If you travel to Israel and have time to see more than the usual sites, or if you want to see a typical residential area, go straight to Raanana and Hertzalia in the Sharon Valley. These are not tourist cities in any way, but they certainly make a change from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Raanana was founded by Jews from New York and has a large Anglo population. It’s a city which has retained the feel of it’s agricultural beginnings. The streets are tree lined, and you only have to drive or walk for about 5 minutes out of the city and you’ll be in fields. It’s not a city for night life, but more for families, both religious and secular. The main attractions for visitors are the Mall, which is relatively new and offers bowling, movies, gymbori and cafes, and the other attraction is the Park.
Although there are other beautiful parks in Israel this is my favorite, the reason being that you can never get bored here and it’s over flowing with large trees, and in such a dry country this is a blessing. From the entrance you have a huge wooden frame for climbing which surrounds a skating area, and then a long tree lined path through open green spaces.
Along this park you pass a mini-zoo, roller-blade area, basket ball courts and football fields and then you come to “park chuverim”. Park Chuverim, is a children’s playground but is fully accessible to handicapped children as well. Both physically challenged and regular kids play together here. Through out the walk down the central path of the park there are pieces of art, large sculptures and interesting objects.
A little further on and you reach the lake. It is not exactly a lake in terms of its size, but you can see swans and ducks swimming around, as well as a gondola offering romantic rides. On the shore of this lake is a restaurant, with outdoor seating, the perfect way to relax after sightseeing and shopping in the country’s tourist areas. Further on from the lake there is a large amphitheatre which hosts many Israeli and international stars. On your return to the park exit take a different route through the garden of the essential seven Israeli plants, which includes olive trees, wheat, barley, grapes, date palm trees, figs, haddas and various herbs and spices.
I mention Hertzalia together with Raanana as they are so close together and you can visit both in the same day. Hertzalia spreads over a large area and eventually reaches some of the nicest beaches in Israel, so a trip to this area can also end with ice-cream and a sun-set on the beach.
Where: Raanana, Sharon Valley, Israel. About 30 minutes north of Tel Aviv.
Getting there: Regular buses from Tel Aviv(No.47) or Jerusalem central bus station. Make sure the bus is going to the Park end of town, you need the Lowenstein (a hospital next to the park) bus stop, not the Raanana central bus stop which is at the other end of town.
When: All year round from 08:30 – late evening +/-22:00
Web sites: www.raanana.muni.il
Also note that any of you that ar into Geocaching can find a geocache in the park!