The hills of Jerusalem are full of age-old mysteries and hidden secrets.
As it turns out, those same hills are also home to newer treasures just
waiting to be discovered. I recently explored a few of those treasures,
and I’m willing to give away the identifying details.
when it comes to the Kadum ceramics studio, there are few identifying
details to divulge. The studio is unremarkably set among a winding road
of old warehouses at the edge of Moshav Aminadav.
however, have a remarkable view of the wadi across the way. As kadum
means “ancient,” the studio does not even have an address or a website
to give it away.
The earth-tone ceramics created there by Eliezer
Ehrlich are inspired by the Dead Sea area, where he worked in
agriculture for some three decades. Rather than consider his work as
art, Ehrlich focuses on the shape and functionality of his pieces –
which is not to say they aren’t attractive. They are fired at incredibly
high temperatures in order to improve their durability and make them
both dishwasher and microwave safe. While Ehrlich does sell his work,
his passion is to teach others to make their own ceramics. He offers
lessons at his studio.
Not too far away, in Jerusalem, is another
enterprise with strong connections to the earth and to Israel’s
pioneers. The three hectare organic Tur-Sinai Farm is all that remains
of the more than 120 hectares purchased by the Tur-Sinai and Torczyner
families in 1952. Inspired by Zionist ideology, the families built up
their farm and provided work for some 200 families in the area. They
were the first to “import” nectarines to Israel. The founder’s young
grandson was encouraged to smuggle the fruits back with him from a
summer in Fresno, California.
Some 50 years later, that boy is
the sole Tur-Sinai still on the land. Oded Tur-Sinai bought his way into
the family business, and he was the only one who didn’t sell off his
share during hard times in the 1980s.
Today, the Tur-Sinai Farm
still grows many of the fruits it brought to Israel, such as cherries,
plums, apricots, peaches and nectarines, though it no longer supplies
the same 25 to 30 percent of the country’s fruit production. The farm
has been entirely organic since the 1980s; according to Oded, organic
produce simply tastes better than non-organic produce.
Tur-Sinai retains that idealist spirit that his forebears brought with
them to Emek Ha'arazim. He emotionally expresses his hopes for peace in
the country, where everyone can coexist – just like his various fruit
trees live in harmony, species intermingled one next to the other. The
farm plays host to group getaways and activities, as well as bar mitzva
celebrations and weddings. It now houses the first handful of vacation
cabins, soon to be joined by dozens more. The cabins are nestled among
the trees, and they are very well appointed.
The fresh smell of
lumber abounds, and amenities are aplenty. Beyond the view, wildlife and
comfort, the farm comes with a good story.
For a slightly
smaller family enterprise, head over to Mevaseret Zion. There, Roni and
Sharon Calderon run Hashahar Brewery out of their home. Established in
2007, the boutique brewery began as a course paid for by Sharon as a
birthday gift to Roni.
They served their own beer at their
wedding and have since perfected a number of different brews: dark ale,
wheat beer, stout, IPA, spiced ale and Belgian Tripel, each named for a
family member. The Omer (the stout) won the gold medal at the
international BIRA competition. All the beers are of the ale variety,
and they’re made with no added flavors or spices (except the spiced
Visits are arranged in advance and can include anything
from stopping by to purchase a few bottles (a six-pack is NIS 89, a
single bottle costs NIS 17), to a tasting accompanied by homemade bread
made from the barley left from brewing, to a full meal.
speaking of homemade bread, nearby in Beit Zayit, Omer Sela has a new
home-based bakery. With a history of restaurant management behind him,
Sela has taken on the task of providing made-to-order organic, sourdough
breads to customers.
The rustic loaves come in a few varieties.
Shula is whole wheat, flax, sunflower seed and oat bread; there’s a
TumTum loaf made with thyme and sesame; a rye; and a spelt. Aside from
being attractive and healthful, the bread has notably good crust – and
this coming from someone who used to pass her crusts to her father.
While the ingredients are kosher and halla is taken, the bread is not kosher-certified.
Orders should be placed two days in advance. Prices run NIS 20-25 per loaf, and an extra NIS 5 is charged for delivery.
something even more unusual in Beit Zayit, head over to Etz V’Mayim.
Set overlooking the moshav’s seasonal lake, the spa offers watsu
treatments and a hot tub, along with swimming lessons for tots. The
facilities are laden with wooden decks, breathtaking views and
For those unfamiliar with watsu, it is a
combination of shiatsu and hydrotherapy in which the therapist floats
and stretches the client in a warm pool. The treatment is quite relaxing
for those able to let go of the fact that a total stranger is holding
them. The therapists at Etz V’Mayim take extra effort to make their
clients feel comfortable, and the option to use the hot tub afterward
certainly advances their goal.
