Athletes and amateur sport fans already know that Israel is a perfect place to stretch your muscles and have fun doing it. With great weather year-round and fantastic beaches, desert vistas, green hilly areas, and parks throughout the country, participants from all sporting disciplines will find the perfect location to limber up.
The country’s official sports may be soccer (football) and basketball, but hikers, swimmers, runners, rollerbladers and bikers have ample places to do their thing.
ISRAEL21c brings you 10 sports to do in Israel for FREE.
Lace-up and head outdoors. Israel’s topography offers fantastic hiking opportunities for every level of fitness. If you’re a serious trekker, try the Israel Trail. Or, seek out one of the country’s shorter trails through nature reserves, in the desert canyons or up mountains. Israel’s hiking trails are well marked but always check a map and tell someone where you’re headed.
One of the fastest-growing sports in Israel, running has literally taken off. Races, marathons and triathlons take place throughout the year around the country. But you don’t need to pay to run if you don’t want to. Whether you’re a fan of city paths or woodsy areas, Israel has the terrain you need.
In 2010, the government approved a five-year, multi-million dollar plan to promote the country’s burgeoning cycling industry. Biking trails through forests and desert areas, as well as paved city bike lanes, are very well used. Tel Aviv now boasts some 70 kilometers of marked bike lanes. The KKL-JNF website lists 33 trails that often cross natural beauty with historical sites.
Many of the same hiking, biking and running paths and trails are equally welcoming to the slower-paced among us. There’s no shortage of places to take a stroll – along the beach, in the park, through cities. Many municipalities offer free walking tours so that you can combine sport with sightseeing. The walking group Tiyulim VeAgodot runs free weekly meet-ups in Ramat Gan, Modi’in, Hod Hasharon, Ramat Hasharon and Netanya.
Grab your goggles and bathing suit; it’s open swimming season year-round in the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret). To boot: 21 Israeli beaches fly the Blue Flag international eco-mark. Open-sea swimming in Israel is also a relatively warm, wave-free undertaking.
Modern Israeli dance may have won acclaim across the world, but that doesn’t mean the traditional folk dancing popularized by the early pioneers has been swept under the rug. The Israeli Folk Dancers Association hosts dozens of free dance sessions from Eilat to Kiryat Shmona for anyone willing to step-to-the-side, turn-and-clap. The folk-dancing meet-ups attract people from every age group and profession. Many of the venues also host parent-child dancing lessons.
The numerous bike paths and beach promenades across the country are all welcoming to rollerbladers. But there’s no matching the Tel Aviv Rollers for a skate around the city. The loosely confederated group of 150 rollerblading and rollerskating enthusiasts takes to city streets every Tuesday evening. No need to sign up in advance.
It’s hard to find an Israeli city without a skate park, and in many cities there are multiple places to pop ollies, kickflip and ride goofyfoot. Most of the outdoor ramps, rails and half-pipes are open to the public, free of charge, year-round though a few parks charge admission.
Longboarders can roll beyond the trick equipment past many of Israel’s sites. Watch the documentary OPEN, filmed here in 2013, to see the 14 members of the international Longboard Girls Crew (LGC) gliding around Israel.
Feeling the need for a good stretch and some meditation time? Israel has yoga centers all over – including at parks, on the beach and at workout gyms. Some practitioners believe opening up this calming practice to all will benefit society, like the Prana Yoga College in Tel Aviv, which offers daily classes for all levels of practice. And the Laughter Yoga group , with branches around Israel, which offers some drop-in classes for free. Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was famously photographed standing on his head – a sign of his ardent yoga practice.
10. Pickup soccer, basketball, beach volleyball
Leave your shyness at home and head to any of the bigger public parks or beaches for great pickup games. In the courts of Jerusalem’s Sacher Park, Netanya’s Sportec or Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park (near the Sportek), you’ll always find on-the-fly games to join in the evenings. For a fun, sandy game of beach volleyball any Saturday, try Bograshov Beach in Tel Aviv.