Israel With Kids / Dialogue With Time at the Holon Children's Museum

Grab family members from every generation and head to this fantastic exhibit on aging, which will forever change the way you think about the elderly and getting old.

If you haven't booked your tickets for the new exhibit on aging at the Holon Children's Museum, book them now.

"Dialogue with Time," which opened this month, should not only be a must for every middle-school and high-school age child in this country (the exhibit is not recommended for children younger than 12), but for every adult, as well.

As an experiential exhibit, it provides visitors with a sense of the day-to-day challenges the elderly face (try getting a key into the door while your hand is trembling, or ordering movie tickets through an automated phone service when your hearing has gone fuzzy).

Beyond that, it's an educational exhibit that helps debunk some commonly held myths about aging (no, it is not true that pilots over 70 are less adept at what they do). It's an exhibit filled with thought, one that will send you home with your brain gears in motion. (The embedded video is in Hebrew.)

"Dialogue with Time" is based on the same model as the museum's other two very popular exhibits, where visitors are taken on a journey into the world of the handicapped – "Dialogue in the Dark" (about the blind) and "Invitation to Silence" (about the deaf). It is the product of the same creators, Parisian-based Andreas Heinecke and Orna Cohen. But unlike its two predecessors, which made their way to Israel only after opening in museums abroad, "Dialogue with Time" is a home-grown project. It was conceived in conjunction with the Holon Children's Museum, aided by some funding from the Israeli government, and had its exclusive opening right here in Holon.

Israelis have a very high life expectancy, making Israel a natural launching ground for an exhibit of this sort. This is also a tiny nation where a visit to grandma and grandpa is never more than a few hours away, meaning that Israeli children spend a great deal of time with their elderly grandparents and are thus more likely to be exposed to the process, and side effects, of aging.

As visitors enter the exhibit, they will see questions written on the walls in Hebrew and English. These are clearly meant to address some of their own fears and pre-conceptions about aging and, at the same time, provide them with food for thought on their way to the next exhibit room, where some of the challenges associated with aging are simulated. Putting their feet into a pair of heavy, clumsy shoes, for examples, visitors can experience what it feels like for an elderly person to climb up and down steps. Another interactive exhibit allows them to see out of the eyes of an elderly person suffering from glaucoma or cataracts.

At this point, a guide joins the group for the rest of the tour. Just as the guides at "Dialogue in the Dark" and "Invitation to Silence" are blind and deaf, respectively, in this tour, the guide will always be someone over the age of 70. Our guide happened to be a beautiful 72-year-old woman named Judy with soft white curls, who introduced herself by telling us a bit about her past and sharing her excitement about her newfound passion for ceramics. A woman who exuded vitality, Judy is one of those rare types who make aging seem like fun and who made us wonder whether it was mere coincidence that she was here or this was the criterion for getting this job.

She led us into a room where we played games and answered questions that addressed some our own preconceptions, as well as some of society's (often untrue, it emerged) about aging. At one point, she pulled some of the participants out of a game, an act that seemed random but turned out be meant to demonstrate the experience of the elderly when they are pushed out of the job market too soon.

In yet another room, we encountered talking mannequins – frighteningly life-like –
who shared their personal stories, some heartwarming and others heartbreaking, about aging. Our journey then ended in Judy's "salon," where we sat ourselves down at a round table and shared our thoughts about how the exhibit had affected each of us.

Our five-person group was smaller than the average tour of 12, which gave us the advantage of more discussion time. Friday afternoons tend to be the museum's quietest period, so if you would like a more personalized tour, try to visit then. Although all the explanations accompanying the exhibits are in English, the discussions are in Hebrew. So if you don't feel your Hebrew is good enough to handle a discussion in the language, be aware that the museum does offer tours with discussions in English (upcoming ones, for example, will be held on Sept. 30 at 12:00 and on Oct. 2 at 16:20).

The tour itself takes about two hours, and if we had any reservations about it at all, it was that at times we felt we were being rushed through the exhibit and would have preferred to linger at some parts longer.

The exhibit also presents a great way for children to spend time with their grandparents. On our tour was a young man in his 20s who had invited his 92-year-old grandfather to come along. The grandfather, like our guide, was living proof that growing old is not necessarily a bad thing.

Basic Info:
Address: 1 Mifratz Shlomo St. (look for the cone-shaped structure inside Peres Park), Holon

The museum is open almost every day of the year, but tickets for this and other exhibits must be reserved in advance at the following number:

Cost: NIS 62

Getting there: A number of Dan and Egged bus lines stop near the museum. Depending on traffic, it is about a 20-30 minute drive from Tel Aviv.

Parking: Free of charge on museum premises.