We had a pool in our backyard in Florida, and my kids miss it. There is a pool in our local town, but membership for the summer was over 1000 shekel, and I just couldn't fathom laying out that kind of money to take my kids to an overcrowded pool with no separate hours. And the beach is fun, but no place for kids to actually swim!
So my kids are completely out of practice! We've been talking about finding our way to one of the numerous "maayanot" and natural swimming holes in the area, but all summer long we were warned of crowds and shmutz and experiences that turned out to be NO fun at all. But we really wanted to get the kids in the water where they could swim a bit.
We waited until the day before the mainstream world sends their kids back to school, figuring most of the vacationers had left the area, and the local swimming holes would be less crowded and more fun.
We thought we would go to Maayan Charud, but for some reason, google maps' directions were all wrong. We stopped in at a gas station and the kippah-wearing attendant recommended Ayn Moda, which was just a short drive away. He said that he heard Charud was pretty dry anyhow, and that Ayn Moda was really great and shady and free... So we followed his directions, traveling on dusty agricultural roads until we found the back entrance to Park Hamaayanot, where Ayn Moda is just a short walk from the parking area.
First impression: we were the only Jewish family there.
This came as somewhat a surprise. But then we reflected upon all the cultural differences between us and our cousins, and we realized that most likely the Jewish families buy country club memberships and the Arab families don't. We can't afford a country club membership, so we tried out the swimming hole.
(As time went on, a few other Jewish families did show up, but a couple of the Arab women were so surprised by our English speaking that they hung out near us the whole time. They were fascinated with my 4 year old - we seemed to be the highlight of their day! )
Second impression: Water flowing from underground springs can be COLD even when it is over 40 degrees Celsius outside! The water was shockingly chilly when we dipped in. My kids overcame the cold and swam around and played. I couldn't get over the fact that those rocks on the bottom were KILLING my feet. And I was just dipping in to get wet, and play a little. I had no plans to do laps wearing my mitpachat and glasses (I am nearly blind without my glasses, so taking them off for a swim doesn't make me feel safe)...
So, I don't know whether or not we'll go back to the swimming hole. My guess is we will, but we'll get better equipped first.
If you plan to go to a swimming hole and are not the rough outdoorsy type, make sure you are wearing good water shoes. Also be aware that there is no ladder in and out like a pool, so you will need to hoist yourself out, and lift your kids out too. And be prepared for chilly water.
And then, have lots and lots of fun!