Are you planning to take your kids to Israel? Here are the places you can consider visiting with your whole family in and around Jerusalem.
City of David
Starting with the 3D movie on the history of Jerusalem and ending with the underground walk through Hezikiah’s tunnel is fascinating for all ages. Though the tunnels water can be waist high on smaller children depending on the time of year. Water is flowing and cold but children from age of 7 should manage easily. Wear shoes that can get wet, the walk through the water takes about half an hour. There is a dry tunnel next to the wet tunnel for those who can’t go through the water. You need to bring a flashlight or buy one in the shop before descending. It is a steep climb back up the hill, a shuttle is available for a few shekels if kids are too tired to make the climb or for the more adventurous, climb back up to the entrance through the Roman Road and old sewer channels, opened to the public in 2012. The entrance is on the right hand side when you come down the stairs after walking through Hezikiah’s Tunnel. It is not nearly as steep as climbing back up outside. Children from age 7 should be able to handle this fairly easily. This site is definitely not stroller accessible and you should not have a baby in a back carrier through the tunnels. It is extremely difficult to carry a babe in arms in this area
In the middle of the new city, lots of room for kids to run and explore. Exhibits originally were biblical animals but now many represented. Not the most sophisticated zoo in the world, but a good afternoon with kids.
Jerusalem Bird Observatory
Bird watching- doesn’t sound too exciting or too ‘ Jerusalemish’ but this is a hidden gem. One hundred and forty birds have been identified as either living in or migrating through Jerusalem. Next to the Knesset is a bird sanctuary with blinds where you can observe. Naturalists are banding birds almost every day. For a schedule and to book a visit www.jbo.org.il or phone 0523-869488.
Israel Museum Youth Wing
The Israel Museum is huge and can be overwhelming for children. The youth wing offers programs and outstanding interactive exhibits (everything is in English). Check their website ahead of time to ensure you are arriving when programs are running. In addition to the youth wing, the outdoor sculpture garden offers children a chance to experience art in wide open spaces. Great to give them a camera here and challenge them to catch the meaning of the piece. Also on this site is the Shrine of the Book. It would be best for kids to know in advance what is in this building and what they can expect to see, otherwise it could be a little dry. Exhibits tend to be at a height which is above eye level for smaller children. I would not recommend the Shrine of the Book for children under 14. The model of Jerusalem is interesting for adults, not so much for kids but they can run around it and find the Temple mount, gates in the walls, etc.
Bloomfield Science Museum
An interactive museum especially for kids focusing on science fields in which significant research is being done in Israel. The museum is closed on Sundays. For more information: Tel. 02-6544888.
Temple Mount Sifting Project
An opportunity for the whole family to get involved in a real archeological dig. Debris from Temple Mount, which was dumped in the Kidron Valley when the Moslems excavated Temple Mount to build a mosque, is being sifted for artifacts. You are guaranteed (not in the literal sense) to find many items though you are not permitted to keep any. Reserve ahead, when you arrive you will receive an orientation film and explanation of what is being done and what has been found so far. Then off to the mud and water to find small objects which are buried in the debris and which each family sifts through on screens. To participate in the two hour project you pay a fee. To arrange participation call: (972)-(2)-6268700 or visit the website www.cityofdavid.org.il
You will be working with mud and water so it might be a good idea to bring along a change of shirt for younger children.
There are two walks along the top of the walls that surround the old city. The first walk goes from the Jaffa gate to the Dung gate and passes the Armenian and Jewish Quarters. It is the easier of the two. It has stairs and offers those that suffer from vertigo a bit of a challenge as it is quite high and often has a single railing on one side. Perfectly safe though and kids can do it quite easily though the steps are uneven. Interesting way to see ‘over the walls’ all the things you can’t see from street level. The other walk is from the Jaffa Gate to the Lions Gate. A longer and more difficult walk (more stairs, less even) this side overlooks the Christian and Moslem quarters. Tickets are available by the Jaffa gate.
Sound and Light Show at the Tower of David
A fascinating (for adults) artistic rendition of the history of Jerusalem. For kids the technology and music, seeing the walls come alive will certainly hold their interest. Really good evening activity.
