A visit to a zoo in Israel is a great idea especially for families who want to make sure they include highlights that cater to their kids’ interests and give them a chance to let off steam. You can plan a stop at each of Israel’s major zoos, which you’ll find fits in well with the other attractions you’ll have on your list when you visit Haifa, the Tel Aviv area and Jerusalem.
In the heart of the mountaintop neighborhood of Merkaz Hacarmel in Haifa is the charming Gan Ha’em park, right across from the hotel strip overlooking the Haifa Bay, and home to the 7.5-acre Haifa Educational Zoo. A walk up and down its shaded paths introduces you to approximately 350 animals of 100 different species, and even reveals glimpses of Mediterranean seascape. You’ll find all your zoo favorites – monkeys, a tiger, lions and more, as well as rare species from Israel and around the world, including an impressive collection of snakes in the air-conditioned reptile house. The Zoolittle petting corner and the walk-through exhibit of water birds are special attractions.
Most Israelis know the Zoological Center of Tel Aviv by its popular name, the “Safari” – you’ll find out why as you drive or take the bus tour through its 250 acres. You won’t believe that bustling Tel Aviv is only minutes away as you spy some of the animals that make up this the largest displayed collection of animals in the Middle East: zebras and gazelles under the trees, hippos cooling off in the small lake, rhinoceri, giraffes, ostriches, and the Safari’s lion pride, to name a few. You can also get out and stretch your legs at the traditional zoo, located at the heart of the Safari where, among other things, the complex relationships among the primates occasionally make the front page in Israel!
Half-way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, is the Jewish National Fund’s Ben-Shemen Park, with picnic spots, playgrounds and hiking trails galore. It is also home to the Ben Shemen Monkey Park. Along the three-quarter-mile trail you can make the acquaintance of a variety of simians, from tiny squirrel monkeys to clawed marmosets, baboons, and gorillas. An active recreation area – for human visitors – includes a climbing wall, a rope bridge and play equipment.
While you’re in Jerusalem, a visit to the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens, better known as the Biblical Zoo, is a must. True to its name, signs with verses from Scripture stand by every display of a biblical beast, including along the wooden bridge overlooking the Bible Land Wildlife Preserve and the walk-through raptors exhibit. Other attractions include elephants, an Australian section and a flamingo pond. Visitors can get an overview of the zoo’s approximately 61 acres from the Zoo Train, and the Noah’s Ark visitor center is actually shaped like the vessel of the Bible’s first zookeeper. The Jerusalem Train Station is fairly close to the zoo; consider adding the interesting train ride to or from Tel Aviv to your experience.