The inside guide to days out in Israel this Pesach

Oscar Marvin offers you a VIP pass to seasonal sightseeing


At Passover, Israelis pack their car boots or their backpacks and head out to green open spaces, theme parks, museums, exhibitions and shipping areas. How can you get in on the act?

Buy an Israeli newspaper

It often passes tourists by, but on Passover Israelis are getting something for nothing. For as long as most can remember, they have been invited to all sorts of places, from zoos to galleries, without needing to pay a penny - thanks to sponsorship by Bank Hapoalim. Highlights of the freebie list last year included the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Ramat Gan Museum of Israeli Art, and Jerusalem's Bible Lands Museum. The list is advertised in Israeli media, including English-language newspapers.

Try archaeology

Passover is all about connecting with our past, so why not go to an archaeological site?Tzipori, in the Galilee, is said to be the place where the Mishnah was compiled.

"I recommend wandering around and seeing the mosaics of the ancient synagogue and walking up to see what is believed by some to be the mansion of the chief editor of the Mishnah Yehuda Hanassi," says Geoff Winston, tour guide and programmes director at Keshet - The Centre for Educational Tourism in Israel.

Look out in Tzipori for the so-called Mona Lisa of Galilee, an ancient mosaic formed from hundreds of small stones in dozens of natural shades, depicting a woman with an enigmatic smile, whose gaze seems to follow you.

Pay homage to the Olympics

Mr Winston recommends one of the country's lesser-known exhibitions - The Olympic Experience - which employs some of the most innovative and high-tech museum curation around.

The first showcase some of the greatest Olympic moments of all time, it is comprised of five sections or "rings".

The historical section gives you the lowdown on the games, ancient and modern; the section on the future tells you about the next games and the "experience" section tests your physical endurance.

There is, of course, some coverage of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics of 1972 but this tragedy does not overtake the exhibit as a whole.

The Olympic Experience is at the Tel Aviv National Sport Centre. English-language tours are available.

Witness religious drama

At the Western Wall, on one of the Passover mornings, hundreds of cohanim (priests) bless a massive congregation, commemorating the blessing ritual that took place in the days of the Jerusalem temple. At the moment of the blessing, the entire area close to the wall changes from grey and black to white, as the cohanim, all together, cover their heads with their prayer shawls. They chant the biblical priestly blessing in unison and the atmosphere is intense.

In recent years, more than 50,000 people attended. The mass blessing normally takes place on the third day of Passover, which this year will be April 25, but the date can change, so check the local media when you arrive.

Trendy shopping

Want to check out the Israeli shops but without losing that holiday feeling? Instead of visiting a nondescript mall, go to one of the country's trendiest shopping areas. If you are in Jerusalem, make your way to the First Station, the renovated historic train station that is now home to shops and cafés or, in Tel Aviv, go to Sarona, the former Templar area that has been renovated to serve a similar purpose.

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