The school year in Israel runs from September 1 through June 30. Israeli kids especially look forward to hahofesh ha-gadol (“the big vacation,” as summer break is universally called here), because they go to school six days a week, and usually they never get a chance to sleep over at a friend’s (if they have parents like Sarah and me) or to have a lazy morning (unless they are not synagogue-goers).
Summer camps begin during the first week of July and last for about three weeks. Almost all of these are day camps, and campers typically are young children under the age of 10. The regular camping sessions end with July, and there are few camping options in August. And so, whether or not your children go to camp for a few weeks in July, summertime in Israel is going to include a lot of family fun time.
There are many family-friendly options for touring Israel, and because Israel is a small country, driving distances are eminently manageable — a three-hour drive is considered a very long drive in Israel. Since there is absolutely no chance of rain in the summer, you don’t have to be an especially talented woods-person in order to go camping, and many families do so at one of Israel’s beautiful nature reserves.
However, because I do all of the cooking in our family, and I want our family vacation to be a vacation for me as well, we elect to go to places that have a (Kosher) meal plan. Options here range from hotels (in some cases these can be more reasonable than you might imagine), to kibbutz guest houses, to youth hostels, to Society for the Preservation of Nature Field Schools. These Field Schools are an excellent way of touring the country. Each of the schools runs programs covering a particular geographical area. Tours are usually in Hebrew, though the society also conducts tours in English. It’s amazing how, if I am the one to plan a particular hike, all of my children become critics and carefully weigh the pros and cons of my proposed trek before rendering their verdicts, but with a hike organized by a third party, everyone falls into line.
Americans touring in Israel will be struck by the absence of warning signs, guard rails and security fences that routinely surround any area in the States with even the remotest possibility of danger. My Mom suggests that this is because Israelis have more of a sense of personal responsibility. It could be too that, thanks to living in various states of war for so long, Israelis have a more liberal sense of what constitutes danger. In any case, don’t be surprised if you find yourself at the edge of a cliff on what was advertised to you as a “moderate” hike.
Then too there are Israel’s beautiful beaches, plus sure-fire kid-pleasers like water parks. We combined both a few summers ago in staying at the Shefayim Kibbutz Hotel just north of Tel Aviv. Kibbutz Shefayim has a gorgeous semi-private beach (where a lifeguard served us watermelon on a tray while we were sitting in the shade), plus it runs a huge water park complete with wave pool, water slides and inner tubes.
Summertime is also a chance to hear some great outdoor concerts. And this being Israel, you may find top Israeli performers coming right to your neighborhood. Over the years, some of Israel’s top artists have given summer concerts right here in Givat Ze’ev.
At the end of August, Sarah and I are planning to get away for a few days to a lovely B & B in the North. Summer is nice here in Israel, and taking a vacation from family fun is nice too.