Go ahead, spoil yourself

Take a post-Yom Kippur spa day at Hamei Ga’ash.

Hamei Ga’ash (photo credit: PR)
Hamei Ga’ash
(photo credit: PR)
The health benefits of natural springs have been known since ancient times. Aside from the relaxation that a soak in warm water affords, the rich mineral properties of such springs can ease a number of conditions, such as joint or muscle pains. Back pains, headaches and high blood pressure can be relieved by immersion in a warm mineral pool.
World-renowned facilities such as the famous Baden-Baden spa in Germany’s Black Forest or the facility in the Belgian city of Spa, which lent its name to the phenomenon, became well known for their curative waters and have been a focus of medicinal pilgrimage for thousands of health-seekers since the Middle Ages.
Israel has long featured on the world map of healing waters, notably those of the mineral-rich Dead Sea. In the center of the country, Hamei Ga’ash, the spa at Kibbutz Ga’ash, is a shining example of what the Jewish state has to offer those who seek calm relaxation in a naturally curative environment.
Only five minutes from Herzliya or 20 minutes from Tel Aviv, Hamei Ga’ash is located just off the Coastal Highway among the lush greenery of sculpted gardens. These surround a therapeutic oasis of natural mineral pools designed to the highest European standards, with floor-to-ceiling windows maintaining the link with the natural setting.
Pools at various temperatures (up to 38 degrees Celsius) invite relaxing soaks, interspersed with indulgent visits to the large Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. An aqua-massage room offers high-pressure jets that direct therapeutic, sulfur- infused water at one’s aches and pains. The hot mineral pools contain dozens of water jets that provide a gentle massage and stimulate blood circulation. When it’s time to cool off, cold water jets offer similar relaxation in the freshwater swimming pool.
The spacious outdoor pool offers non-mineral- enhanced swimming alongside a kiddie pool for those bravely trying to relax while accompanied by small children. If all this relaxation serves to work up an appetite, the conscientious spa-goer can take a break at the facility’s kosher meat restaurant, which serves a delicious Middle Eastern menu that is fortunately not restricted to the typical health-food-only spa experience. The lamb kabob with the house sauce is highly recommended.
For lesser appetites, a dairy snack bar is available for just a nosh.
No visit to a first-class spa would be complete without a massage, and Hamei Ga’ash’s 14 treatment rooms offer a variety of popular techniques: Swedish, holistic, hot stone, bamboo, Thai, deep tissue, and a special massage for pregnant women. These may be enjoyably combined with special treatments, including skin peeling, mud baths, Shiatsu, reiki and reflexology.
Previous massage treatments in Israel, Thailand and the Philippines made this reporter initially skeptical of what a kibbutz spa massage might be. I was more than pleasantly surprised by the application of a new, reputedly Israeli technique: isui kadim, which translates to “pitcher massage” but actually refers to the use of clay ceramics.
Similar to the well-known application of heated stones to the ailing body, isui kadim employs palm-sized ceramic juglets containing a special recipe of massage oil, which is heated over a candle flame. A ceramic dipper is used to spread drops of the oil over the target area of the body, and the warmed juglet itself is then used to press the massage.
Different juglets are used for different parts of the body – some with spiral-patterned bottoms, others with circular patterns, for example.
The impressive difference between your basic Thai or Filipino massage and the juglet treatment at Hamei Ga’ash – aside from the distance involved – is that this reporter continued to feel the therapeutic effect long after returning to Jerusalem. This may be an unscientific observation about the Israeli juglet treatment, but for me, it works.
A minute’s walk from the spa are 32 guest rooms with all the conveniences – including cable TV, which may be combined with the spa visit for a perfect country vacation. Hamei Ga’ash is open seven days a week, and Monday through Wednesday evenings are Hebrew song nights at the spa’s Greek tavern.
The pastoral-spa-by-day also hosts social events at night. During the summer, Hamei Ga’ash can accommodate affairs of up to 1,000 people; in the winter season, up to 500. There is abundant free parking. •
Hamei Ga’ash at Kibbutz Ga’ash is just off the Coastal Highway at the Shefayim exit. It adjoins the Hof Hasharon National Park and sits above the popular Ga’ash Beach on the Mediterranean. Traffic permitting, it’s about one hour from Jerusalem.
For details or to order tickets: (09) 952-9494. A virtual tour of the spa is available on its website: www.hameigaash.co.il.
The writer was the guest of Hamei Ga’ash.