With the end of school in May, my schedule has become extremely flexible. During the time my brother and his family were here, it was even more flexible since the people I babysit for happened to take a trip to visit their family in Switzerland for exactly the same days that my brother and his family were here. Although Adam had to work, I was able to accompany my family on additional activities, which I did.
The day following the Guide Dog Center, I went with them back to Rehovot to visit the Clore Science Garden, which is on the campus of the Weizmann Institute of Science. At first glance it seems like your typically kid-friendly science museum with hands-on exhibits to teach various scientific principles. What sets the Clore Science Garden apart from other science museums is the fact that it is a garden. All the exhibits are outside! This characteristic feature makes the experience here unique and allows the exhibits to utilize solar power, which is awesome from a science teacher’s perspective.
We arrived at the Garden just about when they opened. We were one of the only private groups; the other groups who came were classes of young girls from local schools. They were a bit rambunctious, but each set had a tour guide which kept them more or less under control. We got started with the exhibits before they did which allowed us to separate ourselves from them, so we could really explore what interested the kids. As we went exhibit to exhibit, I could feel my inner teacher coming out. It was an immediate response to the science all around me; at the first exhibit we explore, which was the wave tank, I was explaining to my niece and nephew how waves form and while the foam blocks that they put in the water didn’t move exactly as they expected. They were somewhat interested in the explanation, but more so into the touching of the exhibits, so over time I kept my teacher thoughts to myself unless I was asked. The kids ran from exhibit to exhibit, participating in the awesomeness of Physics, which was the basis for most of the exhibits. There was an Ecosphere that we went into that had all sorts of plants, algae, and fish. It was nice to walk around and see the biology, although we left rather quickly because a discussion was starting for one of the groups, and we didn’t want to disturb them.
A few of the exhibits were only for kids 10 and over, so those weren’t an option. The solar furnace required a tour guide, which was a little discouraging at first since we didn’t have one. Luckily, at the time when we were interested in seeing how it works, a group came over. The tour guide spoke in Hebrew, but with hand gestures, my knowledge of science, and my knowledge of basic Hebrew words such as up, down, left, and right, I was able to understand what he was talking about. For those who are interested, the solar furnace is essentially a large, converging mirror, that concentrates the sun’s light at a point. Since the sun’s light is so intense, when a piece of wood is placed at the point of intersection, it immediately catches on fire. Even though I knew what was going to happen, it still wowed me! Science is awesome!
After 2 or 3 hours, we had seen almost all the exhibits. The kids got to play music on rocks, build an arc bridge out of foam blocks that was strong enough to hold them, make a rainbow, and many other cool activities. It was a hot day so we had to rest in the shade every so often. At one point while we were resting, one of the tour guides was doing a demonstration so we watched along with his group of girls. He made a water rocket. It was much more difficult to understand the demo in Hebrew this time, but when the first bottle didn’t go off as it was supposed to, I recognized a standard teaching strategy where you build up suspense, not have it work, and then explain what is missing so that it will. I couldn’t help smiling; I do that all the time. The second time, the rocket worked beautifully; the bottle shot really high into the air. The third time he launched it, he had the girls surround the rocket launcher so that when the bottle was released, they would get sprayed with water. It was definitely a moment that highlighted the difference between American and Israeli culture. As a teacher back in the US, I would never have my kids come that close to a demonstration unless they were wearing protective goggles and/or they signed a permission slip. You have to cover your basis because you don’t want to get sued. Here, they just brought them right up without hesitation, trusting that things work as they should. As the bottle launched, the girls squealed with delight before racing to get the bottle. It was nice to see them enjoy science up close.
After we visited all the exhibits we wanted, which was amazingly almost all of them, we found a quiet spot to have some lunch. It was already close to 1:30 at this time, so it was definitely time to eat. After we finished, we made our way back to Jerusalem. I went home to rest for a short bit and catch up with Adam, who was working from home. Then I met my family again to take the bus to Ben Yehuda, which is known for its shopping. It is not like the shuk that Adam talked about in a previous blog post (my brother and his family visited the shuk early on in their trip; my nephew found it very overwhelming). Ben Yehuda has a lot of stores that are designed for tourists. There are a lot of Judaica shops and shops that have little trinkets that you may not need but are fun to buy because they are from Israel. At this time of year, these shops tend to have special sales for Birthright groups. My parents had given the kids some shekalim to buy themselves something nice, so they were excited to go store to store to find something that they wanted. It was an overwhelming experience for the adults since neither kid really knew what they wanted. A couple of times they latched onto things that weren’t anything special, so we tried to convince them to get something more “Israel” so that it would help them remember the trip in the future. After lots of searching, my nephew used all his money to purchase a mini-Torah and a magnet. My niece was much more careful with her money. She purchased a small Hamsa, which is a common symbol seen here in Israel. It looks like a hand with two thumbs in my opinion. It is supposed to be good luck since it wards off the “evil eye.” The one that my niece picked out was very nice, and she planned to hang it in her room when she got home. She didn’t use all her money for this purchase so she wanted to shop a bit more, but it was getting late so we decided to have dinner instead.
There are a lot of restaurants on Ben Yehuda to choose from, but my sister-in-law wanted to have something American that you can only eat in Israel since it isn’t kosher back home. Growing up, neither my family nor hers were strictly kosher outside the house (meaning we would eat in restaurants that weren’t kosher). Therefore, we aren’t strangers to food like McDonalds or Pizza Hut, although it has been a VERY long time since we have eaten in places like this since we have decided to be more strictly kosher. That is what makes these restaurants such a novelty to American Jews who come to Israel. It turns out that not all McDonalds in Israel are kosher, and much to my family’s disappointment, the one on Ben Yehuda is not kosher, so we couldn’t eat there. I’m not going to lie; I wasn’t disappointment. My studies of the fast food industry during my masters program have lead me to avoid such food chains, kosher or not. Once we verified that McDonalds was a no-go, we walked across the street the Pizza Hut. We didn’t have to wait too long for our order, and to be honest, it is as good as I remember. Don’t get me wrong, there is far better pizza out there than Pizza Hut pizza, but it really is pretty good. We devoured a lot of what we ordered and the left overs went home with my brother and his family so the kids could have it for dinner the follow night. My brother and sister-in-law planned to go out for dinner, and I was babysitting. The kids were excited to have Pizza Hut again!
It was a wonderful day filled with engaging activities and good company! Being together with my family for so much time at once was such a treat!
Until next time…