Exploring the land

Take the kids to experience a fishing boat trip, milking cows or a kibbutz baking workshop this Succot.

Ein Gev Harbor (photo credit: ANN GOLDBERG)
Ein Gev Harbor
(photo credit: ANN GOLDBERG)
With children off school during the entire week of Succot, families will be looking for things to do and ways to spend time together, particularly while the weather is still nice. Many sites and destinations have special children’s activities and workshops throughout the holiday, but be warned that often in order to participate, you have to book a spot in advance.
Whether it be a carpentry workshop, a visit to Avraham Avinu’s tent or a trip on a refurbished kibbutz train line, there is plenty to keep every member of the family occupied this holiday.
Ein Gev Harbor , on the eastern shore of Lake Kinneret, opposite Tiberias, has plenty to keep the whole family busy. At 10 a.m. every morning during Hol Hamoed – except for on Shabbat – a fishing boat trip will set off from the harbor. Unlike all other boat trips on the lake, this one will take you to watch fishermen at work, and provide an explanation on the methods and tools the fishermen use. There are also regular boat trips around the lake at 2 p.m. and sometimes also at 4 p.m.
Kids will enjoy a guided tour of the Ein Gev kibbutz on the mini-train, as well as Saba Yossi’s Carpentry workshop, where they can make their own wooden toys with real workman’s tools. There’s also a wooden play area for younger children. If you don’t have time to join the workshop, you can buy a kit to take home. You can also just sit out or stroll along the boardwalk, which is dedicated to former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, one of the founders of Kibbutz Ein Gev.
To confirm boat tour or book seats call 04-665-8036 or 04-665-8008
Old Gesher , situated in the Valley of Springs near Beit She’an, has it all: ancient history, modern history, stories of miracles and dreams come true, a museum, a working train and a hands- on baking workshop over Succot.
Gesher is Hebrew for bridge, and the three bridges whose remains can still be clearly seen are one from the Roman Empire (12th century); a Turkish bridge used for the Haifa-Damascaus train line (early 20th century); and a bridge which traversed the road during the British mandate (mid-20th century).
But Gesher’s main claim to fame is its hydro-electric power station, the vision of Pinchas Rutenberg, which was eventually built nearby in 1927, where the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers meet.
The miraculous stories you’ll hear are about the War of Independence, when this small kibbutz, consisting of a mere 120 people, was attacked simultaneously by both the Jordanian and Iraqi armies – and withstood the attack, forcing the enemy to retreat. Fifty young children were evacuated by piggy-back or on foot under cover of darkness.
During Succot, as the old train shuttles its way up and down a short stretch of the old line, there’ll be another train for you to ride on and you’ll be able to see the model of the now-defuct hydro-electric plant and learn how it worked. There will also be a baking workshop in the refurbished bakery that once served the kibbutz, and you can visit the underground bunkers where the kibbutz fighters lived during the weeks of the war.
Call 04-675-2685 to book a tour.
If you visit Zichron Ya’acov , plan to get there early as most places of interest close around 3 p.m., and they make no promises to be open any longer during the holidays. But there are plenty of sites to visit so it’s worth making the effort. You can learn about the town’s history at the First Aliya Museum, as seen through the eyes of a few pioneer families, for whom life was far from easy. The urban Romanians were thrust into agricultural life in the malaria-infested land, and many died of disease while desperately trying to make a livelihood.
The main synagogue, Ohel Ya’acov, a magnificently decorated synagogue built by Baron Edmund de Rothschild, is still in use today, so try and pop in when it is open for prayers. At the top of Hameyasdim Street, which has been refurbished in the old-world style with ‘gas’ lamps and cobblestones and quaint courtyards, you’ll find Beit Aaronsohn, the home of Zichron’s founding family, the Aaronsohns, who worked as spies for the British against the Turks. When the Ottomans uncovered the family secret in 1917, Sarah Aaronsohn was held captive in her own home and tortured, before she was able to kill herself with a gun hidden under a bathroom tile.
Also in town is the Carmel Winery, which produces one of Israel’s most famous exports; a visitors’ center will illuminate some of the secrets to wine making. If you still have time, visit nearby Ramat Hanadiv, the final resting place of Baron Rothschild and his wife, which is surrounded by a beautifully tended 17-acre park of lawns and flower beds.
A visit to Kurlander Farm can be very educational – your children will learn that milk doesn’t in fact come from a plastic bag at the supermarket.
While milking today at most dairy farms is done by machines, you and your family can have the chance to actually milk a cow yourselves with your own bare hands.
At the farm in Moshav Beit Hillel in the Upper Galilee, your family will also be able to bottle-feed a baby calf and feed grown cows. There are workshops for cheese making as well, and you can learn all about the running of a dairy farm. During Hol Hamoed you can also take part in picking organic fruit and finding out what makes organic fruit different from regular fruit.
To book a place call 052-831-6624 or 052-458-5058.
Ein Yael , near the train station in Malha, Jerusalem, is known as an outdoor “active museum,” built around archeological remains from the times of the Romans and the Mishna. These remains of a Roman villa and a bathhouse set the atmosphere, which encourages children to want to get acquainted with life in ancient Israel – whether it’s through watching street performers acting out scenes from ancient times, or trying their hands at crafts, such as weaving, mosaics, pottery, fresco painting or rope making. They can also try making simple musical instruments or learn about ancient building techniques and farming, which can be seen on site amongst the terraces.
During Succot, the craftsmen will be out along the refurbished Roman road, and a bow-and- arrow shooting competition will be held. There’s also a performance entitled “Ve’samachta be’chagecha,” ("you should rejoice on your holiday") which will give children an idea of celebrating Succot in ancient times. For more information and to book call 02-645-1866.
If you’re in the Jerusalem area, then don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet Avraham Avinu and his trusted servant Eliezer in Eretz Bereshit ( Genesis Land ), situated on the road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.
Be sure to contact them ahead of time to arrange your visit so that Eliezer can meet you with your camels as soon as you arrive. He’ll tell you all about his master Avraham, who is world renowned for his hospitality, and will be waiting to receive you in his tent. You will be given appropriate robes to wear so you won’t feel out of place when your camel takes you back 3,000 years to Avraham’s tent. Avraham will explain all about his life – starting with when he broke all his father’s idols in his idol store.
You’ll be given refreshments such as dried fruit and herbal tea and together you will make pita.
When your visit is over you’ll remount your camel and ride back to the 21st century.
To book the tour, which lasts about an hour- and-a-half, call 02-997-4477.