Last week, I went to a parents-teachers meeting at my son’s high school and was reminded that this year, Israel is going to be celebrating its 70th birthday. This led me to thinking about how I can touch upon this theme in my trips so that once we reach the great day, you will share the cause for celebration. I think I came up with a great trip this week! As one of the earlier settlements in Israel, Rehovot, founded in 1890, has had its fair share of historic moments. Moreover, as home to one of the leading academic institutions in the world, there are many activities that you may find interesting. At least I hope you do and I hope you find it inspiring. Although, I spent one day visiting, if you've never been there you may easily wish to dedicate two.
Trip Itinerary Options:
The Weizmann Institute of Science – The Levinson Visitors Center, The Clore Garden of Science and the late First President Chaim Weizmann’s house.
The Ayalon Institute.
The Minkov Citrus Orchard Museum
Tnuva Rehovot Factory Tour (ONLY tours in Hebrew)
Bilu Center Outlet
The Weizmann Institute of Science, is a public university located in Rehovot, specializing in research of the natural and exact sciences. A visit to the Institute is particularly suitable for family members of all ages due to the range of available activities. The main three are the Levinson Visitors Center, The Clore Garden of Science and the late First President, Chaim Weizmann’s house. The visitors center is worth stopping by because it contains a short, free, multi-media exhibit on the nature of research being conducted at the institute. It is full of interactive features and lasers and will introduce you to some topics in the forefront of science. The Clore Garden of Science is perfect for children of all ages, even the children at heart, since the exhibits need to be handled and played with in order to learn about the natural phenomenon that they present. Last, but not least, I strongly recommend visiting the late First President, Chaim Weizmann’s house. The house itself is beautiful. It has undergone preservation and displays the original tasteful furniture, but more importantly, the film provides the background for understanding the First President’s contribution to the founding of the State of Israel. On the grounds you can see the presidential car, the grave and the garden. Look for the cork oak tree from which wine bottle corks are made.
It is worth mentioning that the campus in general is lovely. There are lawns with beautiful statues that can serve as peaceful rest areas and there are a number of dairy and meat cafeterias and restaurants on campus (e.g. Cafe Mada near the entrance) so you can literally spend the day there. My recommendation is to eat a light lunch and at the end of the day, go to one of the nice restaurants either at the ‘Weizmann Science Park’ nearby (a hi-tech, biotech industrial area) or at the nearby shopping outlet, ‘Bilu Center’.
In case you’ve been to the Weizmann Institute more than once and are looking for other options, the nearby Ayalon Institute is a historic gem. The institute is actually a bullet factory that was built in the middle of a Kibbutz and was kept secret not only from the British soldiers during the British Empire’s rule in Israel, but from some of the Kibbutz members themselves. The manufactured bullets, assisted the ‘Palmach’ fighters both prior to and during 'The Independence War'. The Ayalon Institute later became one of the first factories of the Israeli Military Industries (IMI / Ta'as in Hebrew). The visit includes a film and a tour of the factory and there are even some picnic tables outside so that you can take a comfortable break. The tour should be reserved in advance.
The Minkov Citrus Orchard Museum
Another location, especially suitable for children up to 12 and adjacent to The Weizmann Institute is a unique agricultural open-air museum. The exhibit tells the history of citrus growing in Israel, a branch of export till today through the story of a family of early settlers named Minkov and includes a film and a tour. Guided tours should be reserved in advance. I took the self-guided tour. In season, children are allowed to pick and squeeze oranges and there are additional activities for children year-round. By the way, on the road leading to the museum, also in season, there is a local fruit seller with a big stall of various citrus fruit all grown in the orchards nearby so even if you don’t visit the museum, you can stop over before going back to your hotel to pick up a fresh bag to take with you.
Tnuva Rehovot Factory Tour
Tours are in Hebrew alone so you will probably want to skip this, but just in case a few are interested, the factory tour for families is for ages 5 and above and is full of interactive activities for children.
Weizmann Science Park
The ‘Weizmann Science Park’ is the hub of Rehovot’s hi-tech and biotech companies. The restaurants that serve the employees at lunchtime stay open till late for entertainment after hours. You can find quite a variety. I’ve personally been to and recommend: Cezar Bistro & Bar (beautiful Bistro with large servings), Papardella (Italian), Hamburg (great Hamburgers), Black Rehovot (American, also great Hamburgers) and River Noodle Bar (Asian, excellent Pad Thai from before I went gluten free).
I actually tried out a new place this time. I found an Ethiopian restaurant in the city, but near the Weizmann Institute called Gojo, because I was looking for a gluten-free option and wanted to try a new cuisine. For me it was a perfect fit. I had one of their platters and it was authentic and delicious.
Bilu center is one of the largest outlets in Israel and is about a 20 min drive from The Weizmann Institute so it is a great place to conclude your visit. However, since it has such a large array of enticing shops, you may wish to plan for a couple of hours of shopping. The restaurants there are more fast-food and family style grill bars than international cuisine. I can recommend two that are just across the street (or two streets) from the enclosed stores: Nafis (Mediterranean) and Bilu Grill (previously call 'Avazi', which means goose because they have the best grilled goose-liver).
Since I came from the center of Israel, a 40 min drive, I started with the self-guided tour at the Minkov Citrus Orchard Museum at 9:00 because I had a reservation at the Ayalon Institute at 10:00. It's 5 min away, but you should leave at least 2 hours if kids are involved. The Ayalon Institute ended at about 11:15 and from there I went to the Weizmann House for another self-guided tour. It took about an hour and after that I walked a bit around campus taking photos. At about 13:00, I left for lunch and at 14:00 came back for my reserved tour at the visitors center. Following that display, I drove over to Bilu center for a last photo-shoot and drove home. Please note that I didn't visit the Clore Garden of Science and that should take at least 4 hrs if not more.
This is what it looks like on the map:
I hope you had a good time. Did you find this inspiring?
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