“Although there is no place in Israel that I would rather live in than Jerusalem, one of my favorite places to visit is Gan Hashelosha and its vicinity.
In the 1990s, Kibbutz “Nir David” decided that the best way to stay afloat financially, without relying solely on agriculture, would be to set up a tourist attraction. Member Yehuda Gat wanted to create a Winnie-the-Pooh park, but the kibbutz decided that it wouldn’t attract enough visitors. Inspired by the characters Kanga and Roo, Gat, who had an Academic degree in animal husbandry, studied Kangaroos. Then, he went to Australia to take courses in caring for them. In 1996, “Nir David” opened “Gan-Garoo Park” with donations of 18 Kangaroos from Australian Zoos. Today, that number has grown to more than 60. Unlike others Zoos, Gan-Garoo’s Kangaroos roam freely in an enclosure where visitors can pet and feed them, and toung ones will be popping their heads out of their mothers’ pouches.
This popular 4-acre Australian wildlife Park gets roughly 100,000 visitors a year. Animals include a Kookaburra, two Koalas, Wallabies, Wallaroos, Cockatoos, Galah parrots, black Swans, Emus, and Cassowaries.
A separate enclosure contains flying Foxes, typically hanging upside down, sometimes with babies wrapped inside their “wings.” A new Aviary houses 50 stunning, rainbow-colored Lorikeets. Visitors can feed them with apple pieces on skewers. The birds are happy to perch on visitors’ shoulder or hands, while eating. There is also a petting area where Goats and Sheep can be groomed and petted.
Before leaving, try to find your way out of the fun maze. Allcate an hour for a visit here.
Telephone: +972-4-648-8060. Hours: Sun.-Thurs. 9am-4pm, Fri. 9am-3pm, Sat. 9am-5pm; July and Aug., Sun.-Thurs. until 8pm, Fri. to 4pm, Sat. 9am-5pm. Call ahead to confirm opening and closing times. For more information, seewww.nirtours.co.il.
Next door is “Gan-Hashelosha”, a stunning Oasis with palm trees and grassy slopes framing three freshwater pools fed by the Amal stream. The water is 82 degrees F. year-round. The main pools are deep and long, wonderful for swimming laps or for reclining on a plastic raft. The third pool at the far has small waterfalls, and a defunct flour mill, with shallow areas that are great for wading. What a wonderful place to cool off on a hot day! Israelis also love to picnic and barbecue here. Bring goggles if you want to see the thousands of small fish underwater……
Telephone: +972-4-658-1017. Hours: Apr.-Sept., Sat.-Thurs. 8am-5pm, Fri. and Jewish holiday eves 8am-4pm; Oct.-Mar., Sat.-Thurs. 8am-4pm, Fri. and Jewish holiday eves 8am-3pm.
If you enjoy history, a Wall and Watchtower settlement has been reconstructed nearby. There were more than 50 such structures in pre-State Israel, erected with prefab walls overnight so that the pioneers couldn’t be attacked by Arabs while constructing living quarters. You can see how the pioneers lived in the 1930s, how they farmed and defended their settlement from Arab attacks, and even try on their clothes!
If you like archaeology, follow the footpath to the Museum of Regional and Mediterranean Archaeology. They have a stunning Etruscan art exhibit, as well as archaeological finds from the region. Entrance to the Wall and Watchtower and this museum are free with entrance to Gan Hashelosha. Open 10am-2pm Sunday through Thursday.
All you need to do is drive from Jerusalem on Road 90, turn west on Road 669 -until you see signs for “Gan-Garoo” and “Gan-Hashelosha”.
The areas on the way there, as well as nearby- Beit-Shean, Mount Gilboa, Tel Jezreel, Beit-Alpha and Megiddo- are rich in history which a tour-guide can tell all about.”
This article has been brought to you by Lisa Aiken, author of The Family Guide to Touring Israel, and licensed Israeli tour guide. She can be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org