If you happen to be spending the day in Tel Aviv with a bit of time to spare and are in the market for something kid-friendly to do, the Essence of Life interactive visitor center is worth considering – especially if your little ones could use some down time.
- Israel with Kids / Mini Israel
- Israel with Kids / Coca-Cola Visitors’ Center
- Israel with Kids / The Israeli Museum at the Yitzhak Rabin Center
- Israel with Kids/ Ein Gedi
- Israel with Kids / Ice-skating in Tel Aviv
Just for the sake of background, Essence of Life is a philanthropic organization created by Shari Arison, one of the richest women in the world and certainly the richest in Israel, to promote her philosophy of achieving inner peace. As the sign that greets visitors at the entrance to the visitor center notes: “Peace between people, nations and cultures can be achieved only after each and everyone will reach personal inner peace.”
If this New Age sort of stuff is not your cup of tea (and you’re already rolling your eyes) or if you object in principle to having millionaires use their riches to wield their influence (good or bad) on the vulnerable young minds of your children, then this might not be the place for you. Just so you know, though, there’s little, if anything, that most people will find objectionable in the message here. In fact, it’s pretty obvious stuff, like the importance of being respectful to others, making good choices and working to achieve your dreams. And truth be told, even if there were something controversial in the message, there’s a good chance it would be lost on the 4 to 10 year olds this place primarily targets.
Perhaps the best incentive to go is that you and your kids are guaranteed to feel calmer after spending some time in this place – nothing to scoff at in light of recent events that have put many of us on edge. Whether it’s the toned-down lighting, the soothing voice of the guide or the lovely scent that permeates the air, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a spa.
The guided tour, which is required, takes about 75 minutes and includes a number of different stations, with all the explanations provided in three languages: Hebrew, English and Arabic. You can skip over the videos of Arison explaining her philosophy and all the accompanying materials and get straight to the fun stuff for the kids. That includes a station where they can “reinvent” themselves physically, using all sorts of high-tech effects as well as an electronic drawing board, which allows them to make super-cool pictures using multi-colored virtual markers.
For our kids, the highlight of the visit was the 10 minutes we spent in a special relaxation room. It’s a dark room where you sit in comfortable chairs and watch gorgeous images of nature flash by on surround screens. Each chair has headphones attached, allowing each visitor to listen to a musical score of his or her choice while enjoying the experience. Suffice it to say that we all felt a bit lightheaded when we got out of our seats, the combination of soothing music and stunning scenery putting us temporarily into an altered state of mind.
At NIS 10 a ticket (accompanying adults get in for free), it’s certainly cheaper than a good massage.
Mahuti is smack in the middle of the complex that houses some of Tel Aviv’s main cultural treasures: the opera house, the art museum, the city library and the Cameri theatre. So it provides a good interlude if you have other activities in the vicinity planned for the day. Since any visit to the place requires taking a guided tour, you do need to make reservations in advance.
Telephone for information: 03-7181333
Hours: Sundays through Thursdays 16:00 to 19:00 and Saturdays 10:00 to 19:00
Cost: NIS 10 for children (accompanying adults do not have to pay.)
Getting there: Any Dan bus number that stops in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art will get you there. There are also several parking lots within a radius of a few blocks.