It is possible that Mount Ben-Tal, a lookout site in the Golan Heights and former bunker for IDF soldiers fighting Syria, wasn’t created with the express purpose of playing hide-and-seek. But while most tour guides may overlook the location’s supremacy in that field, my three children (ages almost five and three-year-old twins) were quick to catch on.
We had just left Kibbutz Merom Golan and could clearly see the vacation hut where we’d stayed the previous night from the lookout. A little farther away we just made out the fantastic petting zoo where my boys, Ya’ir and Yaron, had helped a farmhand load up a cart with straw to feed the goats. They’d also cavorted with the camel, fed hay to the horses and petted the ponies in between collecting peacock feathers and making the turkeys gobble. Daughter Kinneret, in the meantime, had an unfortunate incident involving goose poop.
But no matter, she was quickly taken off to our hut for a complete overhaul in its luxurious jacuzzi bath — and luscious heating. In the brisk November weather, upon our late-afternoon arrival the day before to this, the far reaches of the Golan, heating was a special blessing and we used it all night and into the morning.
Outside it was autumn. Between the intermittent drizzle and the smell of fallen leaves, I could almost make believe that Israel has more than two real seasons. And as we walked to the kibbutz cafeteria for breakfast early that Friday morning, I found myself thinking of the joy of a nice hot meal and was secretly sad we were ’only’ going to get breakfast.
We were the first guests to arrive (unsurprising, as our kids generally awaken by 6 a.m.) and were presented with another surprising blessing: There were several hot dishes, a huge spread of cheeses, fish and salads, a variety of homemade jams (try the yummy mango) and two kinds of cake for dessert. What a breakfast!
I shouldn’t have been surprised, really. The holiday apartments, while not the lap of luxury, are beautifully done. Snug and cozy in our hut, we had plenty of space in the two rooms for the three kids in the main room to sleep on the convertible sleeper sofa and chair. The bedroom was done in a Western theme and a warm-toned wood paneling was used throughout. There was a small kitchen area as well, which was admittedly not equipped with a cooking surface, but did have a handy sink, mini-fridge and hot drink provisions. There was also a jug of milk in the fridge — just one of the thoughtful touches.
In the bathroom the aforementioned jacuzzi bathtub (smaller and more water efficient than a full-sized spa) was a highlight and the fittings and fixtures were stylized and presumably new. Unfortunately, however, the soap dispenser didn’t work and a piece of the shower fell on my head while I bathed.
Thankfully, there were other means of soap provided next to the modern raised sink, something not all B&Bs now think to provide, and what I usually forget to bring from home.
Between the comfortable room and fun-filled petting zoo, we were loath to leave. Later, looking out from Mount Ben-Tal, I noticed that some 20 additional units were being built there and made a hopeful wish that one day we’d be back for a longer stay.