This was easily one of my favorite days on my last trip to Israel. We were based out of Jerusalem and it was a very hot week so were looking for something to do for a day trip but keep cool. After quite a lot of Googling and speaking to friends who made aliyah I found Nahal HaKibbutzim in Beit Shean, a two hour drive from Yerushalayim. It’s “off the beaten path” even for Israelis but it’s closer by about an hour’s drive to the center/south of the country than many other water hikes which tend to be more north in the Galil or in the Golan. Afterwards, the quickest way back to Jerusalem is route 60 through Judea and Samaria which is a fun trip with Super Mario Brothers style mountains in the background.
Think of a water park with a lazy river … then think of a real one. It’s a real river with slow moving water, the depth varying from about two feet to about six feet. At times, I or the older kids were carrying the younger, but the best part are the tubes. Click for a video of the tubes – here’s the slow tube and here’s the fast tube. These are “real” water slides – concrete tubes under roadways the cross the path of the river. There are two of them, spaced apart and many people (let’s be honest, mostly the kids) climb up out of the water and go through the tubes again and again.
It was about 100 degrees outside the day we went (Celsius is inferior – we live in air which Fahrenheit does far better than Celsius which is designed around water temperature), but the water was great and we were very comfortable. The same goes for a swim in the Kinneret on a 104 degree day.
There is ostensibly “mixed” swimming but it’s a big river and easy to keep “separate” and because it’s a traditional area of the country, not all, but I’d say almost all of the women and girls were tznious (modestly dressed according to Jewish law).
One thing to mention – there are no signs. Use your GPS and find the sand parking lot. There’s also no mention of which side is the beginning and which is the end. We actually did the hike through the water “backwards” (upstream) which was fine … except the person we were meeting was doing it downstream. The start and finish are fairly close to each other.
This hike was awesome!