Ever wonder how Michal Negrin makes those sparkly earrings and ornaments sold worldwide? Or how honey goes from the hive to the jar? How do they make Israel’s favorite snack, Bamba? And what really goes on at the Coca-Cola factory in Bnei Brak?
All these questions and more can be answered at some of Israel’s best factory tours. Whether you want to discover what goes into the country’s favorite chocolate bars, or how some of the most luxurious jewelry is made, you can find a tour to match. With advance booking some offer English-speaking guides. Always call ahead to confirm opening hours and to make reservations.
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Here are ISRAEL21c’s picks for the best behind-the-scenes factory tours in Israel.
1. Strauss-Elite (Upper Nazareth) – Time Out, Chocolate Cow, Pesek Zman and other chocolate and candy products
English on request for large groups only
Strauss Dairy (Achihud) – Danona, Activia, Milky, Ski, Gamadim and other milk products
English on request for small groups only
Sunday 11-4:30, Monday to Wednesday 9-4:30, Thursday 9-2.
NIS 18 per person, ages six+
Both Strauss Visitors Centers are in the north; Achihud is between Acre (Akko) and Karmiel. As you’d expect from a very large manufacturing firm, the 1.5-hour visiting experience offers organized fun such as high-tech interactive games, a film and a tour of the factory floor. And don’t worry, you’ll leave with a complementary chocolate and other goodies in hand.
2. Coca-Cola Sensory Center (Bnei Brak)
Sunday to Thursday 9-7; English on request
Reservations: 1-800-596-596; ages eight+
Of Coke’s 2,000 factories around the world, this one is famous for the inventiveness and interactive genius of its visitors’ center. Ten multimedia rooms tell the 120-year-old story of Coca-Cola and the global distribution of its brands, with the Israel Tunnel devoted to Coke in Israel. There’s a 3D ride, an activity park and a music room with Coke-themed instruments to play (that’s for the hearing part of the sensory experience). You get to see the bottling operation, but naturally the tasting room is the most eagerly anticipated part of the tour.
Sunday through Thursday and Saturday night, by appointment only, in English, Hebrew, Spanish, German or Russian
NIS 25 per person (which goes to the school for immigrants); ages 12+
On this hour-long tour at the jewelry factory just west of Jerusalem, you will not only see craftspeople making Orna and Isaac Levy’s “red carpet” jewelry with pearls and precious stones, but you will also get a tour of Yvel’s unique jewelry-making training program for Ethiopian immigrants, ABSchool of Jewelry & Design. The Yvel tour includes a 3D movie and a browse through the showroom, as well as a chance to purchase items at discounted prices.
4. Michal Negrin’s World (Bat Yam)
Sunday to Thursday, 9:30-3; English on request
Reservations: 972-3-555-3333, email@example.com
This visitors’ gallery is designed to dazzle – sort of like a mega-Michal Negrin store. Watch a movie about Negrin’s life, and then see her jewelry, home décor and fashion items getting manufactured. The final part of the two-hour adventure is coffee and cake in the Gallery Café amid displays and crafts, furniture design and textiles, and – designed to really knock your socks off — illuminated and fully furnished doll houses designed by Negrin and built by her husband, Meir. Of course there is a shop on premises.
5. Hazorfim (Kfar Daniel)
Sunday to Thursday, 2-4, English on request
A fully renovated visitors’ center at this iconic Israeli silversmith is due to open in January. Hazorfim (The Silversmiths) makes pure sterling-silver Judaica, home décor and collectibles – 300 new items debut every year in shops around the world. In the tour you can see how the pieces are crafted, and learn the history of the company, founded in 1952 by Holocaust survivor Yosef Merdinger. His son, Doron Merdinger, who took the company global, now produces his own line of heirloom gold tableware, jewelry and décor.
6. De Karina Chocolate Factory (Kibbutz Ein Zivan, Golan Heights)
Sunday to Friday, 9-5, one English tour per day
Reservations: 972-4-699-3622, 972-54-252-7040, firstname.lastname@example.org
NIS 22 per person; with workshop, NIS 59 for adults
De Karina offers several options: A 20-minute guided tour about the culture and history of chocolate, including a visit to the manufacturing plant, ends with tastings in the chocolate boutique and a sweet treat to take home (there is also kosher café on premises). If you have more time, you can combine a tour with a basic 40-minute chocolate-making workshop for kids, or a 90-minute workshop for adults where you’ll learn to make more sophisticated and specialty items.
You can also view the factory during a tour of Galita’s Chocolate Farm on Kibbutz Deganya Bet in the Galilee, 972-4-675-5608. New Zealand native John Alford gives free half-hour tours of his one-man chocolate factory, Johncolad, in Moshav Manof in the Lower Galilee Monday to Friday by appointment, 972-4-999-9374. And chocolate maker Ornat offers Hebrew tours in its visitors’ center in Tel Mond. Arrangements for an English guide can be made for large groups (ages six+): 972-9-891-3399, Ornatemail@example.com.
7. Kibbutz Yad Mordechai Bee and Honey House (near Ashkelon)
Saturdays and holidays or by appointment; English on request
Reservations: 972-8-672-0559, 972-52-392-3104;
NIS 37 per person; ages three+
Guides take visitors on honey’s journey from the honeycomb to the jar. There’s a video about how bees produce the sticky stuff, and a tasting of different kinds of honey, whose flavors vary depending on the type of flower the bees dine on. Kibbutz Yad Mordechai honey, olive oil and fruit preserves are available for sale.
Other Israeli honey-makers offering public tours, by appointment, include the Golan Apiary at Kibbutz Shamir in the Upper Galilee (972-4-694-7826) and Lin Bee Farm at Kfar Bilu near Rehovot (972-8-935-3695).
8. Diamond Bourse Visitors Center (Ramat Gan)
Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 10-3, Tuesday 10-5, English on request
NIS 40 per person for groups of five or more, NIS 200 flat rate for a smaller group; ages 16+
Though the fee may seem high, well, these are diamonds we’re talking about. And actually it’s not a bad value, given that the tour is two hours long and includes admission to the newly renovated Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Museum, where English-speakers will find multimedia exhibits in their native tongue. An audiovisual show explains the formation of a raw diamond and how it is polished and cut – a process visitors also see live on the factory floor.
9. Tnuva Visitors Center (Rehovot)
Sunday to Thursday 9-2, Hebrew only
Reservations: 1-800-22-14-22, 972-8-944-4236, firstname.lastname@example.org
NIS 18 per person; ages five+
The 90-minute tour of one of Israel’s largest dairy production facilities takes visitors through the story of milk from cow to carton. You’ll view the process from a multisensory “Milky Way” simulator and watch the real-time shop floor. The tour includes an interactive quiz game about cows and barnyards, a Comics Wall showing the chain of events from milking parlor to breakfast table, and a film demonstrating the equipment used for cooling and quality control. There’s a tasting at the end.
10. Bamba (Holon)
Sunday through Wednesday 9-5:30, Thursday 9-10
Reservations: 1-700-70-76-76 or 972-3-559-3024, Hebrew only
Though this one-hour tour is in Hebrew only, it might be worthwhile for English-speakers anyway, just to see Israel’s most iconic snack under production. The classic peanut-butter Bamba, an Osem brand, is produced here at Givol in the Holon industrial park, along with Popco and strawberry Bamba. The tour is geared to kids, and includes a 3D movie, plenty of time to see the whole production process, and a souvenir bag of Bamba to take home – all for free.