Jerusalem Time Elevator
This is one of those really touristy places that kids really like. Expensive in comparison to other activities but a break from the heat and a presentation of Israeli history, that while shallow, the kids enjoy. New at this site is a show that also gives the history of India. This is like a DisneyWorld ride and you sit in a seat that bounces you all over. Adults may want to take a gravol in advance! Discount if you buy your tickets online.
This center is a workshop for elderly in Jerusalem who are in need. They work to produce crafts which are for sale at their site. Visiting the workshops is great. Children will see the seniors doing a variety of crafts including making jewellery, metalworking, making paper beads, ceramics, etc. The seniors enjoy the visitors though many don’t speak English. Groups and individuals are escorted through by young women working for the organization that will show you around and explain what people are making. Later the children could buy inexpensive (or some expensive) souvenirs in the shop. Call ahead to reserve a tour and mention that you have children. The workshops are only open in the mornings. From within Israel, (02) 628-7829
Liberty Bell Park on King David and Keren Hayasod has playgrounds, playing fields and is a place where families of all backgrounds spend time together. Great place for a picnic. Across the street is a park that stretches all along King David Street. Here kids can play in a whimsical fountain on a hot day, discover a Roman aquaduct entrance, find the Herod Family tombs, get up close to the windmill, see the overlook of the old city and have plenty of room to run and explore.
The Ein Yael Living Museum
Geared for elementary aged school children, is set in a terraced hillside opposite the Biblical Zoo, Ein Yael aims to preserve ancient crafts and agricultural techniques. Although billed as a "museum", Ein Yael is a hands-on, outdoor attraction, where children can create ancient handicrafts in small workshops scattered throughout the terraces. There are workshops in basketweaving, pottery, paper-making, fresco painting, mosaics, wine-making, wheat harvesting, olive pressing, and more. These workshops are operated on a continuous basis, so you can wander around the site without worrying too much about scheduling your time. The workshop leaders speak Hebrew, English, and Arabic. Wear sturdy sandals or shoes. The main paths are paved, but many of the workshops are in unpaved plateaus connected by steep stairways or dirt paths. Ein Yael is only open when school is not in session -- i.e., Saturday (Shabbat), Chol HaMoed Passover, Chol HaMoed Sukkot, Shavuot, Chanukkah, and the summer. In addition to the regular attractions, there are special activities for the holidays (e.g., olive oil making for Chanukkah, mud brick-making for Pesach, etc.). There is a very small snack stand, and water and popsicles are sold at the front office. Other than that, no food is sold in Ein Yael. However, ample picnic tables are scattered throughout the site. Most visitors bring coolers of food and beverages. The website has hours and directions http://www.funinjerusalem.com/en/fun-list-categories/108-ein-yael.html
Beit Guvrin National Park – Dig for a Day Program
This is a great family activity outside of Jerusalem on Tel Maresha in Beit Guvrin. The Dig for a Day program gives kids a chance to be part of an archeological dig that is taking place underground in caves. It runs three hours. The activity includes: digging, sifting, pottery examination and touring the National Park of Beit Guvrin with a very exciting crawl through unexcavated cave systems. Wear clothes that can get dirty and closed shoes, and bring water to drink. This is a real hit with teens. I would recommend for children over the age of 7 (minimum age to participate is 5). Call for reservations and times. 02-586-2011 or email firstname.lastname@example.org In addition to Tel Marisha, Beit Guvrin National Park also has some fantastic other sites. The Bell Caves are a series of manmade caves that were quarries. This is a great place for kids to explore. The caves are huge so no crawling required here. You need a car to get to this part of the park but it is well worth visiting and ‘off the beaten tourist track’.
A themed park with hands on activities for families. The main activity is lunch in Abraham’s tent, recreating Abraham’s hospitality. There are camel rides, goats and sheep to pet, pita baking, mosaic crafts, parchment writing, and even jeep rides. Advance booking is required. Kitchy for adults, but fun for families and children for whom the activities are geared. Genesis Land is located outside of Jerusalem on the highway towards the Dead Sea. http://www.genesisland.co.il/index.html