‘If you want to lie in the sun all day and gorge yourself till you burst, head south to Eilat; if you want to go extreme, go north.” That at least was the advice we received from our super-friendly waiter at the Kfar Giladi Hotel at Kibbutz Kfar Giladi. Well, to be more precise, that was how our nine-year-old daughter reported it.
We recently spent an action-packed weekend up North, including a night at Kfar Giladi, which our three daughters described as “the best holiday ever,” briefly deciding they wanted to move to the kibbutz before realizing that kibbutz life is not a 365-day-ayear holiday. We, too, preferred it immensely to the cacophonous cauldron that is Eilat in August.
Kfar Giladi isn’t all action, though. There is plenty of opportunity to rest with an indoor heated pool and an outdoor pool with spacious shaded lawns, fresh mountain air and stunning views. There is also a spa and a pleasant bar and lounge.
The hotel’s manager says that Kfar Giladi puts an emphasis on providing space for both parents and kids and striking a balance between making sure there is always something to do and pampering its guests – a feat it manages to pull off very successfully.
Kfar Giladi has 168 rooms spread out over several wings. We stayed in a newly refurbished wing of the hotel with 11 tastefully decorated suites, each of which can comfortably accommodate a family of five.
After arriving mid-afternoon, we headed straight for the outdoor pool to freshen up and cool down, spending a couple of hours there before heading back up to our suite and enjoying the breeze on our balcony, surrounded by greenery and a view toward Lebanon.
The buffet dinner was excellent, with plenty of variety for all to choose from. The asado – a staple of hotel buffets in Israel – was one of the best I’ve had.
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At this point, we could easily just have gone to our room and passed out, but the hotel had put on a tour of the nearby Tel Hai courtyard, one of the iconic sites of early Zionist settlement, where in 1920 Yosef Trumpeldor and others were killed in a clash with local Arab militias who suspected them of hiding French Mandate troops. He is reported to have said, “Never mind, it’s good to die for our country.”
Tel Hai has a fascinating history. Having become a formative episode in Zionist history that is marked by an annual state ceremony, it is well worth the visit.
From Tel Hai we walked carrying lanterns back up the hill to Kfar Giladi via the kibbutz cemetery where Trumpeldor and the other seven heroes of Tel Hai are buried below Avraham Melinkov’s statue of a roaring lion. Kiryat Shmona (the Town of the Eight) in the valley below is named after the eight defenders of Tel Hai.
The climb back to Kfar Giladi, which retraces the path taken by the defenders of Tel Hai as they withdrew to the kibbutz, was quite a challenge with small children. But once we were back, they were racing down to the indoor pool for a nighttime swim, a movie and a bonfire.
In the morning, after a sound sleep and a hearty breakfast, it was time for a tour of the ingenious underground secret weapons site where the residents of the kibbutz hid arms from the soldiers of the British Mandate, which had taken over the area from the French. The cache was so secret that most of the kibbutz residents didn’t even know about it until 1983.
The kids weren’t having any more historical tours, though. While we were hearing about how Kfar Giladi was a major point for illegal Jewish immigration and about weapons produced by unzere shtickel arbeit, they were chilling out at the children’s playroom, which is open all day long.
There are many other things to do at Kfar Giladi, including a boulevard of shops housed in converted chicken coops. While we didn’t get around to going there and only had a chance to get a brief glimpse as we walked back from Tel Hai, reliable sources tell me that Stephanie’s Patisserie has some of the best croissants and pastries in Israel, and there are many artists’ workshops offering their wares, such as handmade ceramics, jewelry, optical frames and much more.
The hotel puts on different activities every day, such as crafts and cooking workshops, milking cows, tours of the kibbutz, treasure hunts and family tours of the area by car.
There is also a wealth of things to do in the area, such as the Manara adventure park and cable car, kayaking on the Jordan River, visiting the Banyas falls, Mount Hermon and the Tel Hai Museum of Photography, to mention just a few.
I could easily imagine spending a few days there without the kids being restless for a moment, and we most certainly will be back.
The hotel is kosher. For Succot, there will be a beautiful succa.For more details, call (04) 690-0000 or write to email@example.com.
The writer was a guest of Kfar Giladi.
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