They may not have the historical significance of Masada or the religious meaning of the Western Wall, but for pure refreshment it’s hard to beat Israel’s several water parks.
Those who escape steamy New York City for the cooler temperatures upstate each summer can well understand the need for relief from an Israeli summer heat wave. In Tel Aviv, summer temperatures can reach up to 108 degrees, with 95 percent humidity.
Tourists may wish to do as Israelis do and hit one of Israel’s several water parks. Although not numerous — and mostly smaller than Americans may be used to — the water parks do all offer an important break from the heat. In addition to the slides and kiddie pools, some parks also offer spa services for adults and events for teens.
Those who are aware of the country’s water shortage may feel pained watching so many gallons of water gushing down slides and spurting through sprinklers. “The use of so much water does have to be justified,” admitted Robbie Kissos, marketing manager for Yamit Water Park in Holon.
Most slides and pool recycle water throughout the day. “We almost never add new water,” said David Avital, owner of Hof Tzemach at Lake Kinneret. “It’s circulated.”
But anyone who has suffered through a sharav — several days of scorchingly hot, dry desert wind — can intuit the social value of water parks. “Without water activities people would be killing each other over nothing!” Kissos said. “It’s a hard place to grow up. There’s the heat, the problems with the Arabs, internal problems. You need to give the people some fun.”
The Jewish Week visited five of the most centrally located water parks in Israel. Unless otherwise noted, the parks’ food kiosks and restaurants claim to offer kosher food, but do not bear kashrut certification because they are open on Shabbat.
Where To Beat The Heat
Meymadion Water Park
Location: Ganei Yehoshua, Tel Aviv
Contact information: www.meymadion.co.il, 03-642-2777
Days/Hours: June daily 9-5; July-August daily 9-6; Sept.-Oct. open Saturdays and Jewish holidays 9-5
Ticket price: NIS 90 for guests over age 2
For toddlers and small kids: children’s pool with slides and water jungle; additional calmer pool; slow-current river.
For big kids and adults: wave pool, deep swimming pool, additional swimming pool with sprays and slides, nine water slides of varying speeds and slopes.
The Jewish Week notes: Advertised as the biggest water park in the country, Meymadion can accept up to 5,000 people a day and indeed offer an impressive variety of pools and slides to cater to different ages and levels of adventurousness. Music is piped throughout the park at all times. There is a video arcade onsite. An amusement park with roller coasters and the like is across the street.
Yamit Water Park
Location: Holon (a 20-minute drive south of Tel Aviv)
Contact information: www.yamit2000.co.il, 1-700-506-060
Days/hours: Open daily year-round, except on Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, first day of Passover, Holocaust Memorial Day, and Memorial Day. July-August 8-6; September-June 8-10:45
Ticket price: At the door, NIS 82 for those over age 3, or NIS 660 for a 10-visit card. Tickets are available online for NIS 64.
For toddlers and small kids: outdoor kiddie pool; indoor “Kids’ World” features children’s pool with jungle gym, waterfalls, sprays, 3 slides, hourly waves, a cool Jacuzzi, and tiny slow-current river.
For big kids and adults: Olympic-length pool and 22 water slides, all built since 2004, in a wide variety of styles, slopes, speeds, and lengths. Four 59-foot slides are the highest in Israel at 59 feet. The 14-acre campus includes courts for basketball, tennis, volleyball, and soccer.
For adults only: massage rooms, six jacuzzis of varying temperatures, Turkish sauna, wet sauna, two dry saunas.
The Jewish Week notes: This park can easily compete with the larger water parks in the United States, with a huge variety of rides and an attractive spa area for parents. The park invests heavily in keeping the grounds and bathrooms clean, and it shows. In addition to “Kids’ World” and the spa, a few of the slides are completely enclosed and therefore warm in the winter.
Kibbutz Hafetz Hayim Water Park
Location: near Latrun, nine miles west of Jerusalem
Contact information: www.hafetz-hayim.co.il/park.htm, 08-859-3939
Days/Hours: Hafetz Hayim operates the only water park in Israel with completely separate hours for men and women. While members of one gender enjoy the water attractions, others can visit the small “dry” amusement park and the petting zoo in other areas of the kibbutz. The park operates during the summer months only, closing at the end of August. Women: Sun, Tues, Thurs, Fri. 9-1; Mon. and Wed. 1:30-4:30; both the wet and dry parks are open to women only on Mon. and Wed. 6-9 p.m. Men: Mon. and Wed. 9-1; Fri. 1:30-3; Sun., Tues., Thurs. 1:30-4:30; both the wet and dry parks are open to men only on Sun., Tues., Thurs. 6-9 p.m.
The park is closed on Shabbat; all food kiosks have kashrut certification.
Ticket price: Use the Web site for reservation information
For toddlers and small kids: baby pool and three slides.
For big kids and adults: wave pool, half-Olympic swimming pool, 3 fast slides.
The Jewish Week notes: The park is relatively small, but its proximity to Jerusalem and separate hours for men and women make the park a great choice for religious families, or for groups of same-gender friends. Others may find the logistics of splitting the family to be difficult, though not insurmountable since there is other entertainment nearby.
Location: Tzomet Junction at the southern bank of Lake Kinneret (a 15-minute drive from Tiberias)
Contact information: www.hofzemach.co.il, 04- 675-2440
Days/ hours: open daily for camping or day visitors April 1-Oct. 31.
Ticket price: NIS 50 for day visitors; NIS 70 per person per night for campers (includes access to water park). Discounts available for children under age 3.
For toddlers and small kids: kiddie pool with two slides.
For big kids and adults: Water skiing, kayaks, motorboats, banana boats are available for an additional fee. Access to private beach. Four fast slides including the “kamikaze” and the “slalom” slides. On weekends, Hof Tzemach holds huge parties, suitable for teens and young adults ages 16 and up, with karaoke, folk dancing, and rock.
Other features: Hof Tzemach is a campsite, and families can bring tents (or buy them onsite) and stay for two to five days. There is a shady area with picnic tables, and a supermarket nearby, off the grounds. Activity itineraries with sports, meals, and crafts can be arranged for groups. At least one food vendor bears kashrut certification.
The Jewish Week notes: Hof Tzemach invests heavily in security, to prevent weekend parties and camp nights from getting too rowdy.
Location: On west bank of Lake Kinneret, at the southern entrance to Tiberias
Contact information: www.gaibeachhotel.com, 04-670-0713
Days/ hours: Season starts after Passover and continues to the end of October. Open daily 9:30-5
Ticket price: NIS 70 for visitors age 3 and up. Entrance is free to guests of the Gai hotel.
For toddlers and small kids: large, shallow kiddie pool with four slides.
For big kids and adults: wave pool, five big slides of varying styles including one of the steepest in Israel, access to A sandy beach (the sand is brought in by the hotel), skiboarding, banana boats. Several acres of lawn area with generous distribution of umbrellas and chairs. The hotel has an additional swimming pool and sunbathing area for guests.
The Jewish Week notes: Hof Guy boasts a stunning view of Lake Kinneret, and has an orderly feeling even when crowded. n
The current exchange rate is about 4.2 shekels to the dollar.