When the luxurious Carmel Forest Spa invited a group of journalists to be guinea pigs for a new Maria Galland cosmetics treatment called Shining Star, a facial that is especially suitable for the winter months, I was more than happy to accept. The spa is surrounded, as the name implies, by forest, located on a hilltop overlooking the sea. The outside world with all its noises is blocked off - the hotel even has cell-phone blockers, so you can't use them inside. (For some Israelis this requires some serious re-adjustment!) Upon arrival I took the opportunity to relax and enjoy a superb dinner, with food that was both healthy and worthy of a gourmet restaurant, including elegant presentation. The next morning I enjoyed a hearty breakfast - though I tried to ignore the annoying signs next to each food item telling you how many calories you were swallowing with every bite. (This was likely part of the spa's weight-loss workshops.) Though there are many walking paths in the forest around the spa, I skipped them, since the wind was howling and it was soon time for my facial. The Shining Star treatment culminates in a special clay mask that comes in three variations: moisturizing, restoring the skin's brightness, and anti-ageing. I reluctantly resigned myself to the beautician's suggestion of the anti-ageing treatment. First, me face was cleaned with a mild make-up removal. Then it was treated with a scrub, and a creamy mask was applied, which was removed after a few minutes. A small bottle of serum was opened and applied all over my face; this felt deliciously soft and luxurious. Then a cream was applied, and it was time to prepare the paste for the clay mask. First my eyes were covered with patches, and then the pink paste was put on the whole face and neck, leaving out a space for the mouth and nose. This is definitely not a treatment you would choose if you are claustrophobic! The mask is left on for 15 to 17 minutes. It is removed in one piece, and can be taken home. (I can either let my kids paint Mommy's face, or keep it for Purim.) The masks contain minerals such as zinc and copper, and silicone and selenium in the case of the anti-ageing mask, which help the ingredients contained in the cream penetrate the skin. The moisturizing mask is white, while the treatment that restores the skin's brightness - especially suitable for women who smoke - uses a green clay mask. After the mask is lifted up, a moisturizer is applied. Whichever one of the three treatments you choose, your skin will feel wonderful afterward. The therapist advised me to not wash my face or use the pool or sauna for at least half an hour, so the cream could continue to do its work. I didn't feel the need to apply anything else until evening, even though the skin was a little shiny. After a treatment, be it a facial or a massage, you can relax on the spa's solarium deck, laying down on lounge chairs and looking at a peaceful landscape of trees and gravel. When you're ready to rejoin the world, you can come out and enjoy the sauna, pool, do a workout, or just sit down and enjoy the view. This top-of-the-line spa resort, visited by many local celebrities, is not a cheap escape from daily life, but it is worth it, if you can afford it. The price for a room for a couple, on the basis of full board, starts at NIS 1,470 on a weekday, and at NIS 2,095 on the weekend (with a minimum stay of two nights on the weekend). To this you will have to add the cost of treatments; the Maria Galland facial, for example, is NIS 330. You can take out a membership card and enjoy discounts, for example on your birthday, or wedding anniversary. The writer was a guest of the Carmel Forest Spa, tel. 04-8307878.