"It was truly the best travel experience
I have ever had." – Pamela Schwab

Family Tours

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Picking up the Bar Mitzvah boy at the Western Wall

My first time in Israel was when I was 13 years old on a dual family trip to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah (and that of my twin sister and best friend) in Israel.  Whether I realized it or not at the time, the experience I had would go on to change the course of my life.  As such I have made great efforts (as has Israel, as we will see) to create experiences here for families with kids of all ages that will be memorable, educational, meaningful and most importantly, enjoyable, for the entire family.  Guiding kids is a complete different ball game from guiding adults and as such there needs to be whenever and wherever possible learning experiences that are interactive and experiential, with the understanding that the end goal is to have your kids come home loving Israel and with a true desire to learn more about their heritage and background (which is not usually accomplished by frontal guiding).  That being said there are always opportunities to give more in-depth explanations to adults about the sites we visit and the various topics that they are passionate about (and those they did not realize they would be passionate about).  Traveling with children can be a challenge – but fortunately there are lots of ways to make it a pleasurable experience (and if not, there is always a babysitting service J).

FAMILY CELEBRATIONS

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Bar Mitzvah procession including shofars, drums and more!

Celebrating a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, birthday, anniversary or renewing vows in Israel can be an incredible event.  Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are incredibly special to hold in Israel and Israel offers a variety of meaningful sites though the most requested ones are at Masada in an almost 2000 year old synagogue and at the Western Wall (whether at the traditional spot or at the southern part of the Wall which is accessible for egalitarian Jewish movements).  Doing it at the Wall includes getting a special certificate that your child had the Bar/Bat Mitzvah there.  It can also include a procession to/from the ceremony including a traveling chupah, drums, shofars and other musicians – with a lot of singing, dancing and fanfare.  You also have ability to immediately go to a celebratory meal afterwards.   Birthdays and anniversaries can include special meals and activities whether you want to attend a chocolate making seminar, be pampered in a spa, go to a classical music concert, etc., there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate together as a family (and a babysitting service if you want to leave the kids at the hotel for the night).  Renewing vows can also be arranged – a favorite among the Christian community is to do it at the Wedding Church in Cana where it’s believed Jesus did his first miracle, turning water into wine at a wedding.  And of course, whatever your simcha (happy event), I can arrange photographers and videographers to record it for posterity.

A chocolate-making workshop – fun for the whole family

A chocolate-making workshop – fun for the whole family

INTERACTIVE LEARNING

When guiding families with kids I like to try to make the experience as interactive as possible.  Whether it is  doing scavenger hunts, I spy competitions, dressing up in costumes, doing skits, our own athletic games at ancient amphitheatres and hippodromes, plus teaching Israeli slang and an introduction to Israeli music (and snacks) during car rides, I want the kids to feel the history/culture, not just learn about it.  Fortunately Israel has also come on board with this idea and there are a serious of fabulous interactive museums in Caesarea, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv especially which make the history come alive for the kids.

HANDS-ON LEARNING

There is nothing like getting one’s hands dirty to really make a connection with the land of Israel.  Whether participating in an archaeological dig (geared towards kids), picking fruits and vegetables (which can be donated to the poor), tree planting, herding sheep, making cheese and/or chocolate, pressing olives or grapes, there are plenty of experiential learning possibilities which can be included in the itinerary.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

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Today everyone is talking about how to get the kids off the computers and away from the TVs and running around outside instead.  Lucky for us we have an entire country to explore full of opportunities for hiking, swimming (with and without dolphins), rafting, rappelling, riding (whether camels, horses, donkeys, bikes or segways), climbing, ropes courses and team building exercises and much more.

FLEXIBLE ITINERARIES

One of the pluses of going with a tour guide as opposed to a tour company is that you are not required to pay for the entire package up front.  While yes, some sites will require reservations, many do not. Meaning if everyone needs to sleep in because the e jet lag hit abnormally hard or the kids just need a break – a half-day lounging at the hotel pool or on the beach, I can make it happen without you feeling like you have to do what is written because you have paid for it.

EVERYONE WINS

Sometimes it makes sense to split the group.  For example: the adults feel that going to Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust Memorial and Museum) is a must site but kids under 10 are not allowed in; there is always the Biblical Zoo nearby for the young kids.  If you have a 3-generation family and the younger folks want to go hiking but the older folks cannot keep up – a tour day/half-day can be designed to allow those who are less mobile to enjoy themselves in other activities not far from the hike – or alternatively, for the kids to have some down time while adults do some touring.   There are even sites where adults can get a chance to adult things like wine tasting – and I can take the kids across the street to a spice farm or to taste different kinds of organic apple juice concoctions.

Growing up I learned very quickly on that learning to be engaging – a fact that is true for people of all ages.  If it was not engaging – I was out of there… literally (I once escaped class by jumping out of a second story window during Hebrew School)!  Who knew that years later I would be helping kids dive into the subject matter instead of checking out?

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