There are few cities in the world that take your breath away; Jerusalem is one of them. The entire city is built of Jerusalem stone, the unity of a beige city spanning thousands of years all in a particular tone is soothing. The light is golden and it is no wonder that the three major religions are spiritually connected to this place, which has spawned so much war through the years. It is worth seeing.
If you have a teenage child with you, no matter what your religion or ethnicity, if you are in Jerusalem you should see the Yad Vashem. Moshe Safteh, a great architect, designed the museum. It is spectacularly beautiful and moving memorial to those who lived through Nazi Germany’s nightmare years. One sees many teenagers there. The day we visited they walked through the brilliantly displayed exhibits of what they could never have imagined. There is a garden walkway honoring by name the righteous Christians who risked their lives to save Jewish children and adults. There is also a children’s memorial, which I won’t describe because one should experience its simplicity and conceptual brilliance with no preconceptions.
In a visit in the fall of 2007, I noted that Israel is a pedia-centric country. They love all children and one finds them welcome everywhere.
The two cities one must see in Israel are Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, a modern mini bustling New York City. The city has theaters, nightclubs, concerts, opera and a bustling day life. It’s prosperous and expansive with a very exciting nightlife, there are two new areas of the city, Neve Tzedic, their version of Soho, the oldest part of Tel Aviv originally developed in the 1890’s. The tiny houses are now lovingly reconstructed with the past spirit. The area is redolent of design studios, artisans, and artists. It bustles with coffee houses, restaurants and charming wine bars. Baby carriages are pushed on the busy winding streets and families are street eating, walking, talking, skating and exploring the winding narrow streets. The other is the Old Port, which is in the north of Tel Aviv; it sports a walking area with fashionable shops and restaurants. It’s fun.
There are many hotels along the Mediterranean Sea some directly on the water facing the sea and the city, and others a block or two behind the beachfront hotels, which are less costly. The newer hotels have spas, swimming pools, and health clubs and some have camp activities in the summer for children. (Whatever is available in the US as far as amenities go is also available in Israel).
Tel Aviv is a walking city. Don’t rent a car; there is no place to park. Cabs are mostly 10 dollars a ride. The city is enjoying prosperity and one feels the optimism. The concierges in all the hotels are most helpful for any arrangements one needs made, for every budget. Side trips are available, those to the Dead Sea are arranged through the hotels if one desires for a few hundred dollars depending on the hotel one stays at.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth. It is said to have curative powers. They have many balms, lotions, cosmetics, and sea salts available which many people swear by (and bring back home as gifts). They are not inexpensive — even in Israel — because of the weakness of the dollar.
There are myriad things to see depending on your taste and sports are available. If you have a teenager you can arrange for them to meet with others to test the waters of another culture. Through the Internet one has to check the prices of airlines tickets, which are constantly changing because of local holidays, school holidays and seasons — the same is true of hotels.
It’s a long trip. Some people choose a stop over in Europe but if you can sleep through the flight then you don’t need to.
Is it worth going? A very big yes. Will the children love it? Yes.
Joane Gil is a mother of two based in New York City.
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