My family is back from a truly fantastic three-week trip to Israel!
A number of you have asked me to share stories, travel tips and money-saving suggestions from our trip – which I’m going to do in a three-part series of posts over the next week or so.
Post #1, which is this post, is a review of some of the highlights of our trip.
Post #2 will contain some of my suggestions for saving money on your trip to Israel. (Spoiler Alert: Anytime you take your family on a plane ride over an ocean and stay in another country for three weeks, it’s not going to be cheap. And our trip was no exception. I’ll share how and where we managed to save — and welcome your input / ideas as well.)
Post #3 will contain reviews of products that we bought to take with us to Israel – let’s call it a travel gadgets post. We made some sound investments that panned out well for us, so I’m excited to tell you about those goodies.
Israel Trip: The Highlights
We spent exactly three weeks in Israel — arriving shortly before Yom Kippur and coming home on October 1st. Israel is an incredible country with way more to offer than any one family could possibly “do” in just three short weeks.
Since my family had lived in Israel for many years, we didn’t feel the need to do a real “tour” of the country; instead we chose kid-friendly sites we wanted our children to get to experience (again).
Here are some of the sites we loved on this trip — and that I’d eagerly recommend to anyone.
Latrun, Yad Lashiryon, AKA the Israel Tank Museum: My kids (all kids?!) LOVED climbing on the tanks. Since this was the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, there were a few new exhibits in the museum, too.
Nimrod’s Fortress – Way up in the Golan Heights, Nimrod’s Fortress is a 12th century Mamluk fortress. Much of the history of the place was over my kids’ heads, but the climbing, play-sword fighting and breathtaking vistas were appreciated by all.
The Kinneret – The water was the highest I remember it being, which made for especially excellent swimming! My kids had so much fun jumping the late-afternoon “waves”. By the way, this picture is from the beach at the Ein Gev Guest House, where we stayed for two nights. We loved their little “guest cabins” — they were the perfect size for our family of five.
Tel Dan – Like the Kinneret, the waters at the Tel Dan nature reserve were high and rushing! This is the perfect spot for a nature walk with young (and not so young) children. And the (freezing cold) wading pool at the end was tons of fun, too.
The Kotel Tunnel Tours – Even though I moved to Israel right after the tunnels were first opened in 1996, I had somehow never managed to go on this tour. It was amazing – I learned so much! It was just long enough (a little over an hour) for my boys, although my 4 year old did get a bit antsy. I recommend making reservations in advance, especially if you – like us – are going during chol ha’moed Sukkot with, oh, roughly 4,328,954 other people.
Machaneh Yehudah — We spent about 45 minutes walking thru the open-air market in Jerusalem; the sights, smells and sounds are always spectacular. My kids especially loved the Marzipan rugalech, the dried fruits & nuts, and the freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. Then we popped down to Rechov Agripas and ate at one of the beloved “steakiyot”. For old time’s sake, we chose Sami’s – which, by the way, is where my husband and I had our first date a million years ago!
Masada / Ramparts Walk – Yes, we woke our kids up at 4:45 in the morning to climb up Masada. My husband put our four year-old on his back (we used our old Ergo!), but my 8 and 10 year-old sons were able to make the 20-or-so minute climb without a problem. We had one small flashlight, but the nearly full moon provided sufficient light. Sunrise on Masada is definitely one of those memories my kids will carry with them for a long time.
Kfar HaNokdim, The “Bedouin Experience” - While down at the Dead Sea area, we splurged on a one-night stay at Kfar HaNokdim, which, if you’ve ever done a summer tour in Israel, you may remember as the place with the Bedouin tents. They now have an option to stay in charming little cabins, which I (obviously – for those who know me) opted for. After an awesome breakfast in the tent, went on a 45 minute camel ride. Let me put this delicately: It was not very comfortable for the adults. If they say to you, “Would you rather a 10-minute ride or a 45-minute ride?”, pick the 10 minute one. Even if your package includes the 45 minute one. Trust me on this.
Palmachim Beach – All of the Mediterranean is lovely, but Palmachim is an especially fantastic beach operated by Israel’s Nature Reserve Park System, near Rishon LeTzion. And you can pop over to Ikea for lunch afterward! Children’s meals were just 9 NIS each (now that’s what I call kosher on a budget )
Of course, some of our sweetest memories in Israel were the breakfasts, dinners and late night chats we shared with our dear family and friends. Thank you guys for making this such a special three weeks!
What are some of your favorite sites to visit in Israel? Do you share any of our favorites?
Stay tuned next week, when I share some of my suggestions for saving money when traveling to Israel.