The Lear Sense Hotel in Gedera was created as a labor of love and feels more like a home than a hotel.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As a licensed tour guide, I’ve endeavored to explore every nook and cranny in Israel from biblical Dan to Beersheba, and the modern state’s boundaries from Mount Hermon to Taba. But in our two-year course, my classmates and I never made it to the historic moshava of Gedera, which I learned one recent Shabbat is a great pity.
Gedera, founded by pioneers of the Bilu movement in 1884, is a gem waiting to be discovered. Now, after a three-year renovation of a former seniors’ home, the cute-as-a-button town (pop. 28,000) is graced with a boutique inn and spa, the Lear Sense Hotel, worthy of a stay.
Typifying our experience with the very friendly staff at the 25-room hotel, the owner, Tzachi Tzuk, picked us up from the bus stop at Bilu Junction at Route 7 and Route 40. Tzuk named his baby after his two-and-a-half year old daughter, Lear. Together with planners Raz and Hani Dahan, designer Shai David, and his father, artist Eli Tzuk, who was responsible for the construction and woodwork, Tzuk has created a labor of love that feels more like a home than a hotel. Spread over a three-quarters of an acre, the laid-back hotel is based on the five senses.
The bucolic rooftop spa, which has a jacuzzi and infinity pool overlooking the orchards and rolling hills of the Shfela, offers its own line of “Molton Brown” aromatherapy products based on the fragrances of nature.
The hotel showcases works of art by local artists. Lior Matlov’s mesh sculptures of nudes, faces and birds piqued my interest.
Hearing also forms part of the Lear Sense experience. Sitting on our balcony and in the courtyard garden, we were serenaded by the birds. The tranquility of the pastoral settlement is something city folk miss in our frenetic lives.
But it’s taste that makes the Lear Sense worth a visit. Chef Asaf Stern’s Aberto Restaurant (non-kosher) offers an ever-changing variety of gourmet delights prepared from the freshest local ingredients, and wines from the nearby vineyard of Avi and Eran Kahanov. In the highest compliment, my wife Randi – a self-described foodie – pronounced the eggplant drizzled with olive oil and yogurt “worth the calories.”
Ditto for the unique desserts. The pear brûlée was a twist on the classic crème brûlée while the exotic soup – made from blood oranges, grapefruit, tapioca pearls, fruit sorbet and meringue – was unlike anything I’ve ever savored.
Gedera itself, and its environs offer numerous attractions.
Biluim Street, the picturesque main drag of the moshava, has several historic buildings. Shabbat services at the Yeshurun Central Synagogue, built in 1912, felt like stepping back in time. The Sverdlov Hut, which once belonged to Chana and Yigal Sverdlov, is the only remaining shelter built by the founders. The bell once rang to call residents stands in the front yard. In 1885, the pioneers dug a 20x4x2-meter hole and covered it with a roof to use as a stable. Now restored, it’s known as Bor HaBilu’im.
Beit Mintz, erected in 1924 in the vernacular style before Bauhaus architecture became popular in Mandate Palestine, today serves as the Museum of the History of Gedera and the Biluim. Nearby is the home and sculpture garden of Yoma Segev, who welds his creations from objet trouvé.
If you absolutely insist on escaping the serenity of the Lear Sense, nearby you’ll find horseback riding, vineyards to explore, cycling and a buffalo farm.
As a tour guide, I would be remiss for not mentioning Tel Katra. Here, in preparation for the construction of a new neighborhood, Antiquities Authority archaeologists last year uncovered an industrial scale pottery workshop for the manufacture of Gaza amphorae used to transport wine and other foodstuffs across the Byzantine world. Some 100,000 broken vessels discarded at the site attest to its use over four centuries. Adjoining the complex was an ancient recreation center for the workers, complete with 20 bathing pools and a 1,600-year-old Mancala game board incised in the rock.
The Biluim pioneers took their inspiration from the verse in Isaiah 2:3: Beit Ya’akov Lekhu Venelkha, meaning “O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
With an invitation like that, what are you waiting for?The writer was a guest of the Lear Sense Hotel.
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