Succot family forays

Hol hamoed is the ideal time to enjoy the plethora of special events and attractions the country has to offer.

Neot Kedumim (photo credit: Courtesy)
Neot Kedumim
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Hol hamoed Succot, when school is out, parents often work shorter hours, and the weather is cooling down, is the perfect time for family trips. You may think you know the country well and there’s nowhere you haven’t visited, but many sites upgrade themselves, become more visitor-friendly and add extra activities at this time of year.
✿ For example, if you thought that the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot was only for science lovers, you¹d be missing out on a delightful experience. Children and adults alike will love the Clore Garden of Science, the only one of its kind in the world, where you can explore, hands (and feet)-on, the laws of physics, water power, solar energy and many other scientific wonders. You’ll see how waves are made, create your own rainbow, swing a heavy pendulum, play the panpipes and discover how many every-day science-based activities work.The garden is usually open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but check before you go and allow yourself at least two hours to enjoy the activities.Tel: (08) 934-4401
✿ lt’s also well worth visiting the institute’s new Levinson Visitors’ Center, which has been totally revamped. Here, by means of hi-tech interactive exhibitions, you can learn about the latest scientific discoveries that have been made or are being researched in the various faculties within the institute. You can also meet (virtually) many of the heads of departments, who will tell you about their childhood and what made them want to be scientists; and they’ll let you in on some of the setbacks and thrills they encountered on their scientific journey.To arrange a visit, call (08) 934-4499.
✿ While on the campus, pay a visit to the beautiful home of Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, an outstanding scientist himself, for whom the institute is named.
He and his wife, Vera, devoted themselves to this fledgling country, paying for their own magnificent presidential home and donating it to the state as a museum after their death. The famous Ford automobile that was given to Weizmann by Henry Ford is also on display.
The couple’s burial site is in the grounds of the house.
To arrange a visit to the house, call (08) 934-4499/4500.
Neot Kedumim, the Biblical Landscape Reserve, is situated in the Ben-Shemen Forest, halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. During Succot, it provides a wide variety of activities, many of them accompanied by stories for children of all ages --and adults as well. There are guided walking tours, bicycle tours, tours on the mini train and musical presentations. If any of your older children have been learning the halachot (religious laws) regarding building a succa, they’ll enjoy strolling down the succa path. There, you’ll see examples of various odd-shaped succot mentioned in the Mishna (e.g., a triangular succa, one on a boat or a camel, an extremely high succa) and the quotation and explanation as to whether or not that particular succa is kosher. There are also plenty of craft activities for the younger members of the family, as well as regular tours of the magnificent landscape.
✿ The nearby town of Modi’in is once again hosting a Succot Circus Festival from September 22 to 24, including some free performances. Juggling, acrobatics, aviation, clowns, fire performances, pantomime, theater, magic and fantasy are all part of the spectacular show, which will take place at various locations throughout the town, including parks and street intersections. After the tremendous success of last year’s festival, which drew more than 70,000 spectators, this year Israeli performers will be joined by internationally renowned circus groups. Modi’in Mayor Haim Bibas hopes to make this an annual festival.
To purchase tickets in a dvance, call (03) 559-84 38.
Dvorat Hatavor, The Land of Silk and Honey, in Moshav Shadmot Devora at the foot of Mount Tabor, will be in the midst of its Honey Festival during Succot.
There, you can see a live demonstration of the production of honey and silk (this is the only silk farm in Israel).
You will learn how honey is produced, discover its healing properties and visit a beehive at a safe distance.
There are also plenty of hands-on activities for children.Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For a tour in English, call in a dvance: (04) 676-9598.
✿ Combine stories of history, Zionism and agriculture with a visit to Mikve Yisrael, Israel’s first school of agriculture, established in 1870. Situated near Holon, this school teaches a microcosm of Israel’s population of Jews, Arabs, religious and non-religious pupils. Its centerpiece is a beautiful synagogue that is in regular daily use and has undergone extensive restoration. Apart from training most of the farmers who started the country’s kibbutzim and moshavim, as well as many of the state’s first army and political personalities, the school also played its part as a secret training ground for the underground military units before the establishment of the state. It was there that the famous weapon the Davidka was invented by David Lebovitz. They also made grenades, which they labeled USA (unzere shtikel arbeit, Yiddish for “our own handiwork”).
The school has since also played its part in absorbing many waves of new immigrants from all over the world.
Don’t leave without seeing the Bengal ficus tree near the front entrance of the synagogue. This unusual tree, brought over from India, has branches that bend over and replant themselves in the ground, forming new tree trunks.
To arrange a visit, call (03) 503-0489.
✿ The Biluim, a group of pioneers whose name is the Hebrew acronym of “House of Jacob, let us go [up to Israel],” settled in Gedera in 1884. You can learn about their history in Gedera’s Museum of History, which was originally the home of one of the founders of the Bilu movement, Dr. Moshe Mintz.
A few minutes down the road is an original hut built by the Biluim and inhabited by the Sverdlov family. The original furniture and housewares are still there.
Opposite the hut is the Yeshurun Central Synagogue, the main shul in Gedera, built in 1912. It has a beautifully painted ceiling and a dedication to the Biluim.
Around the side of the museum is a path that leads to the home and garden of Yoma Segev. In the garden, you will see a fascinating collection of sculptures made out of scrap and recycled materials, which Segev has been creating for the last 30 years. Some are whimsical, many are connected to nature and, in stark contrast, some are screams from the Holocaust. Very few people have managed to persuade Segev to part with any of his sculptures. He just continues to create and add to his intriguing collection.
Mini-Israel, situated near Latrun, contains 385 models of Israel’s most popular and famous towns, cities, archeological, historical and religious sites, crafted at a scale of 1:25. It’s a wonderful way to see the whole of Israel in an hour or two, from skiers on the Golan Heights down to sunbathers in Eilat, including ships offloading in the Haifa port and planes taking off at Ben-Gurion Airport. You can also experience Israel’s landscapes in a breathtaking 3D film. For the little ones, there are activities in the gymboree.
The site is ope n from 10 a .m. to 6 p.m.
✿ If you haven’t visited Lake Kinneret this year, spend a day in Tiberias. There, you can take a boat ride on the lake, fish or have fun on a pedal boat around the shore.
Enjoy a stroll and some food on the boardwalk or take a ride in a horse-drawn buggy.
At the southern end of the Yigal Allon Promenade is the Sea of Galilee Water Level Measure. It is 5 meters high and 3.5 meters wide, with the shape of the lake cut out in the center. It is used to measure the level of the lake by means of a highly advanced technological system.
Visit Hamat Tiberias National Park at the southern end of the town and see the ancient hot springs that made Tiberias a spa resort even in Ro man times.
Also take a look at one of the earliest synagogue mosaics in the country.
In Tiberias, near the central bus station, is the Dona Gracia hotel and museum.
Through a series of intricately crafted dioramas, this charming venue tells the story of one of the richest women of the 16th century, who used her wealth to save many Jews from the Spanish Inquisition and reestablish Jewish settlement in Tiberias.