Wet and Wild Israel for Kids

Fun suggestions for staying cool, having fun, exploring the old, and enjoying the new with children in Israel this summer.

by Sharona Liman and Heidi Eisips

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Hula Valley

Hula Valley

It is well known that Israel in the summer can be hot… very hot… so folks who visit during June, July and August usually gravitate toward places that are either cool or wet, or both. Caves, underground tunnel walks, air conditioned destinations, and water-related adventures all help you enjoy the wonderful ancient and modern treasures that Israel has to offer, all the while staying cool and comfortable.

Air Conditioned Spaces

Our list features museums big and small, which are open year-round but which, by virtue of their cool interiors, provide welcome respite on a sunny summer day. Some offer special activities for children – even in English!

TEL AVIV MUSEUM OF ART Special audio guide for children and a notebook with a self-guided tour of the museum.

BIBLE LANDS MUSEUM (Jerusalem) For kids and families, a comic book featuring stories from the Bible guides you through the museum and leads you on a search for ancient treasure.

SCIENCE MUSEUM (Jerusalem) Everything is written in Hebrew, Arabic and English. It is an incredible destination and very visitor-friendly.

ISRAEL MUSEUM (Jerusalem) Offers regular English tours. When a summer breeze comes up, the grounds themselves offer beautiful garden walks and outdoor opportunities for learning, including a miniature model of Jerusalem.

TOWER OF DAVID MUSEUM (Jerusalem) This ancient citadel located near the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City provides a wonderful air-conditioned destination by day. By night, the Citadel walls serve as a stage for an amazing outdoor celebration of sight and sound.

L. A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art

L. A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art

L. A. MAYER MUSEUM FOR ISLAMIC ART (Jerusalem) Art is a universal language – and this museum’s permanent collection constitutes one of the most important exhibitions of Islamic art in the world. The Sir David Salomon collection of more than 180 clocks and watches is breathtaking. Check the website for any seasonal exhibitions and workshops.

NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM (Haifa) Features a display of pirate ships. The museum website, which is in English, links to all Haifa museums in the network.

TREASURES IN THE WALLS MUSEUM (Acre) Located inside the north-eastern walls of old Acre (Akko in Hebrew), the museum houses a beautiful and rare collection that provides insight into the fabric of life in the Galilee region during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Subterranean Adventures

JUDEAN HILLS Do you prefer natural caves with stalagmites and stalactites, or  man-made caves with a maze of rooms and tunnels? In the hills outside of Jerusalem you can find both. Visit Soreq Cave Nature Reserve (also known as Stalactite Cave) and see incredible natural phenomena, some at least 300,000 years old, which help scientists track climate changes over the millennia. At the Beit Guvrin – Marisha National Park, explore fascinating subterranean achievements over the centuries, including caves used for the raising of doves (Columbarium Caves), complex cistern systems that provided water, the Maze Caves (30 interconnected caves), Sidonian Burial Caves, and the so-called Bell Caves. It is doable (and recommended) to visit both in one day; you’ll receive a discount on the park entrance fees.

JERUSALEM There are many opportunities to go underground:

  • An entire neighborhood from the second temple underneath the Jewish Quarter
  • A tunnel carved by the Hasmoneans passes under the Commissioner’s Palace Promenade
  • The Western Wall Tunnel – be sure to  book well in advance and request an English tour.
  • And best of all – since it has both the darkness and cold water – trekking through Hezekiah’s tunnel in the City of David. Water is knee-high and you need flashlights.

ACRE Another city where you can spend a lot of time underground. Today’s city, built by the Turks, sits on top of a 900-year-old Crusader city. Every time you drop under current residents’ homes brings you to the Crusader era in history.

Aqueduct of the Roman period at coast sea

Caesarea Aqueduct

CAESAREA This beautiful ancient Roman city would not have been able to support its large population and develop into an important port without water. Driving into Alona National Park, you can see where the ingenious Caesarea water system begins. The water can be thigh-high at times (bathing suits and water shoes recommended) and the cave has window holes which let in a bit of daylight, along with electric lighting strands, so no flashlights are necessary.

Drive back down to the beach in Caesarea and the kids will get to see where the very same aqueduct reaches the shore (while playing at the seashore).

REHOVOT Something a little more modern, but still underground. In the greater Tel Aviv area, in the mid-1940s, the Haganah set up an arms manufacturing plant, not only under the noses of the British but also under the earth. The Ayalon Institute presents the story of a secret munitions factory built underneath a limestone hill. This clandestine factory was prepared in less than a month, 25 feet underground. A large washing machine above ground hid the noise of the equipment.

Water, Water Everywhere

Acre

Acre

There are affordable public pools in every city and even in many rural villages. There are also good water parks and amusement parks across the country. The Mediterranean Sea, the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and even the Red Sea offer ample opportunities for swimming and water sports. But the real fun is to go north, to the Galilee region or the Golan, and find the wild.

Along the Jordan River, Israel’s only real river, there are several sites for rafting and kayaking, easily findable through a quick internet search. Each location is more or less the same price (i.e. not cheap). Fridays are less crowded because there are fewer summer camp groups on those days.

What do you imagine the Garden of Eden looked like? “There was a large fig tree with lots of shade, and at its base was flowing a constant stream of abundant waters …” This well describes Ein Tina or Ein ATina (spring of the fig-tree), a great summer water hike in the Upper Galilee in the Hula Valley. The small, pastoral spring, located in the Ein Notera nature reserve, flows all year round. Alongside the stream’s channel are rich water flora and many fig trees, after which this spring is named. Note that while situated in a nature reserve, there is no entrance fee or facilities at the site.

Ein Tina (source: travelhotels.co.il)

Ein Tina (source: travelhotels.co.il)

If you want to add the excitement of a high waterfall and pool, the perfect destination is the 3-kilometer hike at the Jilabun Stream in the Golan. Bathing in the pools at the foot of the waterfalls (as well as in the Officers’ Pool) is highly recommended, so bring a bathing suit and good walking shoes or closed sandals. During the summer it’s best to hike during the morning or the late afternoon since many parts of the trail are not shaded.

The Galilee region also boasts Nahal Kziv, a stream that flows all year round, with lots of shade, flour mills, antiques, and a variety of routes of different difficulty levels. During May and June, the blue-marked trail offers encounters with one of the rarest and most beautiful flowers in Israel, the white Madonna Lily.

Jordan River

Jordan River

For an outing that is entirely in the water, visit the Majrase Nature Reserve, located in the Daliyot Stream estuary at the southern edge of Bethsaida Valley near the Sea of Galilee. The short walking trail passes in cool water pools with varied and rich flora of willows, oleanders and Abraham’s balms on their banks. You can see various creatures such as soft-shelled water turtles, stream crabs and dragonflies. Be sure to leave your watch, phone and wallet in the car.

Whether you decide to pursue air-conditioned, subterranean or water-based adventures (or a combination of all three), there is one important tip for any summer visitor to Israel: drink lots of water, and do not forget a hat, sunglasses and sun screen.

Enjoy your summer stay in Israel, and visit www.israelkids.co.il for more tips along the way! IsraelKids is a local resource for English-speakers offering a family-friendly activities directory, creative tips and crafts, coupons and an online store. Visit www.israelkids.co.il and follow on facebook.com/israelkids.

Sharona Liman is an English-speaking tour guide for families and groups (<a href=”http://www. facebook.com/SharonaTheGuide” target=”_blank”>www.facebook.com/SharonaTheGuide</a>). Heidi Eisips is the blogger mom for IsraelKids.