Tourist Tip #113 / Israel by Wheelchair

Israel's tourism authorities have begun to make more historical sites and parks accessible to the disabled.

How wheelchair accessible can a rock-cut 3,200 year-old water system be? Israel is finally starting to ask itself such questions. While initially slow to adapt to the growing market of wheelchair travelers, Israel is are making up for lost time in enforcing accessibility laws.

Jerusalem's Old City is among the sites you may be surprised to find you can comfortably roll through. If you make sure to enter and exit through the right gates, you should have no problem touring all four of its intriguing quarters. The Jewish Quarter has an entire wheelchair touring route. A wheelchair lift will take you down to one of the main sites, the Herodian House, as well as through much of the Western Wall Tunnels.

Wheelchair users who want to visit Tel Megiddo, an antiquity-rich excavation site south of Haifa, still have to endure bumpy paths and the occasional stair. But Israel’s National Insurance Institute installed a wheelchair lift down to the very bottom of the stunning water tunnel built there in the days of King Ahab, making a visit more than worthwhile.

For nature lovers, the Dan Nature Reserve in Israel’s far north has a wheelchair accessible trail, including a raised wooden ramp through the heart of the soggy surroundings. Handicapped toilets are a requirement at Israel Nature and Parks Authority sites. The Jewish National Fund has also invested thought and resources into making its parks and forests more accessible.

If you’re looking for details about wheelchair accessibility in Israel, accessisrael.org  should be your first stop. You’ll find information about site accessibility, guides who specialize in special-needs visitors and most importantly a phone number and an email for more detailed inquiries. The Israel Tourism Ministry’s website goisrael.com  has detailed 10- and 7-day itineraries for mobility-challenged visitors.

Eyal Warshawski