I am a freelance writer and an avid traveler. www.mihaelaschwartz.wordpress.com
Published January 6th 2013
Is it a Park? Is it a Country?
Bahai Gardens Miniature at Mini Israel
You want to see the Azrieli towers from above, but a helicopter tour seems too expensive. You would like to go to Eilat, but you are not in the mood to drive for 4 hours through the desert. The Bahai Gardens are an enchanted place to visit, but the climb up the hill is rather challenging. How about doing all this and much more in just a few hours? The answer is Mini Israel – a miniature park located half way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (about half an hour's drive from each city).
A group of private investors had the initiative of building this miniature park back in the 90s. A skillful team of Russian artists (new immigrants to Israel) helped them accomplish their dream. The result: an outdoors attraction stretching itself on 15 acres and welcoming visitors since November 2002.
A pleasant area for a stroll, Mini Israel is also a great destination for family or school trips. The park displays more than 350 miniature models of historic and modern Israeli landmarks, 70.000 miniature plants including olive trees, cypresses and palm trees as well as thousands of tiny people.
Bedouin tents at Mini Israel
When thinking about landmarks to include in such a park, holy places like Jerusalem's Wailing Wall and Dome of the Rock, Nazareth's Annunciation Basilica or Bethlehem's Nativity Church would seem a natural choice. The same goes for the Israeli Parliament or for Haifa's harbor. However, in Mini Israel you will find much more than this. Landmarks like Ben Gurion Airport, Tnuva Dairy Factory, Aegged bus stations, Bedouin tents and emblematic hotels in Eilat are all represented in the park.
Tnuva Factory at Mini Israel
All of the models are grouped according to geographical criteria within the limits of the star-shaped park. Besides adding another meaningful symbol to the landmark, the Star of David shape was a brilliant solution the park's designers found to several conception problems. First, the country's surface is stretched at length and this would have made the walk around the park quite uncomfortable. In addition, it provided a solution for the country's borders which are still subject of political disputes.
If you want to have your kids sample the whole country in one day and learn some valuable lessons at the same time, it's advisable you go to Mini Israel on Saturday. This being the only day of the week Israeli kids don't go to school, the park offers a series of thematic tours especially conceived for the young ones.
This tour is actually an interactive game aimed at teaching kids some basic notions of topography and geography in a funny and active way. Equipped with maps, they have to follow special trails around the park and to complete a puzzle. At the end, they are helped to make the connection between the park's and the country's map and concepts like mountain, water stream, lake, valley are reviewed in a playful manner.
Water and Light Tour
Windmills in Golan Heights at Mini Israel
In a country with a low amount of precipitations like Israel, water and energy sources are very important. This tour is aimed at making the young Israeli citizens aware of the country's limited water resources, and to instill durable changes in the area of domestic water and energy consumption habits. Thus, kids will learn about:
Mount Hermon - the highest mountain in Israel; the Golan Heights, where most of the country's energy plants and wind mills are located; the Sea of Galilee – the largest lake in the country and the most important source of potable water; Hula Lake and Hula National Park, a former swamp which is nowadays a protected area; the Negev Desert and the way their ancestors solved the water issue;
- Eilat and the sea water desalinization plants.
Holy Tombs Tour
Dome of the Rock at Mini Israel
In a country like Israel where religion plays an important role in people's daily lives a tour of the places where important figures of the Jewish belief rest for eternity is part of the education. This route includes miniatures of important rabbis' graves as well as Bethlehem, where Rachel's tomb is located.
In a nutshell, Mini Israel is much more than a simple miniature park or a means of touring the country in one day. It is a powerful message and a declaration of national pride.