Have a taste of the Galilee Food Festival

This is the 18th year in a row that visitors can come taste mouthwatering delicacies prepared by some of the region’s top chefs and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings of northern Israel.

 Ktofoti (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

Currently, we are enjoying a burst of colorful new blossoms all over the country, thanks to the ample rain we’ve had over the last few weeks. As well, it’s the time of year when festivals celebrate Israel’s singular tastes, flavors and aromas. One of the most exciting festivals the Taste of the Galilee Food Festival, which begins February 27 and lasts for an entire month, ending March 27.

This is the 18th year in a row that visitors can come taste mouthwatering delicacies prepared by some of the region’s top chefs and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings of northern Israel. The festival focuses on local culinary businesses and restaurants that make use of the many talented chefs who live in the area. There will be special events and attractions around the Tsipori, Beit Lehem and Tabor Rivers, as well as tours of the former Templer area of Tivon, KKL-JNF forests, fruit groves, wineries, restaurants, museums and petting zoos, all around the Galilee.

Just like in previous years, the festival is holding a grand opening event at the Jezreel Valley Museum in Kibbutz Yifat, which includes lots of food and wine. Every weekend, special attractions will be held, including a farmers’ market and craft fair at the historic Jezreel Valley railway station in Kfar Yehoshua; culinary tours in the Afula outdoor market; home hospitality with lots of good food and interesting stories in Nazareth; a guided tour run by KKL-JNF and the Nahal Kishon Stream Authority along Nahal Beit Lehem, starting in Ramat Yishai and ending in Kfar Yehoshua. 

Anyone joining the KKL-JNF guided tour of Nahal Tabor will receive picnic baskets full of tasty food from Nof Hagalil restaurant. As well, there will be a free hike near Yokneam that will take place on Friday, March 11, from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and begins in Khan Yokneam and ends at Emek Hashalom. This 7.2 km. circular path is appropriate for babies in strollers and there will be a plethora of environmental activities, nature games and food stalls.

Below, you will find information about other Taste of the Galilee Festival activities.

 The Templers (credit: MEITAL SHARABI) The Templers (credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
1. The Templers

Sometime back around 1905, the Ottomans completed the construction of train tracks reaching all the way to the Jezreel Valley station, which led to a drastic improvement in standard of living for residents of the Jezreel Valley, who could finally easily get to Haifa to sell their wares, or travel to Beit Lehem Haglilit or Alonei Abba. The nearby wadi (riverbed), which only has running water during the rainy season, is known as the Templers’ Valley.

Over the years, lots of refuse has been dumped in the wadi and rainfall runoff has led to erosion of the soil and other ecological disruptions. In an effort to prevent additional damage and to prevent future problems, KKL-JNF spearheaded a unique restoration project that channels runoff rainwater into a reservoir so that the water can be used all year long for the irrigation of nearby fruit trees groves, as well as prevent flooding. 

Restorers built small dams at a number of points along the river that divert a certain amount of the water into small storage pools. They also cleaned up the riverbanks, constructed a lovely walking path, and built a small amphitheater where small groups of people can congregate. If you hike along the river after the winter rains have begun, you will be able to see these dams at work, as well as enjoy the lovely flowers that blossom this time of year.

One of the festival highlights is the Shabbat in Nature hike at the Templers’ Path in Kiryat Tivon, which will take place on March 5, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Meeting point: Chativat Habeinayim parking area in Ramat Tivon. The end point is on Hashkedim Street, near Tziporanim Square (best to have a second car waiting at the end point).

2. Ktofoti

Located in the fields of one of the most beautiful regions of the country, near Beit Lehem Haglilit, you’ll find Ktofoti, one of Israel’s oldest self-picking fields. This is a great place for the young and young-in-spirit to really get their hands dirty and connect with nature. It’s the perfect place to be reminded that fruits and vegetables don’t grow in the neighborhood grocery store. Every weekend, harvest participants are welcome to nosh on the produce as they are picking and then enjoy a cup of piping hot soup (for a fee). As well, there will be cooking classes available on Fridays during the festival (pre-registration required), in which participants will go out into the fields together to pick the vegetables and herbs needed to make the dish.

The first class, which will take place on March 4 and is titled ‘When Italy meets the Jezreel Valley’, will be led by chef Alon Banki. Banki, who began cooking at a very young age, completed a course in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School. He’s worked at restaurants in the 12th arrondissement (district) in Paris, in New York’s SoHo district and at a number of successful restaurants in Tel Aviv. In 2006, Banki relocated to northern Israel, and loves preparing meals for private groups and offering cooking classes. In this class, participants will learn how to make citrus fennel salad, Jezreel minestrone soup, winter risotto, potato and pea chips, and spicy Sicilian eggplant.

A class on gluten-free cooking with chef Yehudit Levy will take place on March 11 and a class on preparing easy recipes will be held by Chef Liron Yardeni.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.Price: NIS 250.For more details, contact: 054-550-7480.

 Lehem Bahatzer Bakery (credit: MEITAL SHARABI) Lehem Bahatzer Bakery (credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
3. Lehem Bahatzer Bakery

Tzachi Ventura, who also happens to be a driving instructor, is the proud owner of Lehem Bahatzer. Around ten years ago, while spending hours in the car teaching young people to drive, he began toying with the idea of learning to bake bread. He spent 500 class hours in Tel Aviv, over a period of eight months, then began trying out various bread recipes at home, offering his creations to his family and neighbors.

At some point, his wife told him she’d had enough with the huge mess of flour all over their kitchen, so he installed a professional oven in a room in their yard. He began selling his bread every Friday in Shimshit where they live, and the rest is history. The loaves were flying out like hot cakes, so each week he increased the amount of bread he’d make and at some point, he had to ask his daughters for help selling his wares in order to keep up with the demand. Ventura finally opened up a café in Ramat Yishai, where he sells bread, pastries, quiches and all sorts of tasty delicacies.

During the festival, Ventura is offering a NIS 110 special breakfast for two, which comes with a coupon to purchase his sourdough bread for only NIS 10.

Location: 4 Ha’alonim Street, Ramat Yishai. Hours: Sunday to Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.For more details, contact: 052-870-8090.

4. Jalila Bedouin Hospitality

In the Village of Zarzir in the Jezreel Valley, guests are invited to enjoy a taste of traditional Bedouin hospitality. Jalila Mazariv opens her home to guests who are curious about tasting authentic Bedouin dishes and she offers tours to pick herbs. Mazariv is an educator, with a master’s degree in educational leadership from Haifa University, and she loves regaling guests with stories about Bedouin culture, what it’s like being a Bedouin woman in Israeli society and how she’s trying to offer her daughters opportunities that are not normally available to members of the Bedouin community. 

Meals with Mazariv will take place on three Fridays (March 4, 18 & 25) for NIS 50 and will include vegetarian makluba, tabouleh, coffee and baklava.

Location: Jalila Bedouin Hospitality, Zarzir Village.Tours: On Saturdays (March 5, 19 & 26) and on Friday, March 11 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.Price: Adults 150 NIS, children NIS 80 (from age 10).For more details, contact: 052-899-2511.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.