Planning a Trip to Israel with Your Teen Grandchild

B-Mitzvah, Israel, Travel

Recent surveys reveal that 32% of Baby Boomer grandparents have traveled alone with their grandchildren and 61% are interested in doing so. Skip-gen travel (when grandparents travel alone with grandchildren — without a parent) can reinforce an already strong relationship with your grandchild and create wonderful new memories.

If you are thinking about taking a skip-gen trip to Israel — or planning a family trip to Israel where you are taking the lead — here are some tips to help you plan with your pre-teen or teen grandchild.

Create the itinerary together

Begin with a conversation about your grandchild’s interests. For example, do they enjoy outdoor adventures like hiking or water sports? Do they have a passion for history or archeology? Arts and crafts? Do they like meeting people, or would they prefer to be alone with you? Here are some suggestions based on the interests your grandchild expresses.

  1. Social action: If your grandchild would like to include a mitzvah project while in Israel, search online for Volunteer Opportunities in Israel. Pay attention to the age and time requirements. Short-term activities are available at organizations like Yad Sarah, Yad LaKashish , and PitchonLev

Click HERE for a list of important charitable organizations in Israel.

  1. Nature: If outdoor activities appeal to you and your grandchild, choose some of the trails Israel offers. Many sites and parks have paved paths that allow access for everyone. Visit the biblical gardens of Neot Kedumim. Or choose from the Most Breathtaking Natural Sights in Israel or Tripadvisor’s Nature & Wildlife Areas in Israel

Watch this video with a family-friendly hike in the hills of Jerusalem.

  1. Meeting Israelis: Your grandchild might like to meet and spend time with Israelis, including soldiers in the Israeli Defense Force. Research opportunities together, for example, home hospitality, Friends of the Israeli Defense Force, and Lone Soldiers. Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem is also a great way to meet locals.
  2. Arts: Arts workshops can be appealing to grandchildren who love using their hands creatively. The beautiful art colony Ein Hod has an array of workshops to choose from. On Tuesdays and Fridays, stroll through the Nachalat Binyamin Art Fair in Tel Aviv. You can take a pottery lesson from an Armenian man whose father designed the street signs in the Old City of Jerusalem; make baskets with a cooperative of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian women; or bake your own pita and shear sheep as they did in the period of the Mishnah. For more information about these experiences, contact
  3. History and Archaeology. The Shrine of the Book displays the Dead Sea Scrolls and is adjacent to a remarkable scale model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. Consider participating in an archaeological dig through Dig for a Day. Depending on the age of your grandchild, visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s museum of the Holocaust. Or explore other historical sites.  
Model of The Second Temple
  1. Food: Research places to eat in each city you plan to visit. Kosher, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free menus are available throughout the country. Be sure to visit Israel’s dynamic outdoor markets; Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem offers an array of interesting tours and cooking workshops. Try falafel, a favorite fast food, at one of the hundreds of small shops across the land.

Go behind the scenes to see how sufganiyot (jelly donuts) are made.

Plan for a B-Mitzvah service or celebration

If your trip is timed to celebrate your grandchild becoming a b-mitzvah, you can seek help in planning in any of the following ways:

  1. Contact your or your grandchild’s family’s synagogue and inquire if they are planning a family trip for this purpose.
  2. Contact your local UJA Federation and ask for assistance. Federations often work with tour companies to plan community missions, and they might provide referrals.
  3. Research tour companies online. Trip Advisor is a good place to start. Search for Bar/Bat Mitzvah tours.
  4. Research and plan the trip yourself. If you would like to hold a service or ceremony, search for a location that is significant to you and your grandchild. Israel has many meaningful spots to celebrate, such as the Western Wall (including an egalitarian section), the Haas Promenade with a spectacular view overlooking Jerusalem, the top of Masada, or a variety of restored ancient synagogues

Be realistic as you plan your trip

Take into account the age and physical abilities — and level of interest — of your familial travel companions as you plan the activities for each day. Here are some considerations:

  1. Be realistic in planning your daily schedule. If your grandchildren are young, consider starting some days early, and make sure to leave time for relaxing by the pool. If family members have disabilities, plan accordingly; for example, take the Masada cable car rather than hiking up the Snake Path, or have some family members ride and others walk.
  2. Take the right clothes. The general dress-code in Israel is casual and comfortable. Clothes to leave behind include heavy coats, suits, and fancy dresses. Some religious sites require modest clothing such as shirts with long sleeves. For more suggestions, visit How to Pack for a 10-day trip to Israel.
Yamakah Picture
  1. Record your memories. Here are some tips for taking photos that tell a story. And here’s how to write a travel diary and get a free printable travel journal for kids. You can also create a photo album by uploading your photos to Shutterfly, Artifact Uprising, or any number of photo book sites.

You can find other practical tips in this Israel travel blog.

Traveling with your grandchild to Israel can be the start of a lifelong connection to the land of our heritage and a trip they will always remember. Ashreinu mah tov chelkeinu, umah yafah yerushateinu — how good is our lot, how beautiful is our heritage.

Peter Abelow and Onnie Schiffmiller are the co-founders of Israel is Beautiful, a virtual touring platform that offers a library of almost 100 virtual tours of the sites and people of Israel. The website can be very helpful in planning an itinerary for your Israel adventure. Peter and Onnie are Israeli licensed tour guides who have organized many trips for visitors from abroad and who have guided multi-generation families across Israel for years.

Photographs by Terry Kaye