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Israel - Family trip. Help!!

My fellow Chowhounds.

I am finally taking my entire family on the big Israel trip. we will be there G-d willing around the Shavuot holiday for 3 weeks. I've been to Israel many many times and I know some of my favorite haunts, but this time I'm going with my kids (ages 9,8,6) and i need some better and current info.

We are planning on being for an extended period of time in Jerusalem (of course) and

Tzfas (Safed)

Tiberias,

and Tel Aviv area.

with side trips along the way (dead sea, masada)

and a 2 day trip to Eilat.

so...
I request accurate, up to date info on Glatt Mehadrin (only) places in the above cities. I think I'm covered for Jerusalem, or I'll look at previous posts, especially the ones about best breakfast places and Papagayo... i'm mainly concerned about Tzfas, Tveria, Tel Aviv and Eilat. but i'll take any thoughts you have to make the experience better.

Specifically re Eilat, are there any mehadrin hotels or restaurants?

We will be in Tzfas for Shabbat, besides Rimonim hotel, any other recommendations?

Is there a shabbat eatery (prepaid) in the old city if Jerusalem?

Also, if anyone can give me some ideas of something special to do with the kids, I'm looking for a unique Israeli Jewish experience (ie diaspora museum, camel rides etc.) I would greatly appreciate it.

I realize i'm asking a lot, but, who else can i turn to but all you hounds here, and hopefully I have earned your help.

In Addition, as we are coming into the Summer travel season, perhaps this can be of assistance to others that will be going.

My heartfelt thanks.

The Fresser

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  1. How old are your kids and have they been to Israel yet?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Pluckyduk8

      check e luna.com for up to date listings and they also give the kashrut level. Unless there has been a recent change, I dont think there is anything prepaid in J'lem other than hotels, which gets pricey with 5 of you. If you have a fridge, best bet would be to load up at Machane Yehuda.

    2. We were in Israel when our child was 5. She was an awesome traveller but the reality is that we ate a lot more pizza, falafel, and schnitzel than we would have had we been alone. Your experience may be similar.

      We were in Tzfat just before Shabbat so I can't tell you much there other than Shabbat in Tzfat is on my "things to do" list. We ended up having dinner with the inkeeper's family in a cavern-like pizzeria whose name I probably never knew. Breakfast was a quick run to bakery to pick up whatever looked good.

      In Tveria we randomly chose one of the fish restaurants by the lake. Aside from being a happy pescivore my child was entertained no end by the cats that roam freely in and out of the restaurants.

      The food - other than shopping regularly at Machane Yehudah and the Carmel market in Tel Aviv - was not really so much a highlight of the trip. Since it was a first trip for me and the Offspring (fourth for The Spouse) we chose to focus our sightseeing on the major tourist sites, ie. the Kotel, Israel Museum, Masada, the usual suspects. Because our child was so young we obviously skipped Yad Vashem. A big hit was the zoo in Jerusalem and the beach in Tel Aviv. And, as the kid was going through a fascination with the Bet Hamikdash at the time, we made repeated trips to the model of the menorah in the Cardo and spent quite a bit of time at the scaled-down reconstruction of the city at the Museum. Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel is something I hope my child will never forget. Since you'll be in Tel Aviv, Rechovot is quite close. The children's science museum at the Weizman Institute was a very successful stop. We couldn't make the tunnel tour in the Old City (book way in advance) but the kids might find that fun. We decided to put off on touring the military historical sites for another trip.

      Flexibility is the most important thing to remember when travelling with children. Frequent stops for drinks and rest, the occasional stop at a playground, and the willingness to eat just one more slice of so-so pizza will make the trip so much more enjoyable for everyone. Oh yes, and we all got a big kick out of eating at a kosher McDonald's. The Spouse still has the wrapper from the McKebab sandwich he ordered.

      1. I cant tell you all, how much I appreciate all your advice. Thanks

        1. Hi folks, please keep the suggestions food-related. Other types of activities such as cultural excursions and camel rides are off-topic for Chowhound. Thanks!

          1. We are also going on a family trip to Israel. Can anyone comment on the food at Kibbbutz Lavi, Kinor Classic Hotel / Tiverya or any other suggestions up north.
            Also, we are staying in an apartment in Rechavia, what would be the best places to shop for Shabbos take-out & groceries ( I remember that the Supersol there is kind of pricey.) Thank You.

            9 Replies
            1. re: bay1

              Tiverya - Pagoda, amazing amazing restaurant right on the water.
              Shabbat food in Rechavia - restaurant in Heichal Shlomo, Marvad Kesamim, sets up Friday morning selling wonderful HEIMISH takeout food. Also, go to Machane Yehuda for fantastic bourekas, etc.

