What to do on the last week of summer vacation
As the school year is quickly approaching, I thought I’d share a little of what we did on our summer vacation. You don’t have to be on holiday, though, to enjoy little downtime in Israel: these tips are handy any time of the year – all the more so in the final week of educational freedom.
We were fortunate to have friends in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ra’anana who suggested a house swap. While nothing is terribly far in little Israel, being closer to the “merkaz” (the center of the country) enabled us Jerusalemites to take advantage of more of what the greater Tel Aviv region offers.
Truth be told, the real advantage to our arrangement is that by going away – even an hour from home – we were “forced” to take the time off. Sure, we could have done day trips, but we wouldn’t have. Email and Facebook would have been just too enticing.
Since our vacation coincided with the recent heat wave in Israel, we spent a lot of time in the water. The Herzeliya beach is perfunctory – it has the requisite sand, lifeguard and bathrooms. Nothing special, but it’s the closest to Ra’anana (with better parking than at the central beaches of Tel Aviv), so that’s where we headed on our first day.
For a second beach trip a few days later, we drove up to the HaBonim beach, not from Zichron Ya’akov and south of Haifa. We had been told it was the most beautiful beach in Israel. It was.
This is a “camper’s beach” and when we arrived, most of the pergolas were already filled with tents. We shared some open space with a mangal (barbeque) and several toddlers.
Since many of the beachgoers are there for more than an afternoon, HaBonim has a more laid back family-friendly feel than trendy teenager-centric Herzeliya. But the real jewel is the nature walk – an hour-long loop along a marked trail (the beach is actually an official Israeli nature reserve) where we could lap up the shore as the sun set. It was lovely.
We also hit the Yamit 2000 water park – not recommended. In the summer, there must be a billion screaming kids (and even louder teenagers). Waits for 30-second water slides stretched to close an hour. Definitely not laid back.
We also rented bikes in Tel Aviv and rode along the Yarkon River all the way to the namal (the old Tel Aviv port) which is one of our favorite hang-out spots. We had packed picnic lunches to keep costs down, but we did manage to scarf down some Aldo Ice Cream before returning on the route we came. Biggest surprise: this bike route is actually part of the Israel Trail, normally only for hikers. Who knew?
One other highlight: the Jaffa Flea Market which stays open late Thursday nights during the summer and is filled with merrymakers, musicians and street comics.. It’s also packed with people, but it’s a fun atmosphere. This one is time-limited: go before the summer’s over!