MAGAZINE August 26, 2011 REAL ISRAEL I’ve never been tempted to hang a “Gone
fishing” sign on my door, but my nearly 10-year-old son has been hooked on the
idea for a while, so when we got the chance to visit Ma’ayan Zvi Fishing Park
for an overnight trip, we packed our tent and camping gear and headed North,
close to Zichron Ya’acov, in that particularly pastoral strip of coast at the
foot of the Carmel mountains.
As it happened, the dates that suited us
best fell on days in which the fishing park is dedicated to the Orthodox and
ultra- Orthodox public. Visitors are required to wear modest clothes, there are
separate hours for boys and girls in the paddling pools and the music is
suitable for the religious public. The result was a peculiarly Israeli
The original idea of the park was to allow adults to fish by
providing enough attractions to keep the children busy. From what I could see,
however, most families came for the kids’ sake and enjoyed not only the fishing,
but watching their offspring have fun.
Situated along the Dalia stream,
with natural ponds, the fishing is obviously the bait that lures the public, but
there are several other activities to suit most age groups.
Most of the
men and children made a beeline for the water (rods can be hired).
shallow ponds are well stocked, mainly with carp and St. Peter’s fish. These are
foolish enough to be caught fairly easily. As a vegetarian, I’m proud to say I
saved more fish than I caught. In fact, I didn’t even try to catch any and just
lent a hand at the tricky task of gently unhooking the hapless creatures and
throwing them back into the water. The park allows visitors to weigh and pay for
fish they catch (and provides a cleaning service), and several families did
catch their own suppers. Most people, however, returned the fish to their own
The younger children have an option of catching small fish in
tanks with nets.
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Fishing is evidently not as easy as it
“This is not Hollywood. Don’t throw your line into the river, drop
it in,” explained Omar Diknash, who has worked at the site for several years and
was not fazed to see fishing lines caught in the branches of a palm tree, as if
the visitor had been trying to catch a bird rather than a carp.
son was caught on the fishing – hook, line and sinker – I toured the area,
watched a nature movie in the reconstructed old windmill, admired the photo
exhibition, and took the opportunity to interview some of the
What a varied bunch they proved to be: I ended up deep in
discussion about the future of journalism in the Internet era with a family from
Bnei Brak (the wife works in computers); with a young woman from Safed, I
pondered Martin Fletcher’s observation of the fundamental difference between
Israelis from the coastal plain (where life is easier) and those from the hills
(who are tougher); I debated the rights of man to rule the animal kingdom with a
family from Elad, and ended up in conversation with a 21-year-old mother from
Rosh Ha’ayin about the nature of wars. This conversation was sparked when I
mentioned that the resident dog, Crembo, had been adopted as a puppy when he was
abandoned during the Second Lebanon War, presumably by a family fleeing the
In between, I also talked with the hardworking park manager
Graciela Gelbed about the ruthless Argentinean regime she escaped when she came
to Israel more than 30 years ago; with the park owner and developer Ofer Shinar,
a secular former pilot, I ended up discussing religion versus science; and with
Diknash – a Techniontrained former engineer from Fureidis – the problems of the
Arab sector. As I said, this fishing park has an only-in-Israel feel to
The site has been operating for nine years (after a battle with
environmentalists that I could well understand over development in this
sensitive area). It has been holding special days for the religious public for
the past five years, and I got the impression it is still a work in
“It’s not meant to be Superland,” Diknash pointed out, using
the generic name for an amusement park. The activities, however, include a rope
ladder and rope slide, donkey rides, paddling pools, baking pitot, and – a
particular hit with my son – boats (although steering away from the fishing
lines at one point left us up a pleasant creek without a paddle).
is also (for an extra charge) a foot spa, where the fish tickle as they nibble
at the dead skin. I’m not sure whether this counted as cruelty, given the state
of my feet, but out of all the fish at the site, they seem to have the best
For those who want to venture further afield, there are bicycles for
hire and marked cycling paths, and of course, the coast is an easy walk or
AS NIGHT fell, and only the campers remained, the fishing park took
on a different, more intimate, atmosphere. Families borrowed from each other the
one thing they had each forgotten to pack (a sharp “dairy” knife; a can opener;
salt). The showers and toilets are basic but clean, and, perhaps because it was
not crowded, the camping was more pleasant than at other dedicated campsites
I’ve been to.
We slept well and woke up to the sound of the many water
birds for which the area is well-known.
The park began filling up in the
morning, again with different types. My son hooked up with a fisherman
willing to share his 40 years’ experience. Even I watched, amazed, as he
two fish out of the water together and then, with tremendous ease,
and let them go. “I don’t think there’s a fish here that hasn’t felt my
Moses Kolet told me.
Kolet, a semi-retired healer and medical masseur who
lives in Hadera, comes to the park once a week for a day’s fishing.
he’s not the sort who requires solitude for the hobby, and we discussed
Indian Jewish community and early years of immigration while he
pulled fish from the water.
I also met an extended family from Netanya
and, while the children played, we sat in the shade and discussed
the role of women and religion. One mother, while not into the fishing,
openly seeking a different type of catch – a shidduch for her
Day entrance to the fishing park (from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) costs
NIS 42; overnight camping followed by a day’s activities (from 4 p.m. to
the following day) costs NIS 85. Although the park is open year-round,
best to check in advance whether it is open to the general public or
the religious sector (www.fishing-park.co.il; (04) 639-1603).
without fishing, I cast my cares aside, relaxed, and left with my feet,
least, in much better condition – an experience for body and sole.
writer and her son were the guests of Ma’ayan Zvi Fishing Park.
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