Candlelight at sundown can provide an intimate, romantic experience.
it seems the hills around Jerusalem are alive with creativity. From
those producing wholesome food for the body to those feeding the soul,
it seems only natural that these secrets be brought to light.Where to eat:
Itamar is situated in a somewhat unconventional location: within a
plant nursery. Launched six years ago, the café and nursery serve as a
memorial to Itamar, the brother of one of the owners, who was killed by
terrorists. The flowers, life and food brought together at the edge of
Moshav Ora are meant to keep Itamar’s memory alive through growth and
The eatery recently underwent an overhaul thanks to a
new chef, Nadav Elbaz. Although he began his kitchen training in the
army, he has come a long way since then. He revamped the menu entirely
and has made a shift toward restaurant and away from café. On my recent
breakfast-time visit, I was pleased to find more adventurous offerings
than are typically available in local cafés. The food was presented
attractively, if only ever so lightly seasoned.
My dining partner
and I managed to sample a range of breakfast options. Under the small
breakfast options, we tried the bruschetta Niçoise (NIS 48), which was a
surprisingly tasty toast topped with vegetables, small sunnyside- up
eggs and red tuna; and cauliflower masabcha (NIS 48), which came with
tzatziki, chickpeas, pickled hot peppers, tomato, hardboiled egg, feta,
parsley and focaccia. My dining partner fell hard for that one.
selections we tasted included the Boker B’Mashtela (NIS 64), which was
an unexpectedly delightful combination of sunny-side-up eggs atop
asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, halloumi cheese
and salad; and the Boker Pinuk, a fabulous eggs Benedict- like dish
with poached eggs over smoked salmon, a spinach-Parmesan cream and
As it was still chilly out, we sat indoors,
enclosed by many windows and surround ed by flowering plants. On nice
days, the outside seating is inviting – both on the deck and among the
trees. The option to sip mimosas made with freshly squeezed orange juice
and cava (NIS 25) made breakfast into more of an event than a meal. For
a break from the city but not far at all, Café Itamar is a good option.
by the same owners as Café Itamar, Derech Hagefen is like the café’s
fancier cousin. With its rustic décor, exposed wood beams and
wood-burning stove, the restaurant creates a special atmosphere. Like
its cousin, it, too, is surrounded by gardens and plants and has a
greenhouse-like seating area in addition to the more traditional part.
dinner menu created by Ilan Niv boasts many fish options, salads,
risotto, pasta and pizza. Niv’s path to the kitchen began as a
dishwasher in a restaurant, as Hollywood as that sounds.
the starters that we sampled were a lemony cured salmon carpaccio with a
touch of horseradish (NIS 46), an amazing dish of tender grilled
asparagus topped with Parmesan sauce (NIS 36) and a fresh, lively tuna
ceviche with tomatoes, yogurt and parsley (NIS 48). Meanwhile, the beet
gnocchi (NIS 35/62) filled with goat cheese on creamed baby spinach and
garlic sauce was more standard, although the sauce was tasty.
surprising standout dish was the Beit Zayit salad (NIS 59). Comprised of
mushrooms, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, candied pecans and
Parmesan sauce on a bed of lettuce, the salad instigated a fight over
who got the last bite. The juicy, flavorful mullet kebab (NIS 45) came
on a bed of tzatziki, tehina and sumac, and it packed a little punch –
in a good way.
In terms of pasta, the tortellini porcini (NIS 62)
was filled with mushrooms and mascarpone and came in a tomato-butter
sauce, but somehow the only flavor really detectable was Parmesan. We
also sampled the beet spaghetti al olio (NIS 48), which was oddly
pleasing and a little spicy.
For a fish main, we tried the
grilled sea bass on a stew of gnocchi, carrots, Portobello mushrooms and
corn in a butter, turmeric and caper sauce (NIS 98). While the stew
combination might sound a little strange, it was a successful
combination. The fresh fish was quite good as well.
When it came
time for dessert, we tasted the hot chocolate cake (NIS 32), which would
have done well with some whipped cream; a special, fun Krembo-like
coconut cream mound filled with marshmallow in a pool of tangy
passion-fruit sauce; and katayef (NIS 34), an Arab dessert consisting of
folded, fried pancakes – in this case, one was filled with malabi, and
the other with a cinnamon-nut mixture. It was served with vanilla ice
cream and proved an interesting dessert, if not overwhelming with
Derech Hagefen is not your typical Jerusalem- area
restaurant. The menu is more creative, and the setting is more
intriguing. It’s a good place to go for a change of scenery.
The writer was a guest of the restaurants.THE DETAILS
Ha’arava Street, Moshav Aminadav
Eliezer Ehrlich: 052-384-0965
1 Ze’ev Tur Sinai Street
Emek Ha’arazim, Jerusalem
53 Rehov Hashalom
Omer Sela’s Bread Bakery
Moshav Beit Zayit
278 Derech Ha’agam Street
Moshav Beit Zayit
Meshek 46, Moshav Ora
Tel: (02) 642-4093
(Kosher) dairy 1
Moshav Beit Zayit
Tel: (02) 650-2044