Here's my trip report. Thank you to everyone for your advice and suggestions.
Tuesday, June 17th: Arrived at Ben Gurion shortly after 8 a.m. My daughter knew she'd love Israel before we even arrived. Right after landing, she looked at me, seriously, and said, "I feel the holiness already." She loved the airport, she loved the weather. . . basically, she just loved being in Israel after more than two years of asking me to take her there. After viewing the Old City from the Mount of Olives (and taking a quick camel ride there), we spent the day in the Old City, visiting the Herodian Mansions, the Cardo, the Southern Wall Excavations, and walking through the Hezekiah Tunnel. The highlight for her was praying at the Kotel. She felt a real connection being there and she didn't want to leave. Then we checked in at the B-Y-4-U apartments and grabbed a quick bite at a pizza place nearby. My daughter liked everything we did that day. She was intrigued about hearing how old everything is.
Wednesday, June 18th: We rented a car at Eldan (for two days) and drove to Masada, stopping on the way to get a quick camel ride together and then to a small community. Our guide walked uphill where we could view different lands mentioned in the Tanach. This was interesting for my daughter, enabling her to tie together what she's learned in school with what she was seeing now. Along the drive to Masada, our guide pointed our caves along the way and told us about the Dead Sea Scrolls and how we could see them at the Book of the Shrine. We talked about what happened at Masada and about King Herod. We then headed to the Dead Sea. Thankfully, we brought water shoes. The Dead Sea was a little difficult for my daughter, but she was determined, and she went in and out a few times. She loved digging for mud and we took a little back with us in a plastic bag. We then headed to Ein Gedi. She loved swimming in the springs and seeing some animals (hydrax and another animal - I forgot the name).
Thursday, June 19th: On the way to the Bell Caves and Beit Guvrin, our guide to us to the site where Goliath is believed to be buried and showed us some mosaic floors that are covered by sand (we uncovered them and then re-covered them before we left). He showed us the area where the David and Goliath battle took place. Once again, he read portions from the Tanach, and that was really interesting for my daughter. We climbed in caves at Beit Guvrin and then did our "dig for a day" adventure. My daughter loved it and still talks about wanting to go back the next time we're in Israel. We spent a few hours digging and finding pottery shards, pieces of animal bones, shells, etc. A good guide can make a big difference. Our guide, Lee, was so enthusiastic, that it would be hard not to have a good time. Aftewards, he took us to one of the Bar Kochva caves. It was narrow and no so easy for me, but it was a lot of fun. While we were in the cave, our guide told us stories about Bar Kochva, and that really added to the experience.
Friday, June 20th: In the morning we went on some of the Ramparts in the Old City. My daughter liked it but wasn't as enthused as I thought she would be. Next time, I'm hoping to walk on the rest of the Ramparts. Then we went to a small museum - Old Yishuv Court Museum?? - which shows what is was like to live in the Old City a few centuries back. Afterwards, we went to Gush Etzion, saw the "Path of the Patriarchs" which was interesting for my daughter and then went in the Mud Tunnells, which are more difficult than the Hezekiah Tunnells, but fun. At night, we had Shabbat dinner at the home of a family who moved from the U.S. to Israel around nine years ago. I had found them through some people who arrange Shabbat hospitality for visitors. I thought my daughter would enjoy having a Shabbat meal with a family more than eating in a hotel. It was very nice.
Saturday, June 21st: We went to a synagogue (forgot the name), had Shabbat lunch at another family's home, took a nap, and then walked to the Kotel in the evening. Afterwards, we took a bus back and ate dinner near our apartment by Ben Yehuda Street.
Sunday, June 22nd: This was another mellow day. We went to the Time Elevator, which my daughter enjoyed. Then we shopped at Yad LeKashish, which I found on this forum. We bought a platter and several mezzuzahs, which are very pretty. Then we went to Kad V'chomer, which is like "Paint Your Pottery" in the U.S. It was very relaxing - we painted a mezzuzah and a small platter, and they told us to come back that Thursday (they're closed on Friday) to pick up the finished piece. They're located very close to the Time Elevator right by City Hall. Afterwards, we went back to the Kotel and took the Kotel Tunnell Tour.
Monday, June 23rd: We went with our guide, Adam Sela, to Machtesh Ramon, where my daughter loved collecting the colored sand. We also stopped at the Alpaca Farm. It was her first time seeing alpacas and llamas up close. She loves animals, so she really enjoyed it. Then we drove to the Kesui sand dunes, which is around an hour away from Eilat. She loved it! She shouted, "it's like Alladin!" and then began running up the sand dunes. After she reached the top, she ran/rolled down them. Seeing that made me glad I decided to take her to Israel now, at 9, rather than wait until she's older. We stopped along the Israel/Egyptian border and took pictures by the wire fence. Afterwards, we rappelled in the Eilat mountains. She wanted to go rappelling, but when she looked down, she had second thoughts. Adam persisted and she did it! I was so happy for her. She went three times and would have liked to gone more, but it was starting to get late. Adam said we could go as long as we liked even though it was getting late. I really appreciated that. Then we checked into our hotel - the Isrotel Ambassador.
Tuesday, June 24th: We went to Petra with DesertEcoTours. At first my daughter was a little underwhelmed but when she saw the Treasury, she was very impressed. She also loved riding a donkey on the way back. Petra was really interesting for me, and I'm glad we went. I was disappointed that there were 36 of us with only one guide. It was hard to hear the guide at times. There was a much smaller group for Hebrew speakers.
Wednesday: June 25th: After breakfast, we went to
"snuba." At first it was hard for my daughter to get the hang of equalizing and using a regulator, but once she got the feel for it, she loved it. Then we went back to our hotel, swam at the pool, and later went for a one-hour camel ride at Camel Ranch. My daughter liked it. She'd been on a camel twice before (at the Mount of Olives and on the way to Masada), so it wasn't as exciting, but she was still glad we went. Then we went for a banana boat ride, which she loved. Afterwards, we went to the airport and flew back to Jerusalem.
Thursday, June 26th: We went with Artzeinu Tours on a bullet proof bus to Maarat Hamachpelah and Kever Rachel. I appreciated that they went, even though there were only 7 of us, together with our guide, bus driver, and armed guard. Before we went to Israel, my daughter told me there were four things she wanted to do in Israel and Maarat Hamachpelah and Kever Rachel were two of them. We first stopped in Hebron, walked around, stopped inside "Avraham Avinu" synagogue, saw a preschool and what used to be a hospital and then headed to Maarat Hamachpelah. I expected a lot more people. The gates to the tombs were locked but it was meaningful to my daughter to be able to pray there. Then we went to Kever Rachel. It was so different than when I was there 14 years ago. It was like a fortress now. There weren't many people there. Like Maarat Hamachpelah, Kever Rachel was meaningful for my daughter to be able to pray there. When we retunred, we walked around Machne Yehuda. I thought my daughter would enjoy the different sites and sounds, but it was a little too much for her. In the late afternoon/early evening, we checked out of B-Y-4-U apartments and checked into Kotel Quarters. It was kind of a schlep, but I decided to splurge a little, because I thought it would be a special and memorable experience for my daughter to be able to stay in the Old City for one of our Shabbats in Israel. I was disappointed that instead of paying my balance of $250, I had to pay $304 (because of the dollar). But I have to say that being in an apartment where you look our and see the Kotel from your room is a unique experience, and I'm glad I did it.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our trip report!