State of Israel – the country of juxtapositions. It’s overflowing with historical sites of important religious significance, yet it plays host to one of the most well-known gay pride celebrations in the world. The Red Sea, the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea all touch its land, but deserts blanket well over half its surface. It’s home to the lowest point on Earth, The Dead Sea, that can be viewed from atop a mountainside fortress. Contemporary and ancient exist cohesively, each respecting the other. It’s small, roughly the size of the United States’ 5th smallest state, New Jersey, but within its borders, you can sunbathe, take a salty float, ski, hike, immerse yourself in history and well, just read on for more. We’ll tell you why this destination that may never have been on your family travel radar should actually top the list.

For an emotional learning deep-dive: The Israeli Children’s Museum

As parents, we've all done our fair share of trips to one children's museum or another; however, The Israeli Children's Museum's programming is unique in that the educational purpose of the exhibits focuses not on IQ, but EQ (emotional intelligence).

Visitors are lumped into groups of 12 and each group has a guide leading them through age-appropriate exhibits that engage kids in activities and conversations that get them thinking and talking about feelings, help them to recognize and understand basic social cues and show them an empathetic approach to understanding what may be driving improper behavior in a peer.

They also have incredible exhibits that involve sensory deprivation. In one, sighted individuals are led by vision impaired guides through everyday situations — shopping in a market, crossing the street, walking through nature, eating in a pub — set in pitch-black rooms. Kids are forced to use their other senses to navigate the world around them. They are not only exposed to, dependent upon and taught by individuals with sensory disabilities, but take away a greater appreciation of the challenges and richness of their lives.

Another exhibit is staffed only by individuals ages 70 and above who engage kids in intergenerational dialogue with a goal to change preconceived notions of the value of elderly in society.

A new Beatles exhibit sets out to appeal to an older generation, who can then engage in interactive projects with their kids or grandkids that show music as a tool for developing imagination, self-expression, creativity and communication. 

The museum models a common no-citizen-left-behind theme you'll notice while visiting the country, that Israelis see value in and expect contribution from all, regardless of age, race, sexuality, religion or physical abilities.

Good to know:

  • Activities that can be scheduled are based on the ages of your children, but there are exhibits appropriate for kids as young as 2 1/2.
  • Because the museum puts visitors in groups for timed tours, you must make a reservation ahead of time online.
  • Cancellations cannot be made, but you make changes to dates and times up to 24 hours in advance.
  • English tours are available, but there must be at least 4 people in a group.
  • Babies are not permitted in the exhibits.

The Israeli Children's Museum
214 Jerusalem St.
Holon (near Tel Aviv)
Prices range from 50-65 shekels per activity, which is roughly $14-$20 depending on the current exchange rate
Online: childrensmuseum.org.il/eng/

photo: one of many murals in the Beatles exhibit via Maria Chambers

Have you had the opportunity to visit Israel? We’d love to hear about your experience in the Comments below.

— Maria Chambers

This trip, including hotel stays, food and activities, was paid for by Israel’s Ministry of Travel.