From schnitzel at every meal to strangers coaxing full sentences out of your teens, Israel is the ultimate place for family travel.
Embarking on a family holiday can be one of two things – an occasion that will go down in collective memory as a wonderful experience, or one that will leave you forever scarred and determined not to take the kids anywhere until they’re 21.
We are here to convince you that a visit to Israel, AKA the most kid-friendly place on the planet, will likely result in the first option, even if your children decide to spend your whole vacation behaving, well, like children.
Not so sure? Read on.
1. Tantrums are tolerated
If you were vacationing in a very polite place, say Japan, we’d understand your absolute mortification should your child throw a tantrum in the middle of the street. But in a country that’s already so very loud, do you honestly think we mind another scream or two?
The decibels rising out of your child will scare no one, and neither will the sight of them throwing themselves at the ground in misery. If anything, you’ll get a “been-there, suffered-that” kind look from passers-by, and at least one offer of a snack or a drink.
2. Kids are expected to be seen AND heard
Unlike other places (hello, Europe), kids here are expected to be both seen and heard. As a nation physically incapable of silence, we don’t expect our children to keep their mouths shut either. Their opinions, stories and whatever they want to say are all valued, and their conversation is welcome during dinner, at the doctor’s or anywhere else important. Because they are important.
3. Children are acceptable everywhere
Remember that viral video where someone being interviewed on TV tried to pretend his kid wasn’t barging into his office, followed by a horrified nanny? Well, in Israel it wouldn’t have happened, because the said kid would have immediately been scooped up and presented to the world to see. This is because there is literally nowhere in Israel where kids are unaccepted: weddings, parliament, conferences, whatever.
Just recently, for example, my daughter, who was home sick from kindergarten, casually joined ISRAEL21c’s weekly editorial meeting. Not only did no one blink, but everyone said hello, was duly impressed by her cuteness and then carried on like nothing had happened – because truly, nothing did.
4. It’s still cool to play outside
One of the most annoying things about taking kids on vacation is that you spend all that time, money and effort to transport them somewhere cool, only for them to be glued to their screens. Luckily, in Israel, it’s still cool for kids to play outside, and plenty places to do it.
Playgrounds and parks are brimming with children and sidewalk benches regularly groan under kids devouring ice cream. We’re not saying our kids aren’t watching too much TV, but real-life interactions are still very much a thing.
5. We haven’t met a kid who doesn’t like schnitzel
A big concern for parents going on vacation with their kids is what their picky eaters will deign to put into their mouths. Well, rest assured that you’re covered here, for we have yet to meet a child who does not like schnitzel. Luckily for you, chicken schnitzel (and often its plant-based lookalike) features in almost every restaurant, café and food joint in the country, and almost always comes with ketchup.
6. There are lots of other kids here
Israel is a notoriously young country – in fact, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, over 3 million children live here, or 32.2 percent of the population. This means that your kids will likely find local playmates wherever they go, leaving you with some time for a much-needed R&R all on your own, if only for an hour.
7. Everyone who’s not a kid was recently one and/or is related to one
Following up on the previous point, there are lots of young people in Israel in general. And the ones that aren’t are probably the devoted aunt/uncle/grandparent or parent of one, meaning that they all like kids, know how to make them feel important and what kind of delicious bribe they’d warm up to. This means that you can expect your kids to be warmly welcomed and understood here, and that Israel will likely be remembered by them to be a lovely place.
8. Your teenager will have to communicate with the world
Most of this list is devoted to young kids, but we aren’t ignoring the horrific experience otherwise known as traveling with sulky teens who look at you with disdain at every opportunity and believe monosyllables to be a perfectly reasonable form of communication. Unfortunately for them, silence here is viewed as unnatural, not to mention a challenge. This means that everyone, from your taxi driver or waiter to local hosts, will take great delight in successfully getting a full sentence out of your adolescent while shrugging off the death stares that will no doubt accompany the verbal exchange, all while giving you knowing winks.
9. There’s the beach, and lots of pools, in which to exhaust your kids
Your vacation in Israel is also meant to be vacation for you, no? Then do as Israeli parents and make sure to tire your kids out as much as possible in the water to guarantee an early night for them and a cocktail night for you – for it is common knowledge over here that every minute spent in a chlorine-laden pool brings bedtime so much nearer.
10. There’s plenty of family love to go around
A few months ago, my daughters received woolly hats knitted for them by my husband’s grandma’s neighbor in her assisted living home. Do I or my husband know this woman? Not in the slightest. Does my husband’s grandma know her? Very vaguely. Did anyone find this situation a tiny bit strange? Not at all. As this lovely elderly lady proved, love and familiarity in Israel often expand beyond the regular familial framework. Chances are, you and your children will experience it here too.