By Yaniv Madar
Holland and especially Amsterdam give the Jewish tourist family many options and possibilities for a great vacation; Jewish history – the magnificent Jewish community that used to reside in Holland and the many Shuls still scattered around, Anne Frank\'s house a memorial of past events. Breath taking scenery, impressive architecture and of course the many rivers cutting through the city.
Amsterdam also offers some of the best museums and galleries in the world, amusement parks, attractions for children and no less important Kosher restaurants of every kind and price.
(Current information about kosher restaurants, Shuls, Mikvaot etc. can be found on-line at www.totallyjewishtravel.com)
Starting with a Jewish Heritage tour...
One should dedicate a full day to a \"Jewish heritage\" tour. The tour is suitable for children and starts with the story of a young Jewish girl by the name of Anne Frank. Anne and her family lived during the holocaust and in order to escape from the Nazis clutches they hid in the attic of her father\'s office for a long time until they were caught and sent to the death camps.
Anne Frank\'s house is open to the public and is normally full of visitors. It is best to arrive in the morning right after opening.
From Anne Frank\'s house one can take a tram (or even walk) to the building of the Portuguese Shul. The Shul is situated in the old Jewish neighborhood of Amsterdam near Waterloo square. This is a very important tourist attraction and many non-Jews come to visit it as well. The building was finished in 1675 (The sign at the entrance shows the Hebrew date of 1672. This is the year it was supposed to have been finished. There was a three year delay). The Shull survived Nazi occupation. Here is a short story regarding the Shul\'s history:
Many Jews arrived in Portugal after being expelled from Spain in 1492. Very soon they found themselves being prosecuted again and many were forced to convert to Christianity. About a hundred years later the descendants of the Jewish Maranos decided that they wanted to live a normal and safe Jewish life. They realized that they had to leave Portugal and many of them made their way to Amsterdam. At the beginning of the 17th century many Jews started to arrive in Amsterdam from central and Eastern Europe and three main communities were established. In 1639 all of the communities were united to one large community called the \"Jewish Portuguese community\" even though many of the members were of Ashkenazi origin.
The community flourished due to the Dutch tolerance towards Judaism. On the eve of the Second World War, Dutch Jewry numbered 140,000 of which 120,00 lived in Amsterdam. Few managed to escape from the Nazis and about 120,000 were killed during the war.
Today the Jewish community in Amsterdam numbers about 25,000.
After visiting the Shul it is worth entering the Jewish Museum which is situated right next-door. The museum tells the history of Dutch Jewry and displays artwork, traditional and historical artifacts.
During your tour of Amsterdam you can take a refreshing break at one of several kosher restaurants and bakeries in the city (As far as we know there are at least 10 restaurants and bakeries, but this number will change constantly, so please check and reserve your meals in advance!).
Great attractions for kids and adults
The Dutch tradition and culture offers many interesting attractions. For example the Fishermen\'s Villages by the North Sea shore. At the village you can find cheese factories (careful, they aren’t Kosher) and wooden shoe factories (which can be found at any fisherman village). These villages have become tourist attractions and are particularly interesting for children.
In the city of Delft there is a very developed industry of pottery and ceramic products and there are guided tours of the area. One of the famous factories is the Royal Delft- Koningklijke Porceleyne Fels which can be found at 196 Rotterdamseweg Street. Delft is very close to The Hague and it is worth combining the tour of the city with the suburb Madurodam. Madurodam is a miniature city and displays miniature models of important Dutch sites such as the fishermen villages, picturesque Dutch towns, rivers, windmills and much more.
To get to Madurodam take the number 1 or 9 tram, or the number 22 bus from The Hague\'s central train station.
The Efteling amusement park is one of the most famous amusement parks in the whole of Europe. It is built in the center of a fairy tale type forest. The park is near Tilburg close to the border with Belgium. To get there, take the train from Amsterdam to s-Hertogenbosch. From there, there is frequent transportation to the park. If you\'re traveling by car, drive towards Tilburg. Before you reach the city there are signs pointing in the direction of the park. De Feeling is open till 18:00 and in the summer till 21:00.
Amusement park lovers won\'t want to miss Walibi World. The park is situated 50 km east of Amsterdam in a city called Biddinghuizen. The park features many types of roller coasters and is equipped with the most advanced technology in the world.
The Dolphinarium at Harderwijk may not be the most important attraction in Holland, but is a must for sea enthusiasts. The dolphinarium is not far from Amsterdam. It is about an hour and a quarter drive even though the distance is only 40 km. It\'s important to mention that because of the topography and strict traffic laws in Holland, driving can take much longer than in other places in Europe. The dolphinarium is beautiful and offers many attractions to young and old alike. The address is Strandboulevard Oost 1, Harderwijk. And the phone number is 0341/467467. From Amsterdam take the A1 (E231) south-east for about 40 km. Just before Amersfoort change to the E232 north. This road will take you to Harderwijk.
Another important attraction especially if you\'re going with children is the Keukenhof flower park which is south of Harlem. This impressive and colorful park is the largest flower garden in the world.
Another flower park can be found at Aalsmeer not far from Amsterdam. It is best to take the 172 bus from Amsterdam central bus station. One should arrive early as the place is a huge dynamic flower market. There are also many Israeli flower merchants working here.
One of the best attractions in Holland is riding down the channels of Amsterdam by boat even though children may loose interest after a while. There are 3 types of rides. A short one (2 hours), medium (4 hours) and a long one (over half a day). For the long ride don\'t forget to bring food. The meal offered on the boat is not kosher.
As you can see there are plenty of things to do as well as to see and I didn\'t even mention having a nice walk in the beautiful cities, enjoying the warm and welcoming atmosphere...