Each winter for the past 16 years, Pastoral Hotel-Kfar Blum has organized a dozen rich, musical weekends. This year, the program was expanded to include cultural, literary, theatrical and culinary events that will take place from November to May.
We came to for a musical winter retreat. The weekend, called “Between Jerusalem and Berlin,” included fine concert performances by Gil Shohat, Keren Hadar and the Ihud Choire; a musical show with Dan Almagor, Dafna Zehavi and Eyal Haviv; and the movie The Nahariyade with a talk by David Witzthum.
This is an upscale lodge on a kibbutz setting that is nothing like a regular kibbutz. While the setting is pastoral, the 190 hotel rooms are spacious, elegant and feature high-standard comfort amenities, including an espresso machine, LCD satellite TV, refrigerator, safe-deposit box, Wi-fi and climate control. The rooms have an outdoor sitting area that overlooks the Galilee and Golan Heights, so guests can enjoy the 53,000 square meters of lawns and green open-spaces.
The hotel facilities, lobby and rooms have been recently refurbished with an investment of some 30 million shekels, making it the first kibbutz hotel to get the highest A+B rating from Israel’s Tourism Ministry.
We stayed in a boutique room featuring a classic country decor, a bath with Italian tiles and a walk-in closet, where a set of robes and slippers awaited us. Each room is named after a famous writer. Ours was named for Ernest Hemingway. The room itself was huge and the large bathroom – connected by a wide sliding door – was furnished with a French bathtub and an elliptical shower. We sat in the warm tub and enjoyed the view of the Golan Heights.Culinary excellence
One of the highlights of staying at Pastoral Hotel-Kfar Blum was the food. The dining room serves high-quality buffet-style meals that are orchestrated by two talented individuals: Ohad Ivgy, the hotel chef, and Natalie Criden, who is in charge of the desserts, and they do an excellent job. Each meal, starting with breakfast, was rich, tasty and beautifully presented. At breakfast we enjoyed a variety of cold plates, salads and many varieties of high-end cheeses. A hot buffet filled with shakshuka, pies, ravioli and more, was followed by great pastries served with cups of cappuccino. Dinner was a gastronomic event. Beyond the large selection of salads, antipasti and cold starters, the dinner buffet included a selection of small tapas appetizer plates – a standard of luxury restaurants. A decent complimentary Golan Heights Cabernet Sauvignon wine was served and the dessert buffet was extravagantly laden with colorful macaroons, petit fours and fruit trays. Every afternoon, a rich dessert buffet was served. We felt we were being pampered at every meal, and frankly, ate too much! Spa delights
A winter’s vacation is incomplete without a good massage. Pastoral Hotel-Kfar Blum’s spa is small and intimate but it features some unique facilities. Besides a Turkish bath (hamam
) and a Finnish sauna, it has a rain-cave, a tipping bucket and foot-reflexology Jacuzzis. I started with the hamam and when it was too hot to bear, I tried the freezing tipping bucket, then ran back to the hamam, making a stop at the rain cave where automatic splashing water in different temperatures refreshed me as I passed through. Then, I went back to the hamam and felt warm and relaxed. After a few rounds of this, I was ready for a good massage and chose the warm-stone variety. It’s a specialty of the spa and it was excellent! The spa accompanies a small, but well-equipped gym in the basement, along with a rest area with herbal tea. The spa offers a variety of massages and facial and body treatment and features Christina products.Choice activities
The hotel is well-situated in the center of the Galilee Panhandle. It is also quite popular with families. Along with a seasonal Olympic pool, Kfar Blum Kayaks are within a walking distance at the well-known Jordan Promenade. Kiryat Shmona is only short drive away. On Friday morning, as part of its weekend program, the hotel offered guided tours – one to Biriya Forest and one to Mount Arbel. We chose the Arbel trip. A bus, a guide, and a bag with water and snack awaited us at the reception. The trip was wonderful and included a nice walk on which we saw ancient graves, a wine press and the archeological remains of the Arbel Synagogue. As we walked down the hill toward the valley we saw caves and animals. Aviad, our guide, was very knowledgeable about the topography and history of the area. We returned just in time for lunch after a perfect morning.
The next day, we skipped yoga at the hotel in favor of a self-guided bike tour.
Tiyulei Hadan is located on Kibbutz Dafna and rents bikes of all types, including children’s bikes, tandems, electric bikes and club cars. They provide the maps and all the help one needs to go on a self-guided tour of the area. We took bikes and helmets and the complimentary map and headed out to the Kibbutz plantations that are located alongside Dafna, Dan and the Hazbani rivers. A well-marked path led us alongside the avocado and mandarin plantations as we stopped by the rivers to rest and freshen up. In the summer, the riders also stop by the rivers to take a dip or have a picnic. This route in particular is very popular with families.
(The Dan Trips at Kibbutz Dafna – Ofnaym.co.il/ Tel: 972-54-784-4964) Musical and cultural programs
The musical events at Pastoral Hotel-Kfar Blum include many musical and cultural weekends. In February, weekends feature rock & roll with Yair Nizani and a “Venice Mask Festival” in cooperation with the Israeli Opera, hosted by the ambassador of Italy in Israel. Literary weekends and a “Love Weekend” with Bari Saharov and others will follow in March. April will host a jazz weekend with Alon Oleartchiik and May will be home to “Baroque Weekend” with the British cultural attaché.
The rich program of excellent concerts, shows and talks during our stay made the weekend engaging and entertaining. I especially enjoyed Gil Shohat and Keren Hadar’s concert. Keren’s singing was divine and Gil is always interesting and he plays piano beautifully.
The people at Pastoral Hotel-Kfar Blum pay attention to the smallest details. When the evening’s concert ended and we went out to the lobby, they awaited us with Sangria and chips. We got the weekend newspaper on Friday, a five o’clock coffee and cake every afternoon and all the attention one could hope for to make for a perfect stay.
Room prices include breakfast and start from NIS 1,440 during weekdays and on weekends. Prices are higher on holidays and during the musical weekends, but can often be found at a last-minute discount at online booking sites.
Pastoral Hotel-Kfar Blum, Tel +972-4-683-6611, http://www.kfarblum-hotel.co.il/ The writer was a guest of Kfar Blum and Tiyulei Dan.
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