A view from above

Ein Zivan on the Golan offers many diversions, comfortable accommodations, and a refuge from the busy life.

EIN ZIVAN’s chalet-style bustan cabins have recently been renovated and are truly delightful. (photo credit: Courtesy)
EIN ZIVAN’s chalet-style bustan cabins have recently been renovated and are truly delightful.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In ancient times, philosophers came up with a useful technique called “a view from above.” It goes like this: Imagine yourself perched on top of a high mountain. From there you look down into the plain below and see your fellows toiling away here or embroiled in petty disputes there. The idea was to extract yourself from the hubbub of life to gain a fresh perspective.
Something approaching this ideal can be found at Kibbutz Ein Zivan in the Golan Heights, where my wife and I headed for a weekend.
After the Galilee, we begin to feel the climb up to Israel’s highlands.
“Oh, my ears popped.”
“Mine too,” says my wife.
The car chugs a little as we climb over rolling hills studded with basalt: the entire plateau is the result of a volcanic shakeup that happened yesterday, in geological terms – nearly four million years ago. We pass lush forests and wine groves before reaching our destination.
The first thing you understand about Ein Zivan is that visitors have plenty of relaxing activities to choose from –on our first day we visited chocolate, wine and jewelry makers.
De Karina is the name of Karina Chepelinski’s chocolate boutique. Chepelinski came to Israel from Argentina, and has continued her family’s 100-year tradition of making delicious handmade chocolates.
Visitors can learn about the history of chocolate making, tour the production hall to see chocolatiers at work, and try their hand in a fun workshop. The boutique sells an assortment of subtly flavored creations including one in the shape of a mountain in honor of nearby Mount Hermon.
One can catch a panoramic view of the Hermon from Mount Bental, another nearby mountain a few kilometers outside the kibbutz, and also look down into war-torn Syria – another sight (and sometimes sound) that surely spurs reflection.
Next door to De Karina is the Bahat Winery.
After a brief tour, we sat down with the owner over cheese, excellent wines and liquors. Ofer Bahat is best described as a happy wine maker. Ever since a friend accidentally left a large quantity of grapes in his fridge, he has been sharing his passion for wine with customers. “And we have plenty of activities for kids,” he says, “involving… grape juice, of course!” Children can fill up small bottles with it, design their own labels, and learn how to cork.
We finished the day at the Mizze jewelry shop, which specializes in recovering ancient wisdom and wonder in the form of beautiful amulets.
The kibbutz has several types of accommodation, from smaller rooms to a chalet-style unit called a Bustan cabin. These cabins have recently been renovated and are truly delightful. They come with a comfortable bedroom, spacious bathroom and relaxation area, kitchenette, flat-screen TV, outdoor patio, and a spiral staircase leading to an upper bedroom.
The feel is elegantly modern, with a touch of an Israeli tzimmer, or rustic lodge.
That night, we enjoyed a wonderful dining experience at Aviva’s. For 19 years she has been serving tourists gourmet food in the comfort of her home. She learned about cooking in Tuscany, so you can expect Italian dishes with seasonal ingredients. The food, in our case Ossobuco (a veal shank), was served up piping hot. And that was after several antipasti dishes. The striking part of it all was the absence of chatty customers and clanking plates. We felt spoiled to enjoy exquisite food in a tranquil setting, full of alluring objects to gaze at. For reservations call (050) 796-2080.
Before retiring for the night, we visited the nearby Avital volcanic park. It can be visited during the day but is more intriguing at night. An array of lights illuminates the path and strange rock formations in what used to be a quarry. Our guide adeptly handled questions not only about the Golan’s natural history, but also about geology in other parts of the world.
The next morning we ate a great breakfast (included in the package), and while my wife stretched out at the kibbutz’s outdoor pool, I met with up with Uri, owner of the Nekudat Chen Ranch. As we prepared the horses we laughed and joked – perhaps our wives would like to put bridles on us! During our trot through the surrounding countryside, Uri knew absolutely everything about the land and its history.
Based on our conversations with him, Bahat, and other residents of the kibbutz, I understood that what makes Ein Zivan attractive is its slower pace of life. We undoubtedly did a lot, but strangely felt relaxed the whole time. What is the secret of the place? I think the residents. From them you absorb their appreciation for nature (the kibbutz contains the country’s largest orchard, where one can roam freely and pick fruit), great food and wine, taking time out for conversation, relaxation and reflection. Many of the residents came from bigger cities, and made a conscious choice to decelerate life in the Golan.
But our weekend had come to an end. My wife and I sighed as we got into the car. We had to leave the highlands behind and head back down into the plain – back into the tangle of busy.
For more information see: www.enzivan.co.il/en/
The writer was a guest of the kibbutz.