Come rain or shine

No matter what the weather, Metulla has a full range of activities to offer both indoors and out.

By SHIRA TEGER
January 16, 2012 10:39
Metulla landscape

Metulla landscape. (photo credit: Shira Teger )

 
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When the weather outside is frightful, there are still many delightful things to do in Metulla. Of course if it’s nice out, there’s plenty to do there as well. And that’s one of the beautiful things about this border town at the northern edge of Israel.

The most obvious of the beautiful things in Metulla is the scenery. The town was founded with funding from Baron de Rothschild in 1896 as a moshava (farming community); it is set amid the hills overlooking the Hula Valley. On a clear day, you can see both the Israeli and Syrian sides of the snow-capped Hermon. The Lebanese border abuts the town’s orchards. And the quaint houses preserve their original appearance by retaining stone facades and yards that once housed chickens and livestock.

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I paid a visit to Metulla recently, and I was rewarded with one rainy day and one sunny day. On the rainy day, I stayed mostly indoors. On that front, Metulla features a small museum of the town’s history. Beit Ha’ikar, as it is called, is housed in a little building that once was home to the rabbi of Metulla. Now it is filled with artifacts from the town’s past. Cross through a small covered courtyard displaying agricultural tools and you enter a more document-and-photography-oriented display. You can browse at your leisure to learn about the town’s difficult inception and troubled history. Or, if you want the full spiel, talk to the woman who runs the museum, and she will clue you in on all the intrigues and stories that Metulla has seen.

The major hub of indoor activity in Metulla is the Canada Centre. This complex features something for pretty much everyone of any age. On the young end, the center has a playroom (gymboree) for toddlers to climb and paint and play. There is also a large space that has a bowling alley, pool tables, table tennis and air hockey, as well as a snack bar.

But the most famous attraction at the Canada Centre is probably the Olympicsize ice skating rink. While it serves as a practice space for local hockey teams and figure skaters, it is also available to the public during open skate hours. I had a great time rediscovering my skating skills, which I am proud to say I have not lost despite my many years in the Middle East.

In addition to these attractions, the Canada Centre has a large indoor swimming pool, wading pool and hot tub; an impressive workout room and a shooting range. It turns out that I am a pretty good shot, despite no prior experience. For overworked adults looking for relaxation, there is also a quiet spa with massage treatments, saunas and a hot tub. The center offers all types of combination packages, or you can pay separately for the services you want.

For other indoor recreation, try eating. Metulla is dotted with cozy, high-quality restaurants (see below ).



When you’re blessed with a sunny day, your options increase. Metulla’s tourism board offers guided jeep-based tours of the area, including a trip along the orchards and the Lebanese border. On my tour, I heard stories of the recent Second Lebanon War while looking at the nowpeaceful battlefield. And I tasted the homemade jams that everyone in town makes, thanks to the fruits grown there. Make sure to stop at one of the observation points to take in the impressive panorama. My tour paid a visit to Mitzpe Dado for that purpose. You can also hike down into the Ayun Wadi and explore the waterfalls, including the popular Tanur waterfall.

Metulla’s main street, Harishonim, is lined with eateries, shops, galleries and small-town charm. As with many such communities, the hours that places are open are not exactly standard, and many spots are open to the public on weekends only. But if you can arrange it, look at the creative works that are made in Metulla. Reportedly, the peace and quiet are the inspiration for the original and colorful works. I got a chance to see the ceramics and jewelry made by Adi and Shani at Sheli Shela; the handmade, Fimo-based millefiori accessories and Judaica at Mahshavot Tzivoniot; Shirli’s exceptionally colorful hammocks at Arisal (she also runs a jeep tour company); and the wildly imaginative clothes at Down the Road (Nidudim).

If you want to venture farther for outdoor adventures, Mount Hermon is only about a half-hour drive, and the Manara Cliff is even closer. Guests who stay in Metulla receive discounts on a variety of attractions in the area. So whether you’re looking for activity, relaxation or pampering, you’ll find it in Metulla – come rain or shine.

PLACES TO STAY
Since tourism is the main industry in Metulla, there is no shortage of places to stay. The range varies from economy to family-oriented to purely romantic, and from historical to brand new.

On my trip, I stayed at Habayit shel Zohar, a high-end guest house attached to the owner’s home. The two suites there cater to couples, with Jacuzzis, candles and wine. The sumptuous vegetarian breakfast that Zohar serves is a reason to stay there in and of itself, especially on a nice day when you can eat on the patio overlooking a wadi.

Although I didn’t stay anywhere else, I took a short tour of some of the other lodging options. Also on the luxurious, adults-only end is Beit Shalom, with its rich furnishings, fireplaces and all the trimmings. The premises also feature a restaurant and a well-appointed lobby.

On the more affordable (most start under NIS 500 a night), family- and couple-oriented end of the spectrum are the Alaska Inn (a reincarnation of the Sheleg Halevanon hotel with a great view from the roof); the Arazim Hotel (clean, spacious rooms); Galila (guest rooms are hidden among 50 fruit trees and a winding path); Ahuza Bemetulla (nice guest houses for families and couples); Mina (guest houses and a kashrut certificate); and Galia’s Hotel (like walking into your grandma’s house).

PLACES TO EAT
Metulla is a traditional town, which is indicative of its origins as a religious settlement. So although few of the restaurants in town have kashrut certificates, many serve kosher food but are open on Shabbat. For instance, Ugahle is a dairy café with simple, homemade fare coming in under NIS 50, such as soups, salads, quiches, shakshuka and cakes. The sweet potato soup and homemade halla hit the spot on a blustery day. In addition, the back part of the eatery has the tilepainting workshop of the proprietor, Vered.

Also following tradition is Lishansky Beit Ochel, a veritable institution in Metulla. If you are at all familiar with Israeli history, the name Lishansky may ring a bell – it’s the family to which Nili member Yosef Lishansky belonged. In addition, the family has a long culinary history, dating back to a matriarch who used to treat Turkish soldiers to sweets. In its current form, the Bauhaus building, designed by Moshe Gerstel, is run as an authentic, home-style restaurant. The food is hearty and very tasty: I sampled a variety of flavorful salads, a tender lamb osso buco and a few sides (Lishansky Meal, NIS 129). The chocolate-coconut mousse cake I had for dessert was delicious as well, despite being parve.

But what really makes Beit Lishansky unique is Clary, the owner. She is fluent in multiple languages, and she loves to tell stories of the house, the people and the town of Metulla.

From what I heard, Luissa, a charming restaurant and gallery set among stone walls, is also fabulous.

THE DETAILS
Arisal (shop)
052-281-2048 (Shirli)
www.arisal.co.il

Beit Ha’ikar Museum
057-241-7735

Canada Centre
(04) 695-0370
www.canada-centre.co.il

Habayit shel Zohar (guest house)
077-924-3800; 052-424-3800
www.hapisga.co.il/zimers/ z217.php

Lishansky Beit Ochel
(04) 699-7184

Mahshavot Tzivoniot (Judaica)
050-687-5433 (Inbal)
www.inbal-art.co.il

Metulla Shooting Range
(04) 695-1514
 www.neshek.co.il

Sheli Shela Gallery (shop)
050-833-6684 (Shani); 054-498-7039 (Adi)
www.shelishela.co.il

Ugahle Café-Gallery
052-859-7044

For more information about Metulla’s attractions, eateries and services, plus a comprehensive list of lodging options, visit the Metulla Tourism Board’s website: metulla.co.il

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