The infamous Israeli “big vacation” has arrived, when time seems to slow down and your kids may seem to be endlessly underfoot.
That’s exactly the right time to learn something new.
So we’ve collected a variety of learning activities, all of which can be done in one morning or afternoon — no long-term commitments here. It takes just a few hours to dive into another world.
Any of these would also work as an activity to share with visiting friends or relatives, and all are suitable for a variety of ages.
1) If you’re looking to rack up some good deeds, head to Pantry Packers for a morning of food bank work. Run by Colel Chabad, one of the oldest continuing charities in Israel, in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Welfare, the Jewish Distribution Committee and other charities, Pantry Packers assembles boxes of dried goods that are sent around the country to residents of all backgrounds and religious persuasions.
Volunteers can sign up online at the Pantry Packers website for an hour-and-a-half slot (mornings and afternoons; evenings are available for a NIS 1,800, about $500, donation), in which they’ll watch a short film about the organization, then don cap and apron for packing.
A group of four to six people (including kids) can handle a station, where they will place identifying stickers on a cellophane bag, fill it with the dried good of the day — yellow peas, rice, green Ethiopian coffee — seal it and place it in a box. (Our group packed two boxes of 80 bags in about 40 minutes, so the satisfaction rate is high.)
Pantry Packers, Moshe Baram Street in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
2) This spring witnessed an intensive war waged between residents and the government over the planned expulsion of African asylum workers, a population that has settled primarily in and around Tel Aviv. The city, in response, has tried various programs to help this needy population, which abandoned troubled homelands in Africa, experienced traumas during their journeys and arrived in Israel, where they’re living for now.
One of the programs created to help women asylum seekers is Kuchinate, which means to crochet in Tigrinya. It was founded by clinical psychologist Diddy Mymin Kahn and Sister Azezet Habtezghi Kidane, who wanted to offer therapeutic help to these women.
They also sought a way for the women to make some extra money, and focused on the artisanal baskets that many used back home. They tried a few different projects, and when they were given bags of leftover scraps of fabric, hit upon crocheting the strips of fabric into roomy, washable baskets of different sizes in bright, bold colors.
Visitors to Kuchinate, located in south Tel Aviv, can hear the story of the organization from several African women involved in the organization and take part in a workshop that’s suitable for parents and kids. Spend half an hour making a funky little keychain holder, or two hours learning how to crochet the thick, bright fabric into a Kobob 2 basket, hearing the women’s stories as you weave and taking part in a traditional Eritrean coffee ceremony.
See the Kuchinate website for more information and prices.
3) Heading north? We’ve got a few workshop stops for you. Start in Klil, a Western Galilee community where everyone’s off the electricity grid and families live in yurts and log homes, mud houses and the occasional standard dwelling. Several residents offer workshops, starting with Tamara Mualem, who specializes in natural cosmetics and herbal creams and oils, and can teach visitors how to make them, too.
Spend an hour and a half with Mualem in her home, where she introduces visitors to different herbs, dried and fresh, and guides each person in grinding, mixing and producing their own pot of herbal cream, geared toward whatever pains and aches you may have. During the winter, when dozens of herbs grow green and lush in the Western Galilee hills, Mualem also leads a short walk behind her home, picking herbs to use during the workshop.
4) Spend some time with Danny Kalderon, a Bezalel-trained ceramicist (whose father, Asher Kalderon, founded Bezalel’s ceramic arts program) who turned to glass after seeing the Swedish works of Kosta Boda during a New York City trip 30 years ago. He’s turned his passion for this art into an industry, working with Michelin-starred restaurants and five-star hotels that buy entire series of his customized, glazed plates and bowls that have the look of pottery, thanks to his method of overglazing clay powders on glass.
“We work in themes to dress the table,” said Kalderon, who offers a short introduction to his work in the comfortable gallery of the Kalderon factory in the industrial area of Kibbutz Hanita, also in the Western Galilee, and also gives workshops that are great for adults or family groups. After the workshop, nip next door for a taste of gin or whisky made at the Jullius Distillery, a boutique outfit that works with regional herbs and fruits for a unique line of spirits.)
Kalderon MD, Kibbutz Hanita.
5) We’ve written before about Buza, ice cream shops co-owned by Arab and Jewish partners Alaa Sweetat and Adam Ziv. You can visit one of their stores in Tel Aviv or Maalot-Tarshiha, or go for the full experience and head to Kibbutz Sasa, Ziv’s hometown, where the Buza flagship store and factory are located, and where anyone can take part in a tour — there are one-scoop and two-scoop tours — or a workshop.
Both the tours and workshops include a brief introduction and film about the coexistence elements of Buza. The workshops are best for kids and adults together, and appropriate for almost any age.
Participants learn three methods of making ice cream, and then make it. They also taste the fresh, creamy gelatos and sorbets, with lots of fresh fruits and nuts, that Buza is known for, drawing on the flavors and tastes of the region.
Buza is certified kosher, but is open on Shabbat. To book a tour, go to the Buza website.