place near the Hatzbani River, while Kiryat Bialik boasts one of the best planned picnic facilities for wheelchair-bound people, with seating in the shade of a nearby grove.
Nearer the center of the country, there are accessible picnic areas at Sanhedrin Park in Yavne, Sacher Park in Jerusalem, Alexander River in the Hefer Valley, Kiftzuba at Kibbutz Tzova in the Jerusalem Hills, Ra’anana Park, Yehoshua Gardens in Tel Aviv and Hashlulit Park in Netanya. Suitable southern spots include Yeroham Park, Netz Park in Arad, Australian Soldier Park in Beersheba and Eshkol Park west of Beersheba, which offers water and archeological remains in addition to accessible shaded picnic areas.
Should you fancy taking in a bit of local history, while you’re roaming around the expanses of the Negev Desert you might want to pop over to Ben-Gurion’s Hut at Kibbutz Sde Boker, where the country’s first prime minister and his wife, Paula, lived between 1953 and 1973. The modest dwelling was preserved exactly as it was left by Ben-Gurion and now serves as a museum, with a visitors’ center operated by the Ben-Gurion Heritage Institute.
One of our national symbols is the succulent sabra, and there is nowhere you can find a more plentiful supply of the cactus fruit than at the Tsabarei Orly Farm, located near Route 204 between Dimona and Yeroham in the Negev. The farm, which covers 275 acres, is also home to a wide variety of winged creatures and rodents. Masada is always a topnotch draw, with its dramatic contours, isolated desert locale and weighty historical background. The site is fully accessible to people with physical disabilities, and there is an impressive sound and light show at 9 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday between March and November. The top of the desert outcrop and its archeological treasures can be comfortably accessed by cable car. Over at Nahal Lachish in Ashdod, there is a fully accessible trail along a tributary of the Lachish Stream, which divides Ashdod Port from the northern part of the city. There is a conveniently navigated pathway that stretches along the southern bank of the riverbed, which runs through Lachish Park. There are benches dotted along the asphalt pathway for people for whom walking is a trial, from where visitors can enjoy the lush view. The path leads all the way close to the edge of the sea, from where you can follow the route of the charming promenade, seafront view and all.
Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund has made great efforts to tailor five impressive sites around the south of the country to the needs of people with special physical needs. Around four kilometers to the east of Kiryat Gat you can find Melachim-Shaharia Forest, where pathways provide easy access to several locations around the 1,750-acre forest. There is a ring road that enables visitors to drive around the spot and view the trees and the local natural beauty from different angles, and there is access to a bird observatory. The main parking area includes some fetching outdoor sculptures, picnic tables, water taps and outdoor play facilities.
More picnic facilities and arboreal scenery can be enjoyed at Ofakim Park in the Negev. There are also lush lawns and easy access to washrooms. The interior of the nearby Byzantine-era El Jarir Cave is not accessible to people with mobility problems, but it can be viewed from outside. The fine remains of the 19th-century Ottoman-era Patish Castle can be reached by car.
Elsewhere in the South, there are picnic facilities and historic remains at the Nahabir stop-off place near the Be’eri Forest, while the Keren Kayemeth Grove in Mitzpe Ramon offers shade, comfortable eating areas and spectacular views of the enormous colorful crater. Just down the road the Shepherdess Park, across the road from Kibbutz Sde Boker, is a pleasant place to spend a while and, especially in the winter and spring, to marvel at some desert flowers.
And all the way down south, the Underwater Observatory in Eilat is always a thrilling and fully accessible experience. For more information: