Tour operators in the Western Galilee never cease to surprise us, offering endless ideas for activities, tours, accommodations and fun – interesting hikes, wine tastings and other small pleasures that can be found between the mountains and the sea.
One of the better sources for things to do up there is the Ozrot Hagalil website and smart-phone app, where you’ll find more than 400 carefully selected tourist sites.
We tagged along with Ozrot Hagalil representatives as they checked out several establishments and enterprises that were interested in participating in the project.
We rode electric bikes, hiked along the Lebanese border, listened to beautiful violin music and some fascinating stories, got to try our hand at art in nature and tasted a variety of delicacies at a few eclectic restaurants in the region.
Lev Hagoren in Moshav Goren
Neta and Sharon Gueta recently opened a bicycle center, where they offer tourists electric bicycles so that everyone can easily ride along the paths. We donned helmets, stuck maps in our pouches and were off on a seven-kilometer circular scenic path that runs through Goren Park.
On the way, we stopped to gaze at the beautiful view and enjoy a snack in one of the picnic areas. We also stopped at a lookout point from which there is a spectacular view of the impressive Montfort Castle. Only 400 meters separated us from this Crusader fortress, which sits above the green slopes that lead down to Kziv Creek. Rumor has it that in a year or two, there will be a suspension bridge that will connect the forest with the fortress.
Lev Hagoren: 052-899-5358. Bicycle rentals start at NIS 100. Special rates for families.
Infant seats, baby trailers and connecting bikes also available. Option for guided rides, including a picnic, is also available.
Driving along Road 899 (the historic road that leads to Admit Ridge and was paved by the British), we stopped at Admit Park and walked along the path that leads to the Keshet Cave. Along the way, there is a panoramic view of the sea and the Western Galilee. From there, we drove to the Beduin village of Arab al-Aramshe, located on the Lebanese border. There we met Muhammad Mazel, an educator who enjoys hosting visitors, telling them humorous stories and serving Beduin delicacies on the balcony of his home, which overlooks the valley. After a light meal, he takes his guests through the alleyways of the village and up a dirt path to a point overlooking the Sunni Valley below on the Lebanese side of the border. This is where Jordiah, the other half of the village, lies. Mazel told us about the wars and how the border split the village – and the families – in two. He said the residents have a very good relationship with the moshav and kibbutz communities in the area, and they have a well-developed agricultural industry.
Arab al-Aramshe: 050-695-2124. Tour, including lunch, ranges from NIS 20 to NIS 100.
Keshet Eilon and Kibbutz Eilon
Kibbutz Eilon members affectionately call Raya Strauss “a treasure,” and for good reason. For years, she has helped and supported the kibbutz’s musical program, which has a wonderful reputation in the global classical music community and has served as a bridge between religions and nationalities. Strauss has traveled with the talented string orchestra when they were invited to play in concerts around the globe and has helped promote them and their works. She expends tremendous energy trying to introduce the younger generation to the world of classical music.
The concerts take place in a hall that was once a chicken coop. Through donations, the building was turned into an acoustic concert hall that now attracts the best teachers, musicians and conductors from around the world, such as violinist Shlomo Mintz and Prof. Itzhak Rashkovsky. There is a small guest house next to the concert hall, and from these rooms you can hear the musicians practicing for the evening concerts. There is a spectacular view from the rooms and plenty of hiking trails in the neighboring kibbutz.
For tickets, call (04) 985-8191. NIS 80.
Mosaics on Kibbutz Yehiam
The Western Galilee abounds with artists who open their galleries and studios to the public. Many also offer hands-on workshops.
Participating in these workshops is an excellent way to bring the whole family together; and, at the end, you get to take home the creation you made.
Dalit Ben-Shalom from Kibbutz Yehiam is a sculptor who makes colorful mosaics out of concrete and iron. She teaches participants how to create unique mosaic designs.
And as long as you’re there, visit the Yehiam Fortress and take a break at the adjacent Abaya Winery and Malka Brewery.
Dalit Ben-Shalom: 052-322-4431. The onehour workshops cost NIS 50.
Kibbutz Beit Ha’emek
Another artist who allows for a hands-on experience is Shlomit Azati, who designs colorful silk fabrics. She and a team of workers make scarves, clothing, jewelry and colorful prayer shawls. In addition to selling items from the collection, Azati leads workshops in which she explains how to dye white silk fabrics and turn them into stunning, colorful scarves.
Meshi Bagalil: (04) 996-0611.
Workshops range from NIS 50 to NIS 80.
While your artwork is drying, you can take a walk through the archeological park on the kibbutz and enjoy a cup of coffee and a pastry at Efrat Katz’s café. When Katz first began serving coffee, the tantalizing aroma quickly spread throughout the kibbutz. The demand for her delicacies became so overwhelming, that she decided to add tables and turn the bakery into a café. She offers whole-wheat sourdough bread with olives, tomatoes, beets or chocolate, as well as a variety of cakes, cookies, olive oils and wines. It’s worth going to the kibbutz just to eat at the café.
Se’or Bakery: 054-670- 9855.
Where to eat
Tarshiha has turned into a lively village which, in addition to its picturesque alleys, is home to many beautiful homes, mosques, churches and a colorful market that is open on Saturdays. There are many restaurants, bars and interesting hiking trails. There are a few restaurants that warrant special mention.
Transylvania. As the name implies, the restaurant specializes in Romanian food.
What is such a restaurant doing in the middle of an Arab village, you might be wondering. The answer is Nazil Andreus, a Christian Arab who studied dentistry in Romania and worked in local restaurants to pay for his studies. He did not complete his studies there, however. Instead, he returned to his home village and studied food engineering.
Ten years ago Andreus opened Transylvania, which immediately became a favorite among Romanians living in Israel, as well as non-Romanians. Some of the dishes the restaurant offers include chorba soup, goulash, borscht, chopped liver, stuffed cabbage, okra, roasted eggplant, mamaliga and, of course, Romanian kebab with lots of garlic. For dessert, there’s papanash – doughnuts covered with cherry sauce.
(04) 997-3958. Open Monday through Saturday.
Aluma. This is a gourmet restaurant with a luxurious atmosphere. It formerly belonged to Ilan and Alfa Perry until it was purchased by Ala Sawitat, who lives in the village. He is an accountant who began working at Aluma as a waiter and bartender when he was 19 and was then promoted to manager. Sawitat has remained faithful to the restaurant’s original romantic character, including the white tablecloths, fine wines and delicious dishes made from fresh local ingredients.
Sawitat also owns Bouza, a charming icecream parlor he opened in the middle of the village with Adam Ziv of Kibbutz Sasa. Ziv learned how to make gourmet ice cream in Italy and uses only fresh fruits and natural ingredients. He is most famous for his pine nut, mascarpone-fig and pistachio sorbets.
(04) 957-4477, alumabistro.co.il. Business lunch available on Fridays and Saturdays.
Shota, Kibbutz Shomrat
Leah and Bella, two dynamic women, are co-owners of this authentic Georgian restaurant that was named for 12th-century Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli. The waitresses at Shota, who are young and pretty, not only bring the patrons food and drinks but are also happy to dance with them as is the Georgian custom in this festive place. When the evening gets going, a massive ram’s horn filled with wine is passed around for everyone to taste. Some of the most popular dishes on the menu are ispanakhi (spinach and walnut tapenade with wine vinegar), khinkali (dumplings stuffed with ground meat) and patrijani (layered eggplant with walnuts and herbs).
For reservations, call 053-809-6649. Open Tuesday to Friday from 6 p.m. and Saturday from noon. ■ For more details about all of the above and more: ozrothagalil.org.il.