You can’t go back in time, but you can certainly slow things down, as I
discovered during a recent visit to the Bellofri farm on Moshav Kidmat Zvi, near
Bellofri, run by Tami and Babi Kabalo, is a tourism enterprise
with its very own, special flavor – part of that flavor being homemade cheeses
and wines washed down with ample helpings of philosophy.
“It’s based on
two central principles,” explains Tami, “recycling and a strong link to Jewish
and Israeli traditions.”
The Kabalos arrived in Kidmat Zvi 30 years ago
when the site was just an empty plot of land amid the beauty of the Golan. It
was Zionism that took them so far from their previous home in
“We were raised on the youth movement slogan: ‘Aleh
vehagshem,’ [Go up and make it real] so that’s what we did,” says
And in a way, that’s what they continue to do, amid vineyards and
orchards of cherries, apples and pears.
Developing their land as a
tourism site – though undoubtedly a business – is nonetheless a way for the
Kabalos to share their dreams with others.
Tami and Babi, both in their
50s, talk with passion about their work – and about each other – so it is
surprising to learn of its prosaic background.
“We have four children and
when they left home I was badly hit by empty-nest syndrome,” says
“A split second before I became certifiably insane, we began
opening our home to tourists. We also took lots of courses and began to share
The Kabalos proved talented in complementary fields. Babi
studied the crafts of making stained glass and jewelry. Tami studied sculpture.
Babi makes wines, Tami cheeses. They serve the food in the restaurant Babi built
using what he could find, hence the special character that comes from combining
local wood and the dark volcanic rock of the Golan. The plates are Tami’s
handmade ceramic dishes. The food is delicious (there is no kashrut certificate
as they are open on Shabbat, but the kitchen is dairy only).
gives a guided tour of the winery and galleries to couples who drop by for a
visit – they also offer courses in their various fields – Tami and I chat. Since
Tami has a master’s degree in Jewish philosophy and she still teaches at a local
high school, our conversation quickly covers many fields, from education to the
religious-secular divide, the role of philosophy and life’s shocks and
surprises. Aided by the combined relaxing effect of the wine and scenery, the
“personal touch” quickly becomes personal indeed.
At some point I follow
Tami into the kitchen where she needs to drain the water from the feta cheese
she is preparing. The range of cheeses is named after their young granddaughter,
Noam, Tami notes proudly. How did she get into the cheese making business?
“Well, first we got the goats and then we needed to do something with
For, among the “recycling” projects, is a petting corner full of
rescued animals. My nine-year-old son, who had been escorted by the Kabalos’
young neighbor, Sagi, is eager to introduce me to the goats, donkeys and sheep,
each with its own story – one wounded by a Katyusha in the Second Lebanon War,
one which escaped from a truck on its way to slaughter, one found abandoned and
Another attraction for children is the reconstruction of ancient
farming methods – the millstone of the olive press is operated by the donkey,
“the one with four legs,” as Tami puts it. Each point is accompanied by an
explanation of Jewish principles and traditions. As kids work in the granary,
for example, they learn that everything has a value – even the chaff – and are
taught about the tradition of charity; the bread making teaches the value of
hard work, and the well serves as a reminder of the importance of
A look at the visitors’ book shows several expressions of
gratitude from American Jews who have visited on bar/bat mitzva trips, sometimes
getting a drasha from Tami, a teacher rather than preacher.
“It’s a very
Israeli experience,” says Babi.
Among the most Israeli aspects has to be
the wine cellar – an old Syrian bunker now housing rows of bottles carrying the
label Ein Nashut, the name of the Second Temple-period synagogue whose remnants
can be seen nearby.
THE GOLAN is not the place for a rushed day trip, so
it was decided that we would sleep over at Kibbutz Ortal. Last-minute (and
nonpaying) guests during the busy Succot holiday season, we were given one of
the simpler rooms which was all we needed: clean, comfortable, air-conditioned
with cable TV, a coffee corner and shower.
The next day, my son saw the
luxury wooden holiday cabins equipped with a giant Jacuzzi and flat plasma TV,
leaving him with aspirations for a future visit. I was reminded of Yediot
Aharonot columnist Lihi Lapid’s insight that Israel’s water shortage could
probably be solved if there were tzimmerim without Jacuzzis, which tempt
families who carefully save water at home to waste it on
Admittedly the nighttime entertainment possibilities on the
kibbutz are somewhat limited, although spa treatments can be ordered in advance
to the cabins. One of the novelties for many visitors is eating in the
traditional kibbutz communal dining room. Ortal also offers visits to its
800-cow computerized dairy. It is a moo-ving and vaguely mesmerizing experience:
The cows step through a revolving gate onto a slowly rotating, completely
automated milking parlor. For those who prefer their animals in a more natural
environment than a giant computerized roundabout, wolves can be heard howling at
night (safely beyond the kibbutz fence).
In the morning, we do a quick
tour around the kibbutz and are enchanted by the kibbutz horses that gallop
past, the majesty of Mount Bental and, in the distance, a row of wind
Those with more time can perhaps visit Gamla, the Masada of the
North and a stunning nature reserve, go bird-spotting in the Hula or take in
some of the many archeological sites in the area.
As we descended from
the Heights on our way home, we got a view of the Kinneret which reminded me why
it inspired poets like Rahel.
Jerusalemites can hardly complain about a
lack of ancient or religious sites, but a trip to the Golan Heights, especially
accompanied by good food and philosophical discussions, provides a different
Details of the Kabalos’ farm can be found at:
www.bellofri.co.il Workshops require prior coordination. For info on
Kibbutz Ortal: www.ortal.net/EN/