Take the little ones to Israel without getting on a plane — the city of Jerusalem has been recreated in an indoor playground at Chabad of Port Washington with a climb-on, seated camel, a replica of the Mahane Yehuda Market, also known as The Shuk, and a live feed in real time from a webcam at the famed Western Wall.
The marketplace features a hands-on falafel and shawarma stand with felt pitas and a fake vertical spit. The candy store offers wooden halvah, a Middle Eastern treat made from ground sesame seeds. The fruit stand offers plastic pomegranates and olives. Israeli music plays throughout.
“It’s like a Jewish-themed amusement park,” says Sara Paltiel, Chabad of Port Washington’s preschool director. At 1,800 square feet, the playground is more than half the size of an average house. “The kids are surrounded by the sights, the sounds, the smells and the textures of Israel,” she says.
American playtime favorites include Legos, princess and firefighter dress-up costumes, a climbing wall and play slides.
“It’s one of the best-kept secrets on Long Island,” says Paltiel’s husband, Shalom, who is the center’s rabbi.
The playground is used daily by the students at Chabad’s Florence Brownstein Preschool, and is open to the public for weekly Mommy and Me classes and birthday party rentals or groups serving young children. Families can schedule times to have bar or bat mitzvah family portraits taken in front of the playground’s Western Wall, Jerusalem’s holiest place of prayer for Jews, Paltiel says.
Mommy and Me classes are for children 6 months to 2 years old and take place from 11:15 a.m. to noon on Fridays. Each session is $18 and includes the kids kneading challah dough, which they can bring home and bake. Advance sign-up is preferred. Birthday parties are $500 for up to 20 children, Paltiel says. Parties can bring in kosher food to be served at the adjacent Israeli cafe room.
Other offerings at the playground include a music shop with drums and tambourines, a writing center with magnetic alphabet letters in English and Hebrew, and a puppet show stage with puppets including a chef, a clown, a king and a shepherd. The playground was donated by Martin Brownstein of Great Neck in honor of his mother, Florence, and is officially called Florence’s Israel.
Chabad of Port Washington is at 80 Shore Rd. For more information, call 516-767-8672 or visit chabadpw.org.