Springtime is such a special time of year, when first the almond, then citrus and olive trees bloom. The days pass quickly and before we know it, summer has arrived – so we must take advantage of this short window when it’s no longer cold, but not yet hot, to explore the beautiful outdoors.
One of my favorite places to visit in the springtime is the Western Galilee, which is bursting with colorful blossoms and green foliage. The weather is mild, and the vistas are gorgeous. One of the best ways to experience all this is to attend the tenth annual Taste of the Western Galilee Food Festival.
This year, the festival will be taking place from May 18-20. These three days will be filled with stimulating guided tours, art workshops and joyous meals. Below, you will find a glimpse of some of the activities, places to visit and culinary options on offer.
1. Savta Maha, Hurfeish
In the Druze Village of Hurfeish, you’ll find Maha Amar, who prepares authentic Druze meals for visitors. Situated 850 meters above sea level and just a few kilometers from the Lebanese border, Hurfeish is the northernmost Druze village in Israel. From Maha’s balcony, visitors can look out over the entire Galilee.
During their meal, visitors hear personal stories shared by Maha and a few of her Druze neighbors about the life and customs of the Druze community, and specifically what it’s like to be a Druze woman.
Maha makes some of the best hummus in the country, which she serves on her balcony alongside other traditional Druze dishes, such as shulbato – a vegan bulgar pilaf dish; mugrabi; chicken or beef mansaf; stuffed vine leaves; stuffed cabbage rolls; and makluba. For dessert, she serves maamul cookies with aniseed.
Before the meal, Maha’s husband, Amir, a tour guide, leads visitors through the picturesque alleyways of Hurfeish and offers a historical background of the Druze community in the Western Galilee. One of the locations the group visits is the second-most holy spot for the Druze community living in Israel: the tomb of the prophet Sablan. Just before eating, Maha teaches her guests how to prepare traditional Druze stuffed vine leaves.
Meals are kosher.
Price for tour & meal: NIS 220Details: 072-397-1470
2. Ruti and Gili, Moshav Ya’ara
The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the home of Ruti and Gili is Ruti’s huge smile and the loving way Gili looks at her. The second thing you’ll quickly become aware of is the incredible aroma of the dishes that the two of them serve in their spacious home and garden. The eclectic menu includes a hundred different dishes, the most popular one being the Algerian couscous and soup, which Ruti learned how to make from her mother-in-law.
Ruti says, “My parents worked extremely long hours, so growing up I spent most of the day with my grandmother Zohara, whom I used to call Mama. Even though she was blind, she was the most incredible cook. I spent so many hours with her in the kitchen. She would tell me what to do, and I’d help her peel vegetables, prepare meatballs and pull off artichoke leaves. She’d check my work by touching everything to see if I did it properly.”
On the table in Ruti and Gili’s home, we found five dishes: cauliflower mafrum and potato mafrum, as well as balls made from fish, chicken and beef. Ruti and Gili prepare lunch and dinners that visitors can order and pick up to eat back at their bed-and-breakfast accommodations. In addition, they host lectures in their home on all sorts of interesting topics.
During the festival weekend, Ruti and Gili will be hosting meals in their home, which will be followed by rock concerts performed by local musicians.
Price of dinner & concert: NIS 145Details: 072-394-1140
3. Off-Road Excursions, Achziv
Northern RTV Extreme Off-Road Excursions in the Achziv/Rosh Hanikra region is a family business run by married couple Ophir and Michal, who recently replaced their old off-road vehicles with new and safer Razer off-road vehicles.
For years, Ophir loved extreme sports and off-road vehicles. Because of his contagious enthusiasm, Michal and brother Roey joined him in the business, as well as his father, Aryeh, who came out of retirement to help out.
The staff help visitors plan a customized route on trails for off-road excursions near Achziv Beach that takes them near the sand dunes, mountains and valleys. Each trip includes a stop to enjoy the view and have a cup of coffee or tea. During the festival, they will hold evening trips for the whole family.
Price: NIS 600 for two-person Razor. NIS 800 for eight-person RazorDetails: 072-394-1145
A Christian Arab village in the Western Galilee, Mi’ilya is located atop a mountain situated between Nahariya and Ma’alot. At the top of the hill, you will find remains from a Crusader fortress, which are proof that the Crusaders controlled the region and roads in the region from the Crusader period. The fortress is known as Chateau du Roi (the King’s Castle), and the homes of Mi’ilya are built right on top of this ancient fortress.
We joined a guided tour with Ayelet Bar Meir, who took us on a tour of the village, starting at the beautiful ancient church, and then on to a restaurant below, inside of which remains of ancient artifacts were found during excavations. Afterward, we were led to a private home, inside of which a mosaic was found that dates back to the Byzantine period, and apparently was the floor of a church.
Bar Meir will be leading a Wine Route Tour for the spring festival, during which she will bring participants to Julia Winery, a boutique winery run by agronomist George Araf. Araf offers wine tastings of his Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Viognier wines, along with cheese platters and light refreshments.
Price of tour & tasting: NIS 140Details: 072-397-1232
Translated by Hannah Hochner.