Be a family that plays together

An impressive selection of fun-filled activities and hikes in Israel's forests and national parks should help entertain the children over the summer break.

Jerusalem forest 88 (photo credit: )
Jerusalem forest 88
(photo credit: )
The onset of summer vacation often elicits mixed feelings in parents eager to spend quality time with their children but wary at the prospect of having to come up with six weeks' worth of entertainment. This month, an impressive selection of fun-filled activities and hikes in Israel's forests and national parks should go some way to alleviating this worry. A variety of exciting stations set up throughout the Yarkon National Park near Rosh Ha'ayin for July and August start the ball rolling. (These events will not take place in Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park, as was printed here two weeks ago.) Parents will have an opportunity to rekindle their youth as they rough it together with their children at an "outdoor hotel" at the Mekorot pumping station. On July 7 and 21 and August 4 and 18, families can spend a night under the stars while enjoying nighttime activities ranging from explanations of celestial formations to bonfires. Bathrooms and showers will be available, but participants are asked to arrange their own sleeping accommodation. The experience costs NIS 100 per family, and begins at 4 p.m. The nostalgia is likely to continue at "Playroom of Possibilities" - the site of traditional childhood games harking back to an era before computers. Families can bond over games of hopscotch, hula-hoop, jump rope, volleyball and more, as well as racing on swan paddle boats on the Hayarkon River. The playroom is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each Saturday. Tel Afek also provides the setting for "Legends of the Enchanted Forest," a children's theater featuring performances suitable for kids between three- and nine-years-old on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. The plays cost NIS 30 per child. For more information on activities at Yarkon National Park, call (03) 903-0760. Children will have a chance to test their map-reading abilities on Monday, July 10, at a navigation activity during one of the Jewish National Fund's numerous forest fun days for children aged nine to 15. At NIS 90 per child, the events boast a wide range of activities, including survival skill workshops, bike tours and bonfire nights. The JNF also offers an appealing choice of evening and overnight excursions. A highlight of these is a family-oriented, two-day walk in the scenic western Galilee. Hikers will begin their journey on July 10 at the Achziv beach and follow the pretty Nahal Habe'er route along the seafront, through the Hanita forest and on to Admit Park, where they will enjoy a moonlit walk to their nighttime destination - Goren Park. In the evening, families can relax around a bonfire before setting up for a night in the great outdoors. The cost is NIS 240 per person. Goren Park is also the setting for a safari bus tour. Against the backdrop of the vast landscape and starry night skies of the Galilee, participants can enjoy a fascinating glimpse of animals such as deer, jackals and foxes in their natural habitat. The tour takes place on July 11 at 6 p.m., and costs NIS 80. As part of the Upper Galilee's Voice of Music festival, the JNF has organized an assortment of "musical hikes" providing an opportunity to appreciate the area's lush scenery against a background of music. The "Welcoming of Shabbat in Bira Forest" tour on July 21 features a tuneful prayer service at a synagogue preceding a stroll through the woods, and a musical walk through Tzofah forest to Kiryat Shmonah on July 22. These are just some of the options available. The hikes cost NIS 60 each. For more information about the JNF's summer hikes and activities, call 550-350-8001. A selection of weekly hikes leaving from the Kibbutz Tzubah hotel includes visits to Tzubah mountain and its spectacular view of the hills of Jerusalem and Hebron, plus tours of the Yohanan caves, complete with an exhibition of relics from the time of the First Temple. The hikes take place every Saturday and cost between NIS 15 and NIS 25. For more details, call (02) 534-7000. Another way to experience the outdoors is a series of weekly musical performances at Ein Hemed National Park, where visitors can enjoy nature without leaving their seats. The tranquil atmosphere created by the park's shady trees and lucid lakes provides an idyllic setting for the evening concerts, which take place Fridays starting July 7. Among those performing are Danny Robes (July 21) and Irish folk group Evergreen (July 28). For more information, visit