Time to get wet: A guide to five pool options around Jerusalem

From pricey comfort to natural springs, there’s more than one way to go swimming in the holy city

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

Locals getting wet at Ein Lavan, a natural spring near the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)
Locals getting wet at Ein Lavan, a natural spring near the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

It’s hot out there, and with August here, cool options for surviving summer are hanging out in air conditioned spaces or taking a dip in a body of water.

But if you’re living in Jerusalem, the closest beach is a 40-minute drive away, so you’ve got to get a little creative, if spending time in the car isn’t an option.

We’ve listed five get-wet options in the Jerusalem area, most of them well-known to locals, but with some added information to help figure out where to take a dip, whether it’s on your own or with a crowd of kids.

1) For the full pool experience, try one of Jerusalem’s favorite swimming spots at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, located at the southern end of the city. This recently renovated pool complex now has three large pools, two of them indoors, one a spacious kiddie pool with slides and fountains.

The other indoor pool at Ramat Rachel’s recently renovated complex (Courtesy Kibbutz Ramat Rachel)

Now called Country Club Ramat Rachel, the country club moniker doesn’t mean there’s golfing or a clubhouse at this former farming cooperative. There is, however, a spacious expanse of grass around the pools, with plenty of room for people to spread out and spend the day.

The new kiddie pool at Kibbutz Ramat Rachel’s renovated country club complex (Courtesy Kibbutz Ramat Rachel)

There are also several snack bars, including a sit-down cafe, a 100-meter slide for older and more adventurous kids, tennis courts and a full gym. Prices aren’t cheap at NIS 65 per kid, and NIS 85 per adult. Be warned that adult prices start at age 10.

2) A less expensive option for southern Jerusalemites is the new, nearby Armon Hanatziv pool, opened earlier this year. This is a public, community pool formally known as the Kathryn and Alan Greenberg Sports and Recreation Center, offering discounted prices for residents of the neighborhood, as well as for families with kids in one of the Armon Hanatziv schools, or locals who attend courses and activities in the local community center.

The new community pool in Armon Hanatziv is indoors, but has a retractable roof and plenty of lawn space for hanging out before and after your swim (Courtesy Jerusalem Foundation)

It’s a complex that includes a large indoor pool with a retractable roof, a full gym upstairs, and a decent amount of outdoor space, including a simple, but well-stocked kiosk with cold drinks, ice cream and, importantly, beer. Customers are welcome to bring their own picnics, and it was noted that more than one group of kids had pizza delivered directly to the complex.

The lifeguards are always in place, which is helpful with the number of kids swimming around, as well as local teens occasionally getting rambunctious. The locker rooms are kept very clean.

The Armon Hanatziv pool prices are NIS 70 per kid and NIS 90 per adult, with adult prices beginning at age 16. Prices are halved for anyone receiving the local resident discount, which includes Jerusalemites with children who attend a neighborhood school, or anyone who pays for activities at the local community center.

The recently renovated YMCA gym offers a more adult swimming option, with quieter vibe and fewer kids (Courtesy YMCA)

3) If you’re seeking a more adult option for swimming, try the recently renovated pool at the downtown YMCA, which has a heated indoor pool with natural light. It’s a pool that tends to draw serious swimmers, which means fewer kids and non-swimmers clogging up the pool. There are swimming fitness classes and lessons for kids as well as a youth swim team.

One of the draws here is the mix of Jerusalemites who come to the Y from all over the city, creating a more multicultural experience than at other pools. There are also two saunas for aprés-swim, one for men and one for women, as well as a mixed jacuzzi.

(Check out the renovated pool at “One Night in Atlantis,” an upcoming Mekudeshet listening spectacle taking place at the pool on August 9.)

There’s a small cafe at the Y, serving mediocre sandwiches, snacks and drinks. An even better option is Cohen’s Deli across the street, where they serve up pricier, but far better sandwiches, layering local cheeses and fresh vegetables on half a baguette.

Pool prices are NIS 90 for adults and NIS 70 for kids under the age of 14.

The cheapest Jerusalem pool is in the Jerusalem Forest, with great prices and pools, but lacking easy access to public transportation (Courtesy Jerusalem Forest pool)

4) The cheapest pool deal in Jerusalem is the Jerusalem Forest Pool, part of the Zippori Guest House, nestled in the forest just below Yad Vashem and Har Herzl. You can’t beat the temperature out here, which is often significantly cooler than in other locations, thanks to the steady stream of shade nearly all day long.

There are two pools, a wet and dry sauna, and plenty of lawn for spreading out and spending the day, as well as some chaise lounges around the pool, but those get snatched up early in the day.

It’s accessible by public transport, but there’s still a long walk from the train stop. Prices are NIS 55 for adults and NIS 45 for kids. Be sure to call ahead at 02-675-3000 and check that the pool is open to the public (it is sometimes closed for camps or private groups).

5) Don’t feel like paying anything to take a dip? We’ve got some free options: Ein Lavan is a natural spring just past the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, accessible on foot if traveling by bus, by walking through the parking lots for the zoo and aquarium. It’s a lush oasis, with fig trees — in season in August — shading the icy cold water of the spring, which is popular with Jerusalemites of all ages. There’s always room for an extra person to jump in.

The water is cold, even icy at Shvil HaMaayanot, an easy, hour-long walk with two springs along the way (Courtesy Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel)

Another option is Shvil HaMa’ayanot in the late afternoon, a trail with several cold springs for easy dipping along its three-kilometer route, which sits between Hadassah Medical Center and Moshav Ein Sapir. These small pools of refreshing cold water are the perfect antidote to the slightly sweaty walk along the trail, and once you’ve dipped in, take your time to dry off and get hot once again before having another dip.

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