Looking for a safe, fun Israel trip amid COVID-19? Check out Rosh Pina

For this week, I’ve put together a fun day up north that involves good food, an overnight stay at a relaxing resort and an exhilarating jeep ride.

 Olea resort (photo credit: Assaf Drori, MEITAL SHARABI, Oren Amos)
Olea resort
(photo credit: Assaf Drori, MEITAL SHARABI, Oren Amos)

With no end to new coronavirus variants any time soon, we’re lucky there are so many tourist and nature sights in Israel to keep us busy and happy. For this week, I’ve put together a fun day up north that involves good food, an overnight stay at a relaxing resort and an exhilarating jeep ride. What’s great about all of these activities is that none of them involves being near large groups of people. 

1. Olea resort

We can now continue onto more adventures now that our stomachs are full. To reach the next stop on our journey, drive 30 minutes to the Zeitim neighborhood of Rosh Pina where you’ll find the Olea resort. Olea held its grand opening 18 months ago, where guests were welcomed by Yoni Kantero, who owns a number of bars in Tel Aviv, and his partner, Be’eri Yisraeli. During the first lockdown, the pair took an old, rundown compound and revamped it into a spectacular tourist destination that includes seven suites. Four of them are for couples, two of them for families and one is a large four-bedroom villa. 

The villa has a heated swimming pool, hot tub, lots of garden lounge chairs spread around the lushly green surroundings. The outdoor kitchen includes grills, refrigerators, a taboun, dishes and everything you can imagine that would make your barbecue fabulous. Each suite also has its own kitchenette, including coffee maker, hot water kettle, coffee, tea and a small fridge, as well as dishes and silverware. You might be surprised to learn that despite all these amenities, the prices are lower than most 5-star hotels. 

And the best part of staying at Olea? The incredible Polyron mattresses. In addition, there are staff available on site 24 hours a day, lots of plush towels, bathrobes and Anyah toiletries in each bathroom. Olea guests can order breakfast deliveries from Landwer for NIS 80 per person.

 Olea resort (credit: Assaf Drori, MEITAL SHARABI, Oren Amos) Olea resort (credit: Assaf Drori, MEITAL SHARABI, Oren Amos)

Price: January-February special weekend rate: Overnight stay + wine-tasting at Assaf Winery for NIS 790 per night (NIS 1,400 for two nights). January-February special weekday rate: NIS 650 per night (NIS 1,200 for two nights).Family unit: NIS 1,200 per night (NIS 2,200 for two nights).Villa: NIS 2,800 per night (NIS 5,000 for two nights).

2. Aleta restaurant

The day begins at the beautiful Shaldag Beach at the Kinneret, followed by lunch at Aleta Restaurant, run by chef Ohr Kakon. Swimming is forbidden on this private beach, so diners have a nice clear view of the water from the restaurant. Aleta, which opened up two years ago just before COVID-19 hit, is an unusual restaurant and there are no other eateries in the region that even slightly resemble it. The building had sat abandoned for years before Kakon and his brother Dov decided to turn it into a seafood restaurant. The two of them had previous experience in the restaurant business, as they’d also founded Al Hanahar, another restaurant in the area. 

Kakon began his culinary journey at the age of 16 working at a popular restaurant in Ramot, as well as working as a chef in a number of Segev Group restaurants. Now, at 26, he’s overseeing the kitchen of this fabulous gourmet restaurant overlooking the Kinneret. Aleta’s interior design is warm and inviting, and can hold up to 75 guests for lunch or evening functions. Aleta’s menu changes each season, and sometimes even daily, depending on the availability of locally sourced produce from the Tiberias area. 

The seafood menu includes sashimi, fish tartare and calamari, as well as a nice selection of unique salads and homemade pastas. Of course, the restaurant’s focus is on fish, although it also offers nice beef and dessert selections. Sommelier Omri Yitzhak is available on site to make suggestions regarding wines. 

 Aleta restaurant (credit: Assaf Drori, MEITAL SHARABI, Oren Amos) Aleta restaurant (credit: Assaf Drori, MEITAL SHARABI, Oren Amos)

Location: Moshavat Kinneret – Shaldag Beach intersection. Details: Lunch business specials run for NIS 220 per person, which is worth every shekel. The restaurant is not kosher and is closed on Sundays. (04) 887-0040

3. Nasiba Samara

The entire Olea compound can be rented out for events, and the Olea staff assists with logistical matters, including booking caterers and massage therapists. When I stayed there, Druze chef Nasiba Samara prepared an amazing dinner for us together with her son, who is also a chef. We enjoyed a selection of stuffed grape leaves, makluba, salads and hummus, and fresh bread that was baked in front of us in the taboun. 

During dessert, Samara, 49 from Majdal Shams, regaled us with anecdotes from her life. She rebelled against her family’s customs and got her driver’s license, went out to work and study, and helped her family get out of a large debt. Samara also hosts guests for meals in her home in Bukata. 

Price: NIS 150 per person for a group of 10 people. Details: 050-225-3343.

 Jeep rides with Yoav Uziel (credit: Assaf Drori, MEITAL SHARABI, Oren Amos) Jeep rides with Yoav Uziel (credit: Assaf Drori, MEITAL SHARABI, Oren Amos)
4. Jeep rides with Yoav Uziel

The next morning, we were met by Yoav Uziel, a licensed tour guide, who took us out for a ride in his jeep to Biriya Forest. We only had time for a short tour of the breathtaking surroundings, but Uziel also leads tours through all the paths in the region, as well as in the South. Our tour began in the pear grove belonging to the Schwartz family and moved on to the monument constructed in memory of the IDF soldiers who lost their lives in the 1974 helicopter crash. 

From there, we continued on to Biriya Forest. Throughout the tour, Uziel regaled us with stories and interesting facts about the region’s history and natural surroundings, which were so captivating that even the teens in our group were willing to leave their mobile phones in their pockets for a couple hours. 

Next, Uziel took us up to Mitzpe Chen, from where we had a clear view of Ramot Naftali and Kfar Hanasi. We heard more anecdotes (and even some juicy gossip) about the Hermon and the Syrian side of the border. It was amazing driving along paths that are not accessible to regular cars. We also passed by lots of marked walking and biking paths. Jeeps (seven to eight people) can be booked for two-to-four hour tours. Personalized two- to 14-day trips can also be booked. 

Price: NIS 700-800 for a two-hour tour. Each additional hour costs NIS 200. Details: 050-5363546

Translated by Hannah Hochner.