(photo credit: PR)
Mazkeret Batya is a sleeper of an Israeli town. Consider it the charming sister of Zichron Ya’acov. The tranquil moshava, not far from Latrun, was founded a year after Zichron (1883), and both have the stamp of Baron Edmond James de Rothschild on them. Zichron Ya’acov was named after his father, Jacob (James) Mayer Rothschild, and Mazkeret Batya after his mother, Baroness Betty (Batya) Salomon de Rothschild.
The Zionist philanthropist aided a group of religious farmers from Pavlova in White Russia during the First Aliya who bought land from the Arab village of Akir and established a farming community.
Perhaps because of the religiously observant nature of its initial inhabitants, Mazkeret Batya never developed along the lines of Zichron Ya’acov. So you won’t find multitudes of cafés, art galleries and crafts shops. However, the Old World allure and the plentiful Rothschild landmarks are there in abundance throughout the quaint village, exemplified by the Lemazkeret Guest Rooms in the heart of the town’s lazy main avenue, appropriately called Rothschild Street.
The rustic, romantic guest rooms – opened three years ago – are housed in one of the moshava’s oldest stone buildings, now refurbished and restored beautifully, and is situated on half an acre featuring gardens, several stone buildings, lots of antiquated gardening utensils and equipment and a pastoral and tranquil environment.
The down-home exterior contrasts with the eight detached and semidetached guest rooms (another room will be opened next month), which offer the all the amenities associated with pampered living – Jacuzzi, wireless connections, cable TV– and luxurious conditions.
The standard rooms go for NIS 460 per couple, and for a room including a Jacuzzi, it jumps to NIS 560. A larger family room and the two-floor suite cost NIS 650.
A stay at Lemazkeret isn’t complete without a homemade breakfast in the main building. With made-to-order eggs and finely chopped salad and fresh whole-grain bread, the NIS 60 per person meal is closer to a hearty kibbutz breakfast than the sumptuous hotel buffets that are de rigueur these days. But at a modest and retro place like this, such a spread would seem out of place. For a lighter breakfast, the Continental option costs NIS 35.
The night before, we walked along Rothschild Street and found Alma, a cute Italian dairy restaurant – one of the few sit-down establishments in the town – and enjoyed a delightful meal of salmon fettuccini. The pace there, like in the rest of the village, was country slow and relaxed.
Attractions worthwhile seeing in the town include the Great Synagogue, established in 1928; Beit Ha’itut (Signal House); Beit Meshek Habaron (The Baron’s Farmhouse); and the Mazkeret Batya Historical Museum, which portrays life in its early days through artifacts, photographs and documents.
Mazkeret Batya is also a great location as a launch pad for day trips. It is a short distance away from the Judean Hills, the Latrun Tank Museum, the Weizmann Institute of Science, the monastery, the Beit Guvrin caves and several boutique wineries. For more consumer-oriented ventures, try the vast Bilu shopping area.
Whether you use it for that home base purpose or as a romantic getaway for 24 hours of rest and relaxation, Lemazkeret and Mazkeret Batya should definitely be added to the must-see destinations, whether you’re a tourist or have lived here all your life. Baron de Rothschild would have been proud to stay there.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.
49 Rothschild Street