Janis Raisen – The Epic Moment of Standing Inside Israel, While Standing “Inside Israel”
Visiting Israel is an unforgettable and magical experience. Despite the fact that the country is small, it is still impossible to visit all of Israel in one day—or is it? Technically you can see most of the country in one place: at Mini Israel.
Located in Latrun, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Mini Israel is a beautiful park that showcases the most important sites of Israel from the North to the South, from the East to the West—in miniatures. It was brilliantly planned and constructed by a large team that included engineers, artists, model experts and builders. According to Motty Namer, head of security and manager on duty at Mini Israel, the idea was to build a mini version of Israel’s most important sites and to “see it small.”
Eiran Gazit, the founder and 1st CEO of Mini Israel along with Yoni Shapira, the creative and marketing director from conception to completion, worked with a dedicated team to create and build a miniature version of Israel that would represent the historic sites, diversity of communities and landscapes, and appeal to all types of visitors. The park was officially opened to the public in 2002, but continues to evolve.
The park displays 385 exquisite miniature replicas of the country’s most popular historical, religious, cultural, archaeological, educational and cherished sites. The miniatures are spread across almost 15 acres, and at a scale of 1:25, explains Namer. In addition, they have 25,000 miniature residential homes standing just 7 cm high.
Synagogues, mosques, churches, museums, as well as other iconic places including the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, the Knesset in Jerusalem, Masada, and the Bahai Gardens in Haifa, are just a few of the elegant replicas placed around the park.
“It’s an adventure, it’s educational,” explains Namer. “For some people it’s more educational, for others it’s historical, for some it’s just an adventure. Most people get excited about the architecture, and how they look exactly the same as the original,” Namer explains.
Here are a couple of examples that are quite impressive:
There are two models that visitors can compare to the real buildings right on the spot. The Monastery of the Silent Monks and Yad LaShiryon (Armored Corps Memorial and Museum). They also located in Latrun and can be viewed from the mini models inside the park.
Millions of tourists have visited Mini Israel since 2002, and in 2017, the park saw over 500,000 visitors , according to Namer. “For tourists, it gives them a chance to see sites they didn’t get a chance to see, which completes their trip. Sometimes they are surprised by some sites that they missed, like in Jerusalem for example. They ask: ‘Where was that? Where were we?’ It happens a lot,” explains Namer. Other tourists have an innovative way of exploring the park. According to Namer, they stop by the park at the start of their trip to make a list of some of the actual sites they want to visit.
The Shape of Mini Israel
The shape of Mini Israel bares no resemblance to the traditional map of Israel. The creators of the park chose this circular, yet spacious area for the site. They strategically divided the country into a rounded Star of David, which ultimately became the outline or shape of the park (see red outline of the Star of David in the above illustration).
Mini Israel is divided into four main areas: Upper Galilee, Lower Galilee, Central Israel and the Coastal Plain, and the Negev and the Arava. They dedicated the fifth and Eastern part of the Star of David to Jerusalem, and the sixth and Western side to Tel Aviv. Inside the center of the Star of David they added the general parts of the country such as Ben Gurion airport, moshav and kibbutz life, and industry.
The Sounds of Mini Israel
Several sites at the park blast authentic sounds from their displays. This aids in the visual transition of walking from one end of the country to the other.
As you pass by Al-Jazzar Mosque in Old Acre, you can hear recordings of the Islamic call to prayer. It brings the site to life. Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem plays somber music that draws passersby to this miniature model. It may be tiny in size, but its impact is enormous.
The blaring (and quite amusing) shouting of a typical vendor at the market screaming out the price of his tomatoes for sale—over and over and over again—can be heard as you approach the miniature Carmel Market in Tel Aviv.
It’s interesting to wander through the park, but like most tourist sites exploring with a guide offers invaluable insight and a great advantage, especially since the cost of a guided tour is included in the price. Hebrew tours are readily available, and when they anticipate a lot of American tourists they have English-speaking guides on hand. Other languages can be accommodated if arranged in advance. Tours take about 1.5 hours.
“The park is for everybody. It’s suitable for tourists because we have the entire country for them to see, and the majority of Israelis have never visited the entire country,” says Namer. “We found out that almost 85% of Israelis have never seen the entire country; they’ve seen the majority of it, but not the entire country. Here they get a chance to see the places they’ve never seen, or places that they didn’t even know existed.” The park has also have a 3D MiniMax aerial movie of Israel that complements and completes the entire Mini Israel experience.
A Stunning Venue for Celebrations and Performances
Mini Israel visitors are so awestruck by the beautiful park and the breathtaking view of a miniature Israel, but there is another world inside the park. It is a hidden gem for kids performances and workshops that take place every weekend and on holidays (hours vary depending on the season), and concerts at night in the amphitheater that seats 1700 people. Their business and social events also bring a whole other element to Mini Israel. There are daily events for Passover, and special workshops and performances for kids will also take place during Israel’s special 70th Independence Day celebrations.
Celebrate Israel Large and Small
Just being inside the historic land of the Jewish people and exploring the country’s beautiful diversity and treasures is magical, but thanks to Mini Israel, tourists and locals have also been able to travel across the entire country again and again and celebrate Israel like never before.