Even in the coolest region in Israel – the Galilee – summer is hot, sometimes unbearably hot. If staying in an air-conditioned hotel room all day is not your idea of a good vacation, how about resting during the day and going on adventures at night? The Galilee is where you will find not only beautiful scenery but also open doors and open hearts. One such welcoming spot is Mavrhatey, an authentic Ethiopian hut and cultural center at Kibbutz Evron. Yonei Skiba was nine years old when she came to Israel from Ethiopia. After graduating from university and working for a few years, she decided to build a mud hut like the one she remembered from her village in Ethiopia. She built an exact replica of her old home from memory. Later, she discovered that not only did it help her overcome issues concerning her background, but it helped others and it attracted many native-born Israelis who wanted to learn more about the lives of the Ethiopian Jews, their customs, clothes, music and food.
Skiba opens every visit to the center with a taste of traditional Ethiopian food, a talk, a video and stories. She then opens a trunk with traditional dresses for visitors to try on and leads the way to the hut. There she makes coffee from scratch, explaining how life was run in the village, the role women played and respect for the elders. And she has some great stories. Along with the coffee comes traditional music and dance. There are many other activities for children too (from age eight). Reservations must be made in advance. Closed Saturdays. Tel: 052-236-0959; mavrhatey.co.il.
The hour before sunset is the perfect time for a scenic tour of one of the many wadis in the area. Itai Birinboim takes visitors in his jeep to hidden corners and scenic points. One such treasure is the Balatun Reserve, named after a knight who came to the area 1,000 years ago as a Crusader. Birinboim took us through thick natural growth up to a vista where we could watch the sun set. On the way, he provided a tracking adventure, named all the flowers and trees and had many stories to spice up the journey. Trek-Yam jeep tours, boat rides and kayaking at Rosh Hanikra, (04) 982-3671.
There are quite a few dining options in the area, For example, Cochinella is a family-run Italian gourmet restaurant in Betzet, near the Lebanese border.
Anat Nir is the manager of the trattoria.
Her mother, Havatzelet, creates magic in the kitchen along with her sister Lea. The sisters came to Israel from Hungary in the 1950s and raised their families here. Yaron, the grill man, is Anat’s brother and the rest of the family help as well. Decorated with checkered tablecloths and wooden furniture, this welcoming spacious restaurant serves generous portions of delicious pasta, salads, grilled meat and fish dishes.
Open mostly on the weekend. Not kosher. Call for reservations, 052-372-1328.
If you are up for some adventure combined with history, you can join Yotam and Udi Edelman for a historical reenactment of the attempt to blow up the Achziv Bridge in Operation Markolet, known as Night of the Bridges, a Hagana venture on the night of the June 16-17, 1946, in British Mandate Palestine. The aim was to destroy 11 bridges linking the neighboring countries to immobilize transportation.
The reenactment is exciting, complete with instructions for a night walk, and it ends with a surprise. The activity is recommended especially for groups with children.
Udi Edelman, Rosh Hanikra, for groups up to 30, age 10 and up, (04) 982-3671.
Other night activities may include stories with Oren Schwartz from See Galil, who will come to your group with his guitar.
See Galil offers tours with multilingual expert guides who live in the Galilee. They will lead you to secret corners, adjusting the tour according to each group’s interests and budget.
For evenings around the campfire and magical tours, call See Galil, Sigalit Krasner, 077-780-2060; www.seegalil.info
A sporty and fun option for the early morning hours or the afternoon is a bicycle tour with Dooki at Ofan-Bateva located in Moshav Ben-Ami. Dooki rents out bicycles and helmets and takes cyclists on tours along the rivers and wadis of the area, including natural pools and other attractions, depending on your skill and stamina.
David Taub, www.opan-bateva.com
; (04) 982-4339.Staying overnight
When in the area, a good starting point is the Ness Amim Guest House. Ness Amim is a kibbutz-like community located close to Nahariya, founded by European Christians as a sign of solidarity with the Jewish people after the Holocaust. The location is beautiful, offering panoramic views of the mountains of the Western Galilee and the Mediterranean coastline.
Ness Amim is inhabited solely by volunteers who work and live there for limited periods of time. The volunteers work in the Ness Amim Guest House and the service branches of the village. The period of stay ranges from a few months to several years. On Friday nights, everyone gathers together to sing Israeli songs and eat a festive Shabbat dinner together.
The guest house and dining room are kosher and offer delicious meals. The rooms and apartments are comfortable, situated in the midst of green lawns, and there is a swimming pool. All the staff members are fluent in English. Guests return for the quiet, simple and wholesome experience. (NIS 480 to NIS 550 for two; (04) 995-0000).
A very different, and highly recommended, kibbutz guest house in the area is Bayit V’kayit at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot. The recently renovated cabins are decorated in a clean, modern style, with parquet floors, ecological wooden furniture created by a Swedish carpenter, comfortable beds, lovely porches and photographs from the kibbutz’s early days. A four o’clock light meal awaits guests, with locally prepared jams, breads and fruit. Guests are invited to the kibbutz’s swimming pool and the local brunch, a rich meal that is famous throughout the area, offering dozens of salads, pastries, locally made cheeses, antipasti, egg dishes and much more. (Tama Mines, (04) 993-3271; firstname.lastname@example.org
For those seeking a luxurious vacation, Martine and Meir Weiss invite families and groups to rent a beautiful, fully equipped four-bedroom villa with all the amenities, such as private swimming pool, huge garden with lawn and secluded romantic nooks, a modern, fully stocked kitchen and dining room, a living room with an 80-inch television, a large porch with sofas and hammock, as well as a movie screen and projector, outdoor sauna and hot tub and a view of the Lebanon mountains. The 4 Seasons Villa is located in Moshav Betzet. And considering that out of the four bedrooms, two are spacious and luxurious suites and kids can sleep on the floors (mattresses and bedding are provided), it can accommodate four couples and their children. NIS 4,500 to NIS 7,500 a night for the whole villa, including a rich breakfast served at the dining table. Call 054-817-4744.