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.

Get your daily dose of culture . . . and then some: The Israel Museum

Let's be honest, there are some museums that appeal to the adults and not the kids, and vice versa. It's hard to find one that can truly spark the curiosities of a wide range of ages and interests. Then enters The Israel Museum. A day here will include staring in awe at a scaled model of Jerusalem during the second temple period, the height of its glory in 66 CE, viewing the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls housed in the Shrine of the Book exhibit, exploring an impressive collection of antiquities from Israel and neighboring cultures, winding your way through the outdoor sculpture garden, creating new works of art with repurposed materials collected from factories in the Recycling Workshop designed for families and being impressed by their constant stream of temporary exhibits that inspire the soul.

Currently on display until March 2018 in the contemporary arts category is an Ai Weiwei installation. If you're unfamiliar, he's a controversial and selfless artist of Chinese descent, human rights activist and outspoken critic of China’s stance on human rights and democracy. He was once placed under house arrest without cause or trial for 81 days in his home country because of his work to create change. His new documentary currently showing in the US, Human Flow, follows Weiwei to 23 countries over the course of a year to examine the staggering scale of the refugee crisis. His individualized approach in the film, acquainting the audience with a solitary migrant sharing their story at a time, attempts to show the viewer these aren’t statistics, these are real people who need to not be ignored or pushed aside as someone else’s problem. In every piece of art he produces, he calls on people to “be obsessed citizens, forever questioning and asking for accountability.”

Guided tours are available and highly recommended as the guides are able to give insights and context to what you're seeing, making it all that more rich of an experience.

The Israel Museum
Rupin Boulevard 11 Hakirya

photo: Ai Weiwei 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.