High above Kiryat Shemona, the Bekaa Valley to our left and the Golan Heights straight ahead, my wife and kids jumped from a cliff and sailed hundreds of feet on a zipline.
Waiting to leap were two young Orthodox men. The first pushed off, his payot flapping in the wind as he held on to his harness with one hand and his kippah with the other. After thinking for a moment, his friend stuffed his kippah in his pocket and jumped, both hands firmly on his harness.
Ziplining with the Orthodox. Digging for Maccabean relics with archaeologists. Off-roading on the Golan. We planned our family trip to Israel on the theory that our kids would learn more if they were happy and engaged than if they were bored and bedraggled.
Our strategy paid off. If you ask Jacob, 10, about the Lebanese border, he'll tell you about ziplining and tobogganing -- and about the Hezbollah flags he saw nearby. If you ask Mollie, 12, about the 1948 War of Independence, she'll tell you about her visit to the bullet factory hidden under a kibbutz laundry room.
Grown-ups have asked Mollie and Jacob about our trip and often get right to the point -- "Was Israel scary?" The fact that our kids can answer that Israel is a place of fun, not fear, while demonstrating an understanding of some of Israel's security dilemmas, gives us great satisfaction.
Our kids declared during our trip that while tiny Israel may look like "nothing" on a world map, "there's a whole lot of something inside."
It's important to take your kids to Israel. If the best route to American Jewish kids' hearts and minds is the fun route, then here are some adventures slightly off the beaten path you can pursue with your family:
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