Roller coaster history

Developers plan Jewish theme park in desert town of Dimona

Pla’im Park — ‘Park of Wonders’ — is conceived as Israel’s first real theme park, with educational value to boot

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Israel — land of archaeological discoveries, natural wonders and state-of-the-art museums. But no true theme park. At least, not yet.

There are now plans to build a large park combining education and fun in Dimona, the southern town in the Negev desert better known for its nuclear reactor.

Pla’im Park (or “Park of Wonders”) is a project set up by a group of local business people guided by Rabbi Yosef Zvi Ramon, from the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut.

“It didn’t start with Dimona,” said Tony Thwaites, a real estate investor originally from England, now living in Israel, who has been working with Rimon on the project from the start. “Rav Rimon had the idea, because such a thing doesn’t exist.”

They’ve spent several years researching the idea, “talking to a whole heap of people” including theme park designers from Florida, said Thwaites.

The park, which would cost an estimated $300 million, is not geared to be a commercial, profitable venture.

Jacob’s Ladder, another ride at the planned Pla’im Park (Courtesy Pla’im Park)

“This is just about education,” said Thwaites. “Visitors to Israel see a lot of history and Jewish tragedy and this is explaining what being Jewish is about in an exciting and modern way.”

Project CEO Lea Malul told Walla news the park was envisioned as a Jewish “Magic Kingdom” — a reference to one of the four Disney World parks outside Orlando, Florida.

It is set to include 16 major rides. Plans include a water ride touching on the days of the week (with the Sabbath an island of tranquility in the hectic affair), a Jacob’s Ladder attraction and a roller coaster passing through gigantic tomes — representing Jews as the people of the book.

Dimona was the choice of the Israeli government, Thwaites said, although none of the government institutions approached by the planning group have committed any funds to the project just yet.

Thwaites is fairly sure that they will get the necessary funding, commenting that “there’s plenty of organizations with plenty of funds to do this.”

“Dimona connects nicely with the whole idea of building in the south and bringing infrastructure and jobs to Dimona,” said Thwaites. “You realize what it could bring in terms of jobs and hotels and it’s a real positive thing.”

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