New plans have been released for a $400 million “Jewish Disneyworld” on the theme of Jewish history and learning.
Park Pla-im, or the Park of Wonders, which will be located in Israel’s Negev desert, has been designed by two rabbis – Rabbi Yosef Zvi Ramon, from the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut, and Rabbi Eli Targine.
In promotional material Rabbi Targine has said his love of theme parks is rooted in childhood visits to his grandparents’ home in Orlando, Florida, where there is a Disneyworld amusement park.
It will feature rides including one called The People of the Book Rollercoaster, built around a giant edifice in the shape of leather-bound books, and The Shabbat Attraction, a Splash Mountain-inspired water ride which promises to “let the visitor experience the contrast between the craziness of modern life and the tranquillity of Shabbat”.
Lea Malul, the chief executive of the Park Pla-im project, said organisers hope to attract diaspora Jews, especially from the UK and US, as well as Israelis.
In one of its adverts, a voiceover says: “Experience the past and present with all the diaspora Jews, who were and are longing to come home to the Promised Land.”
The park, which will be near the town of Dimona, will be split into five “wards” - the World of Society, the World of Spirit, Oasis, the World of the Jewish Nation and the World of Time.
Orlando-based ITEC, which built the Disney and Six Flags theme parks, drew up the plans over two years, and now attention will turn to planning permission applications.
Ms Malul told the JC that her team aimed to open Park Pla-im in five years’ time.
Benny Biton, the mayor of Dimona, has publicly supported the project, indicating that it will be used to drive an economic regeneration.
Ms Malul said: “The Negev is traditionally always been industrial – very yellow and grey. This will be a game-changer, and will transform the area with colour.
“Jewish history is mostly sad – with the Holocaust and so on. But this will be a unique way for Jewish values and learning to become fun.
“There aren’t that many attractions for families and children at the moment, and I am sure there are many families who do not come to Israel because of this. We think this will change that.”