              1. re: DebbyT

                Shabbat takeout in Rechavia: Mervad Haksamim moved and is now at 42 King George (across from Yeshurun Synagogue). I don't know that I would call their food "hemish" but it IS quite good and reasonable. They have a buffet style takeout every Friday starting at 9:30am. They usually have about 10 main courses, 2-3 soups, all kinds of fish, apps, etc. It is DEF worth stopping by. For more Eastern European (heimish) style food you can go to Heimish Essen located at 19 Keren Kayemet. They have takeout all week and start with shabbat takeout on Thursday night (till around 2am) and all day on Friday. The selection isn't as great as Marvad Haksamim but the food is really good. (Potato kugel rocks!) There are also places in Geulah / Meah Shearim but I am not familiar with them to give any advice. For groceries the shul (machana yehuda) would be your best bet, and yes, Supersol, while expensive, is also your only supermarket option unless you want to drive.

                Tel Aviv: what kind of cuisine are you looking for? Despite what many think there is tons of Kosher food in TA these days ranging from the simple shwarma joint to upscale establishments with an amazing view of Tel Aviv. Let me know what you want (and price range) and I will try and help.

                While all major hotels in Eilat ARE Kosher under the Rabanut of Eilat I don't believe any are mehadrin. I believe there is only one restaurant that is mehardrin - assuming it is still open. It was called "Halleluya" and was located on Yoram Road.

                1. re: globalman1

                  In the north, I also recommend Pagoda. Good chinese food in a pleasant atmosphere with a great view of the Sea of Galilee. Right next to Pagoda is Decks, an upscale meat restaurant with great grilled meats and an outdoor Argentinian-style setup cooking large cuts of meat on huge skewers at the edge of a flamepit. I am partial to their onion loaf appetizer and moulard duck breast entree. However, Decks is not cheap.
                  In my opinion the best restaurant in the north is Roberg at kibbutz Livnim, about 10 or 15 minutes north of Tiberias. A Tel Aviv chef is living out his dream of a gourmet restaurant in a rustic setting. It's staffed largely by his family members and has an open kitchen and a video screen to see the kitchen at work while you dine. The food is superb and his tasting menu is a great bargain. You get a large spread of appetizers and can order seconds of any appetizer that you want. You then get two soups before moving on to the main courses. As I recall you get about 6 different entrees with portion size scaled down appropriately. I have not been there for about a year, but at that time you got all this for about NIS 125 per person. (I think it's now about NIS 150.) The decor is rustic and the view is great.
                  Enjoy your trip!

                  1. re: lawmann

                    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/...

                    Most of the way down the page is a small discussion with Ilan Roberg. The restaurant sounded intriguing but this is NOT my idea of dining with a child. Dining with my child does not ever include parking her in front of a DVD or hiding her on another floor with a "baby sitter" or arts and crafts teacher. And it certainly does not include feeding her schnitzel and chips while I'm eating a 4 star meal.

                    See this thread for more on the kids' menu option.
                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6943...

                    I really hope the Ha'aretz article is not truly representative of Israelis' attitudes about eating with kids It's fairly depressing from Hound's point of view.

                    http://www.chef-ilanr.co.il/
                    It looks like the prix fixe is about 120-130 NIS and the full-on tasting menu including fish course, dessert, and a glass of wine is 320 NIS per couple. Still, not too bad a deal.

                    1. re: rockycat

                      Dining with kids is a very individual thing. Some kids are great in fine restaurants and are adventerous eaters. Others won't touch anything that's not shnitzel and chips and make an awful mess. When my kids were small we were lucky and they behaved well in restaurants and, to this day, they are adventerous eaters. Having said that, Roberg may not have the solution for you, but it may be a great alternative for others. If it's not suitable for the OP, who has small kids, it may be a good recommendation for Bay1, who doesn't mention kids. In general, Israel is a very kid-friendly country and small children can be found dining in most restaurants, but probably less in high end places. This probably parallels the experience in the U.S., doesn't it? One difference could be that, in Israel, people may not have the disposable income that so many enjoy in the U.S., so we may be happier to see low priced children's menus for picky eaters who don't have the capacity to clean their plates, even if they like the more sophisticated dishes on the menu.
                      In any event, there is great dining in the north of Israel and Roberg is one of the best examples. BTW, the family that operates Decks and the Pagoda have a large boat that goes out on the Sea of Galilee (at least for groups eating at Decks, I'm not sure if it's available to Pagoda customers). If you're travelling with kids, they'd probably love it, so it may pay to contact them and see how you can get on the short boat ride with your kids.

                      1. re: lawmann

                        Thank you, Lawmann. I am travelling with teenagers. Do you know if Decks and Pagoda is Glatt-Mehadrin.
                        If anyone has eaten at any other locals up North, including Kibbutzim, I would appreciate getting your feedback.

