“JUMP! Just jump!” I could hear Sarah, my 12-year-old daughter, pleading. My feet were dangling in the air and my body was squeezed into a manhole-sized opening in a dirt floor, with only a flickering candle illuminating the darkness. I grappled around and held my breath before dropping to the ground.
Up ahead, Sarah’s two older brothers were scrambling through a cloud of dust into a hollowed-out chamber dug 2,300 years ago. We were in the remains of Maresha, about 50 miles south of Tel Aviv. Its residents excavated caves to produce limestone for construction, and then created an intricate network of tunnels to connect the caves so they could be used as workshops, storage chambers and reservoirs.
Covered with chalky sediment, we climbed up a rickety wooden staircase and emerged into daylight. Our tour guide had warned that caving wasn’t for the claustrophobic, so the children’s grandmother had remained above ground. “How was it down there?” she asked. “Like ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ ” responded 14-year-old Charlie. “No, more like ‘The Temple of Doom,’ ” argued 16-year-old David.
My husband and I shook off the dust and smiled. This was what we hoped for when we booked the trip. Our goal was to learn as much as possible about Israel’s history in 10 days without spending too many precious vacation hours inside museums, temples or churches. We wanted our children’s holiday to have a whiff of adventure. If the caves of Maresha reminded them of Indiana Jones, we were on the right track.
Teenagers thrive on action and intrigue, and Israel fits the bill. The entire country is kid-friendly — lively and colorful, laid back and casual. Outside of some ultra-Orthodox areas, no rigid rules or dress codes apply; you can wear jeans and T-shirts just about anywhere. You can go caving and then show up at a nice cafe for lunch without changing clothes, and nobody cares.
Israel is a young country that has been dogged by regional conflict from its very beginnings. Whether you’re touring ancient archaeological sites or modern military monuments, some discussion of Middle Eastern strife inevitably crops up. Every Israeli — from gun-toting soldiers we met on top of the Golan Heights to tent-dwelling nomads we met in the Judean Desert — has an opinion on the contention, and few refrain from expressing their thoughts.
lees de rest van het verhaal op de website van de New York Times…