How does adventure, history, culture, spirituality and beaches sound for your next family vacation?
And all in one small area? What if that idea took you to the other side of the world, to Israel?
Yes, the land of the Bible, but so much more.
Israel is a first world destination in a third world region. It has all that is mentioned above, and more.
What’s more, it is safe. Probably safer than a trip to certain parts of your hometown.
Can’t be? It’s true. I saw for myself last February. When was the last time you heard of a terrorist incident in Israel? After all, you are not touring the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, places as foreign to the millions of visitors to Israel as the moon is to the center of your town.
Pack your bags and get yourself and your family to one of the most exciting and rewarding places on earth.
Here is a sampling of values for families in Israel:
You will land in the modern Tel Aviv International airport and head north to Caesarea National Park. This is some of the culture part of the trip, as this the ruins of Caesarea include a pagan temple, a Roman theater, a sculpture garden and more on its 2300 acres. A cutting edge interactive exhibit and movie on the ancient Roman-Byzantine period city are part of the tour.
Continuing north is the port city of Acre (Akko), an “Indiana Jones” setting if there ever was one, a place with the mystery and intrigue of the Knights Templar buildings aside those built by muslims of the Ottoman Empire. A thriving marketplace and a famous restaurant serving the best hummus in Israel will keep both shoppers and diners occupied.
Take an eastern detour and arrive at the Sea of Galilee and Tiberias. Beside being an important Christian site, where Jesus walked on the water, the modern Sea of Galilee offers water sports and swimming and even water parks with huge slides. There are beach hotels, camping locations and even guest houses. Before leaving you can visit the beautifully restored 2000 year old fishing boat –the “Jesus Boat”– the kind that was used by the apostles, who worked the Galilee shores until called by Jesus to be “fishers of men”.
A turn south will take you to Jerusalem.
Here there is enough to keep your family interested and amused for the next five family vacations.
If any of your kids ever built models or played with doll houses the first stop for them should be the magnificent Model of the Second Temple Jerusalem. It covers over 20,000 square feet and can serve as a good reference for the real visit to the ancient city of Jerusalem. Next to the Model is the Shine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls.
A somber reminder of what happens when evil is allowed to do its will is housed in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Particularly moving is the children’s memorial that remembers the half million children that were killed by the Nazi’s. A visit here can be difficult but is an important life lesson for the next generation.
Next is the old city of Jerusalem. Visit the Western Wall and insert a slip of paper with a prayer into the crevices between the huge stone blocks. You can even go underground in the Western Wall Tunnels for an appreciation of the sheer size of the ancient temple. One stone block is the size of a greyhound bus.
Shopping in the various sections of the old city is an experience, walking through the narrow streets and taking in a colorful array of merchandise, food and clothing. Bargaining and haggling with shop owners is part of the fun, and if you ask any questions like I did you will find that many of the shop owners are from the United States. One man I talked to lived 15 miles away from me in a neighboring suburb of Chicago, and worked in the shop to help his brother three months out of the year. There are many places to eat in the old city, if you work up an appetite from shopping and sightseeing.
Along the way in the old city are markings of the stations of the cross on the via dolorosa, the path Jesus walked towards his crucifixion.
Go to the Dead Sea next. Travel south and float on the salty water in the lowest place on earth. Do your skin a favor and smear on the curative mud. (This is a natural for young boys, I would think). Take a hike or better yet a cable car up the heights to Masada, and see the last hold out of the Israelites against Roman attack.
Visit the Zoo.
In Jerusalem visit the popular Biblical Zoo, which has matched verses from the Bible with animals. Here you will see raptors as well as elephants, and a visitor center in the shape of Noah’s Ark.
Next zoo is on the way home. Take a safari though the 250 acres of the Zoological Center of Tel Aviv, which has the largest accumulation of animals in the Middle East. You will see lions and tigers and rhinos and…ostriches. Oh, my!
Finally, time to cool off in Elat, the tourist resort on the Red Sea. Here are modern resort properties that can cater to kids and kids of all ages. Take a spa treatment, have a drink at sunset, relax.
Israel is a complete experience for the family vacationer. No other place in the world can boast the attractions and sights that Israel has to offer, which appeal to you in both body and soul.