Thursday, September 26, 2002


The model of ancient Jerusalem at the Holyland Hotel has been a popular tourist attraction for as many years as I can remember. I suppose it was inevitable that someone would eventually take the idea one step further. And so we now have Mini-Israel.

Mini-Israel is anything but. It covers several hillsides and is filled with scale models (1:25) of famous sites from all over the country. Criss-crossing the attracion in a Star of David pattern, we started in mini-Haifa, walked past mini-Akko, hiked to the mini-Galilee with a snowy mini-Hermon on a more distant hill, peered into an as-yet-waterless mini-Sea of Galilee, before heading towards mini-Jerusalem.

There was the Dome of the Rock, looking as big as life (though not quite). On the other side lay the Western Wall, filled with tiny worshipers evenly divided between Haredi, modern Orthodox and the awkward tourist variety complete with cardboard kippa. Interspersed throughout the site were workshops where the Mini-Israel staff were hard at work painting more and more miniature people.

We traipsed into the desert towards mini-Eilat, and back up to mini-Tel Aviv, cruising down Dizingoff, looking up at the Shalom Tower (impressively high even in miniature), wondering where the Azrieli Center was, before finally strolling on the Tel Aviv beachwalk and commenting that we were looking at exactly where we had gone swimming just the night before.

Mini-Israel just opened this week and it’s not done yet. There will eventually be lots of movement: trains & cars zipping back and forth on the mini-Ayalon, rhythmic shuckling up and down while praying at the Kotel, and an electrified Teddy Stadium with spectators cheering in unison (do Israelis do The Wave?). The Dead and Red Seas are still lifeless, though the mini-Mediterranean is wet and wild at least in the vicinity of mini-Caesarea.

If this were a hi-tech company, they'd spin all this as a "feature," not a bug. You get to see a work in progress, enjoy a 40% discount on entrance fees, and you are left with a strong incentive to come back. After all, you really can’t enjoy the mini-Bahai Gardens without, well, the mini-gardens!

The park is located near Latrun: get off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, head towards the Latrun museum area and keep going straight until you see the tiny buildings and tiny people. Call 08-9214121 if you get lost.

Haaretz had this write-up in Tuesday's paper.

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