Welcome Emily and thanks for reading! Or should I say, "Hevaynu shalom al-AY-chem....al-AY-chem hevaynu shalom!"
Today our activities could be summed up by this: "Look at all this water you can't swim in!" We began our morning with a simple breakfast at home - cereal for Donny and me; cereal, and then Milkies, for the kiddies. (Haha Kate - and you thought candy yogurt was bad.) We packed up the car and headed waaaaay up north, to the Golan Heights.
Allow me to digress for a moment on Israeli vacation habits. There were some families from our shul also vacationing up north this week, and one of them very kindly invited Donny to go over to his house this past Saturday night to give us some vacation tips and activity ideas. Now, this family found it extraordinarily odd that we were vacationing all by ourselves. As in, not with an entire caravan of other families. Apparently, that is what's done here. You go with at least one other family to your "tzimmer," or you all rent tzimmers close to each other and then you do stuff all week together.
For me, personally, vacation is a time that our own little family can be together. I also - unfortunately for my writing career - had a very happy childhood, a highlight of which was our annual summer vacation. Once or twice, we vacationed with another family, which was great fun, but for the most part, it was the 5 of us, hanging out, having a good time, foraging for kosher food at random local supermarkets, (especially exciting when we found those packaged "baked goods" or an ice cream with a random, flyover state hechsher on it), and occasionally fighting, with Dadz consequently threatening to "turn this car around RIGHT NOW!" if we didn't stop. So for me, vacation means family time. Also, I can't imagine having to deal with multiple families' needs and schedules. There is a group from our shul of SIX families vacationing together this week. That is a whole heckuva lot of coordination. Coordinating two kids with their various bathroom trips and snack needs is proving quite enough for me.
The other thing we have learned - and I promise, the point is buried in here somewhere - is that vacations are highly regionalized. So if you are renting a tzimmer near the Kinneret (or in it, if you are so lucky to find one), you do Kinneret activities for the entire time you are there. You do not, under any circumstances, head up to the Golan Heights to look for fun. That is an entirely different vacation. And vice versa. We, however, are Americans; we do crazy things like road trips, where we may even visit multiple states in only a week or two. Our Israeli friends can't even imagine something like that. Excuse them while they go lie down. Oh wait, it might be a while, they have to coordinate it first. We'll just move on.
So anyway, even though we were staying in the Kinneret area, we had the audacity to head up even norther to look for more fun. We got on route 90 and kept on driving, waving to our Lebanese friends a few miles away. We passed fun signs like "Careful! Mines!" and "Do not enter! Border up ahead!" that were tacked onto barbed wire fences. Our first stop was Tel Dan, where we had a healthy morning snack of popcorn (frankly, it was all downhill for Yaakov after that), and then hiked to the "wading pool." The water was ice cold, but for some reason, even though Donny and I couldn't stand it for more than three and a half seconds, the kids had fun running around. We finished the hike, Yaakov and Ariella scrambling up wet rocks and over tree branches like the troopers they are, and headed back to the car. ("Heading back to the car" became a running theme of the day.)
NOTE: Anyone looking to visit parks in Israel: There is a membership you can purchase, which they do not like to tell you about, but it's good for a year and you get in free to all the parks in Israel. We are now proud owners and thanks to our "Head back to the car and go to another park" program, we've already made money on the deal.
So after Tel Dan, we attempted to visit the Banias. While I have distinct memories of doing water-related activities IN the Banias, both Banias parks we went to (one is the park, one is the falls) had a distinct you-may-not-touch-the-water policy. In fact, the first Banias Park had signs all over announcing "Fire - prohibited! Barbeque - prohibited! Swimming - prohibited!" Might as well add "Fun - prohibited!" But we did some hikes and saw some fishies. The final park of the day, Nachal Snir (pronouced sneer, like the attitude), had another wading pool, which proved to be great fun. There was even a mini-waterfall which Ariella, brave soul that she is, stood under. The water was freezing again, but slightly better than the morning park, so Donny and I stayed in for a full five seconds this time.
Dinner - schwarma at a random hole in the wall store in Kiryat Shmonah.
So to sum up:
Park membership - good.
"Do not enter the water" signs - bad.
Wading pools - good.
Kids that love to hike - very good.
Kids that seem impervious to extreme heat or freezing water - even better.
Kids that are sound asleep by 7:30 - still wishful thinking.