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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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
Beit Ha’ikar Museum
Zohar (guest house)
Lishansky Beit Ochel
Mahshavot Tzivoniot (Judaica)
Metulla Shooting Range
Sheli Shela Gallery (shop)
050-833-6684 (Shani); 054-498-7039
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