After you managed the recent and intense Rosh Hashanah and fasting for 25 hours over the soulful and introspection of Yom Kippur, the time has now arrived for the next stage of our Chaggim—it’s time to take an adventure, it’s time to celebrate Sukkot in Israel.
This article will give you some amazing things to see and do in Israel over the chag; as well as some helpful tips that can give you an edge up. Since most of Israel will also be on holiday, expect many places to be jammed packed like a can of sardines, the roads packed, like it’s time for an apocalypse and parents run ragged by their lovely children. So, here are the best places to check out over Sukkot.
“Birkat Hakohanim—The Priestly Blessing”( October 8th)
In Israel, the priestly blessings take place daily, in most shuls across the country. But twice a year, once during Pesach and once during Sukkot, a mass blessing is held at the Kotel. Although it may seem overwhelming with over tens of thousands of people gathered together, think about this once in a lifetime experience; the impact and the power that the priestly blessings hold. Birkat Hakohanim at the Kotel is something that you must attend at least once in your lifetime. Quick tip, it’s best to arrive early to make sure you can get into the Kotel plaza. Bring sunscreen, hats, water, dress in modest and light clothing. Do not try and take a car, instead seize the moment to take a ride on the light rail, get off at Kikar Safra and just walk through the Jaffa Gate. I can promise you that you will never see anything as emotionally and spiritually moving!
“Dig Back In Time At Beit Guvrin”
The Dig for a Day program is located in 1,250-acre Beit Guvrin National Park in the Judean plain and can be a great opportunity to introduce your children to archeology, the hands on involvement is able to bring Jewish history alive for children and can help them literally get in touch with the land of Israel. Another perk of the dig are the many caves in the area that have not been excavated, and it is surprisingly easy for visitors to dig up remains from the Hellenistic period. Practically every dig of the shovel turns up something interesting—a bone, a piece of pottery or metal, a relic from centuries ago. Afterwards, you can explore the beautiful national park with its many caves and beautiful scenery. The site offers a wealth of discoveries and practical experience for those who want to “dig” but have limited time. Dig for a Day is an appropriate activity for adults as well as children. Just bear in mind that your clothes will get dirty.
“Best Hike For Families: Check Out Majrasa”
Israel is well known for its abundance of natural wonders that can be best enjoyed by taking a short trek; even better is that many hikes are suitable for families with young children. We all enjoy walking through water, but, the sheer joy that little one’s experience while playing and walking through the water is priceless, which is why I would highly recommend taking a short tiyul to Majrasa. Imagine a walk through the wet jungle in the Amazon. You are in a different world lost among the majestic vegetation as you wade through the water. The trail runs through a lagoon created by a number of Golan Heights rivers, and into the Kineret. The water is about waist-high for a small child and the stream is covered by trees, so it is shady as well. There are branches and other obstacles in the water, so wear good quality water shoes, and tread carefully. The hike is a kilometer long and will take an hour or two. Waterfowl, fish, owls and butterflies can be seen during the tiyul.
“Ganei Huga: Just Camp”
During Sukkot thousands of Israelis will start to flock to the outdoor camping sites that are a popular destination over these months. And as the country begins to shut down ahead of Sukkot break, many people will take advantage of being off of work to spend time away with the family. Ganei Huga is a natural water park and campsite, located in the Beit Shean Valley. The springs feed into three natural pools, with one large one dedicated to small children. Water slides and playground equipment in the water will amuse the younger kids for hours, and a zip line will thrill the older children.
A fishing pond is open during specific hours, so you can catch your dinner and grill it on the grassy area, where barbecuing is permitted. Campers have the option to bring their own tents, or rent tents from the park, which will already be set up when you arrive. For those who wish to enjoy air conditioning in the summer heat, the park also offers yurts which come complete with a fridge and mattresses. There is also a light show in the early evenings which can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. No music is allowed so the park is generally quite quiet, and the pools are shallow enough for even small children to reach the floor; you will have an amazing time, getting in touch with nature and the beauty of Israel.
“Gan Guru: Australia Meets Israel”
Have you ever dreamt of playing with kangaroos? Perhaps you will be surprised to hear that there is a kangaroo park, called Gan Guru, in northern Israel. (The name is a play on words with “gan”, which means “park” in Hebrew and the Hebrew word for “kangaroo”). Gan Guru is a one of a kind Australian zoo in Israel, which is located on Kibbutz Nir David in the Jezreel Valley. Here you can find several species of animals that normally only live in Australia. According to the information they give you on your tour, some of these species cannot be found anywhere else in the world outside of Australia, except for this little slice of heaven at Gan Guru. Besides exotic kangaroos and koalas who love to sleep most of the day, hanging in a tree who adore to show off their cuteness after chow time. The park also boasts an array of exotic parrots as well as cute emus walking or sitting on gigantic eggs. Visitors can also touch and feed the kangaroos, while enjoying the scenic natural mazes and an impressive playground.
Spending Sukkot in Israel, is an unforgettable experience! All around you see Sukkah’s; the streets are filled with people, and you hear cheerful celebration deep into the night (not always so great, if you want to sleep). There is an atmosphere of jubilation all over. The shelves of the vegetable and fruit vendors at the markets are filled with fresh fruit: pomegranates, figs, grapes, olives and watermelons. What a feast of color and sweetness! What makes it so extraordinary in Israel, is that the feast is celebrated by the nation. I hope that this article will help you make the most out of your momentous time spent in Israel.
I look forward to hearing how you decided to spend your chag.