The new miniature theme park, Mini Israel, which was built on the fields of Kibbutz Nahshon near Latrun, is considered the largest tourist initiative in the past decade in Israel.
It was built at an investment of $20 million and covers 60 dunams, and the footpaths create the shape of a Star of David, with each triangle devoted to different part of the country - Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, the Negev, the Upper and Lower Galilee, etc.
It was impossible to plan the park according to the borders of the country, since they are not defined, says Yoni Shapira, the deputy director of marketing and content for the park. In any case, there will apparently be enough debate about the buildings included in Mini Israel and those that were not: Why Rachel's Tomb and why the Church of the Nativity? And where are the Azrieli Towers? But before all the controversy, it should be pointed out that the park, when completed, will be beautiful.
To judge by the areas that have already been completed - for example, part of Jerusalem with the King David Hotel and the YMCA building opposite, surrounded by dwarf plants and little dolls - the place will be a delight.
The park, however, is not yet finished. The entrance looks like a building site, and even inside, most of the areas are far from ready. The directors of the park claim that it is common to open such a park during the stages of construction, and to have the public participate in the process of building it. There are 40 miniature parks all over the world, including Madurodam in Holland, Swissminiatur in Switzerland, Italia in Miniatura, et al. Mini Israel was built in cooperation with these parks and through an exchange of information with them, and in cooperation with Madurodam.
Because of the construction, the entrance fee to the park, which opened with Sukkot, will be discounted for the time being (NIS 25 for both adults and children.) Hol Hamoed [the intermediate days of the holiday], there will be activities for children, which will include creating a mosaic, planting miniature plants, riddles, juggling acts and clowns on stilts.
One can also watch the artists continuing to work on their models, and painting the many dolls, both the mobile and the stationary ones that will enliven the models, and to meet actors dressed as historical figures such as Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir.
The 200 existing models (there are supposed to be 350 in all) were constructed by 75 artists, 70 of whom are new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. The models are made of polyurethane rather than the wood commonly used abroad, and according to one of the artists, their ability to withstand the ravages of the weather and of visitors was checked. In many cases, the models enhance the places that have been miniaturized (at a scale of 1:25), by isolating them from their natural surroundings. Even Tel Aviv looks good.
Among the miniaturized sites are the strange house on Hayarkon Street in Tel Aviv, which defies ordinary building conventions and arouses a longing for them, the Pagoda House on Nahmani Street, Sotheby's on Rothschild Boulevard, and the Shalom Tower.
The Tel Aviv promenade is on the bank of a water source (a type of Mediterranean Sea); Haifa port and its ships are also near it. In Haifa they miniaturized the beautiful Bahai gardens and the cable car linking lower Haifa to the Carmel. In Jerusalem, one can see the Old City, the Al Aqsa Mosque, the Western Wall, and many historical buildings, as well as the Israel Museum and the Teddy Stadium, where a game is in progress, and the thousands of figures of spectators cheer and are disappointed together. There is the Old City of Safed and Rosh Hanikra, and in the south, the buildings of Masada look large compared to the mountain.
Of course, there are buildings whose choice arouses questions, and sometimes even opposition.
The army base called Bahad 1 has a place of honor, apparently because of the parades of dolls that will take place inside it, and the buildings and vehicles of the Egged bus cooperative, one of the sponsors of the park, are overly emphasized. Coca Cola, another sponsor, will also benefit from a miniaturization of its plant, with a moving conveyor belt.
In addition to the miniature park, there is a garden with installations for children, a restaurant, a cafe, a souvenir shop, an information center, and all these will be more pleasant and much less hot in the coming months.
Mini Israel, a park of miniatures in Latrun. Telephone: 08-9214121. Open every day from 10 A.M. to 8 P.M. Activities until 10 P.M., and on Fridays and holiday eves open until 6 P.M. Cost for an adult is NIS 45, and for a child ages 5-12, NIS 35. Until the construction of the park is completed, there is a uniform price for all ages: NIS 25.
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