                        1. re: bay1

                          I don't believe they are Glatt-Mehadrin. Another suggestion is M'kom B'sejerah located on Moshav Ilaniya. It's not that close to Tiberias, but it is near the Golani Junction. However, I think it also is under Rabbanut supervision.
                          You might try checking the eLuna website. It's in English and gives information on many of the kosher restaurants throughout Israel, and you can print out a discount coupon which is a nice savings. They often get a bad rap because all their reviews are positive (I guess it's due to the arrangement with the restaurants and the discount coupon, but I am not well versed in the subject), but the reviews still contain useful information, including the type of kashrut supervision.
                          Enjoy your trip.

                2. re: DebbyT

                  Ditto on Heimish Essen on Keren Kayemet, and DON'T MISS OUT ON THEIR KISHKE! (Did I type that in ALL CAPS? Because I meant to.) Unless you're a veteran of exceptional kishke, you have never tasted anything like that, because no one makes anything like that anymore except Heimish Essen, and maybe some hidden places deep in Mea She'arim or Williamsburg, or even more hidden. But it has to be to be prepared the traditional way, i.e., simmered all night in the chulent. Bizarrely, I believe that they also sell it for takeout on Thursday nights and heat it up, if you wish, in the microwave - and it's a travesty, because it's just freshly-made at that point, which means it's totally not ready for eating. Maybe it was just that one time and an untrained employee, I don't know. In any case, if you have the chance, don't miss out.

                  All their food is good, but if you are health- and pocket-book conscious, you will have to grit your teeth and steel yourself for an other-worldly experience and tell yourself "I'm on vacation." It's yummy, but they have a generous hand with the fat and the carbs, and it's not particularly economical, either. All the traditional Jewish and Shabbat delicacies, old school style - kugel, tzimmes, schnitzel, flanken, soups of several flavors, cucumber salad, cole slaw, potato salad, kugels of several varieties (yummy, yummy, and yummy), chulent, gefilte and regular fish (salmon, carp), kishke, and on and on. And more modern Israeli foods, a bit lighter, in the salads - "salatim" - vein, also excellent. They also have challahs on Friday, but there's a bakery right next door as well.

                  Oh, everyone speaks English. This is true of Rehavia and that whole half of Jerusalem in general, really. I lived in the German Colony, and moved to Tel Aviv. I had movers come from Tel Aviv. They took a smoking break, hanging out on the street. When they came inside, they asked me "do any Israelis live around here?" Which pretty much sums up the status quo in Rehavia, Talbieh, the German Colony, Baka'a, and the surrounding neighborhoods. You have to listen really hard to hear Hebrew, and even the natives always understand and usually speak English perfectly.

                  BTW, Marvad Haksamim now has an outpost in the German Colony, at the corner of Emek Refaim and Rachel Imenu, IIRC.

                  For more shopping, Machane Yehuda is very much within walking distance from Rehavia, although young children might not find this an interesting expedition. It's just a few blocks walk, and a trolley-type bag-on-wheels to carry purchases can be bought for pretty cheap, so you don't have to shlep.

                  The shuk itself - Machane Yehuda - would probably be fun for kids, at least once - and it's full of fruit and vegetable stands, candy and nut stands, bakeries, pita, olives, etc.

                  1. re: falconress

                    Machane Yehudah was a great experience for our then 5-year-old. She had the greatest time marveling at carrots nearly the size of baseball bats and fresh lychees that cost the equivalent of 50 cents a pound. The selection of dried fruits and many different flavors of halavah made for a series of difficult but fun choices. This is a GREAT place for a young foodie-in-training. Oh, and don't miss Azura, the Iraqi restaurant tucked in the back of the shuk.

                    I'm not entirely sure I'd agree about Rechavia being walking distance from the shuk. We stayed on Derech Aza and did walk regularly to Machane Yehudah and the Old City and everywhere else, but I also now know the location of every bench along those routes. Other than on Shabbos, we took a taxi to the shuk. Those are long walks for little kids - manageable, but long.

              2. Last summer our family rented an apartment in Jerusalem for 10 days and used it as our base and then traveled around during the week, staying near Tiberias in a place that had log cabins but also cable tv and wireless computer service. We rented the apartment thru a rental service and it was definitely cheaper than staying in a hotel.
                I have stayed at Kibbutz Lavi for Shabbat and it is definitely nicer than the cabins and we didn't have to worry about food.

                1. I was in Israel for 6 weeks this past summer with my kids. Shipudey HaMoshava in Rosh Pina on the road to Tzfat is mehadrin, the food is fresh, and the portions are huge. Pagoda in Teveria is a good suggestion for "atmosphere." The restaurant's patio extends over the Kinneret and you can watch the party boats go by in the evening.
                  Once upon a time the Dan and the Ambassador hotels in Eilat were mehadrin. You might want to check to see if they still are. When I was in Eilat a few years ago, the Rabbanut hotels were able to provide glatt meat upon request.
                  For Jerusalem, make sure you check out www.funinjerusalem.com for food and fun ideas (Beit Guvrin and City of David are a must). Also, check out www.parks.org.il for their Green Card savings ticket. Will save you big $s.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mamaleh

                    Sorry, I just checked. Pagoda is Rabbanut.