Cascaded touring of Ashdot Ya’acov

Parks, recreation, and great food.

A HORSE-DRAWN carriage takes visitors through Naharayim Park. (photo credit: DORIT RITVO)
A HORSE-DRAWN carriage takes visitors through Naharayim Park.
(photo credit: DORIT RITVO)
With nearby Naharayim Park, which features the old power plant and Hejaz railway, as well as carriage tours, a sports center with a memorial, an excellent restaurant and full-service country lodging, Ashdot Ya’acov (Jacob’s Cascades) is a travel destination of its own in the Jordan Valley.
Seven minutes south from the Kinneret near the meeting place of the Jordan and the Yarmouk rivers, Ashdot Ya’acov, a kibbutz established in 1924, is home to Nehara Country Lodging. Its 44 newly refurbished rooms serve as a starting point for trips in the valleys, the Galilee and Golan Heights. The most famous site in the vicinity of Ashdot Ya’acov is Naharayim Park.
Naharayim Park
Naharayim Park provides a fascinating view of the Yarmouk River and features the remains of the hydroelectric power plant built in 1927-1932. A visit to the park also includes access to “Peace Island,” Jordanian territory occupied by Israel with permission of the king of Jordan.
As you walk on the remains of the old Hejaz railway to Damascus and Mecca, you can see the remains of the hydroelectric power plant built by Pinhas Rutenberg. It was partially destroyed by a flood in 1931, and some parts were rebuilt within one year. At its peak, the plant produced 18 megawatts of power. It was the first of a planned 12 power plants that never materialized. During the war of 1948, the area turned into battle zone and the Yarmouk Bridge was bombed. The power plant was abandoned.
The site was reorganized, and wooden deck paths were installed for the comfort of visitors. As you walk into the site, stepping along the ancient railway, you’ll see the remains of the old railway station, the power plant and a year-round waterfall. You can learn about the architecture and structure of the dams and the diversion channel.
I recommend crossing the bridge to Peace Island; the view from the bridge and the Island is the nicest! On the island, you’ll also see the border point and gate to Jordan; the King’s Guard secures it.
There are three options to visit the park: 1) A free, self-guided visit.
For this option, ask for the free map at the kiosk (where you can also watch a movie about the park). 2) For a nominal fee, a guided tour of the park can be coordinated ahead of time with the office. 3) A carriage tour with Israel Barkai (described below). Everything is available in English.
Allow two hours.
Address: Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’acov, Mobile Post Jordan Valley 15155
Phones: +972-73-756-9371, Marketing Manager (Ofer): +972-50- 722-2787
Ashdot Barkai – Carriage Tours
With Israel Barkai, you can take adventurous horse-drawn carriage tours. The most popular tour is to the old power plant (where you can cross the bridge to the Peace Island in the elegant carriage, complete with a fancy photo-op). The carriage can accommodate up to 11 people. Barkai offers a number of trips around Ashdot Ya’acov, and he adapts the trips and the stories he tells to the interests and ages of the audience. Raised on the kibbutz, he makes sure to tell the history of the sites, as well as local stories you won’t find in the history books!.
He entertains the little ones (who will be invited to ride Lupio the horse) and has specific attractions and activities for them.
The carriage ride is also suitable for special occasions and bridal shoots.
Phones: Israel +972-52-865-9488; Galila: +972-52-865-9888
Beit Eyal
Beit Eyal is a sports center and memorial for those who lost their lives in military battles and acts of terror. It is named after Eyal Shimoni, son of Orna and Udi Shimoni, who was killed in Lebanon during his military service in 1997. The center was built from donations raised by Orna.
Beit Eyal has three pools: a wide, semi-Olympic pool; a hydrotherapy pool and a smaller one used as a large Jacuzzi; and a fancy babypool.
There is a fully equipped gym, spinning room and full spa center.
The center is a place for local residents to do physical activities. It is also open for drop-in visits and places an emphasis on people with disabilities, with significant discounts.
The heart of Beit Eyal is the memorial avenue, a combination of plaques and multimedia exhibits that present the names of the men and women soldiers who fell in the defense of Israel, and of citizens killed in terrorist attacks. This section is open to visitors at no charge.
For a guided visit, consult with the reception. Donations are welcome.
Cost: free for the memorial, NIS 25-70 for the gym center. For the spa – call.
Beit Eyal, Ashdot Ya’acov Meuhad
Phone: +972-4-675-7767
Nehara Country Lodging
Nehara offers rustic country lodging. It is located at Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’acov Ihud. The lodge is a celebration of nature. The rooms are tucked among large trees from all over the world – trees such as the cassia fistula, with draping yellow flowers, and kigelia africana, dressed with ruby flowers. Hammocks and seating areas are scattered around the grass for visitors to wind down and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere.
The lodge’s 44 rooms for couples and families are all refurbished, with the newer ones, the Baron House rooms, recently refurbished from the ground up, with the latest furniture and amenities. The Baron House rooms and apartments can accommodate up to five people.
Just like classic kibbutz homes, they are not large, the assumption being that in the kibbutz setting, everyone likes to sit outside. (This seems to be the case today.) The rooms have large wooden balconies, where we also enjoyed sitting.
The units are air-conditioned and equipped with a kitchenette and coffee maker. There are two flatscreen cable TVs and Wi-Fi. The children’s beds are bunk beds; my children loved them – they were comfortable and fun! Dining at Nehara is kosher. Meals are served at the restaurant. Breakfast is simple kibbutz-style but tasty, with high-quality coffee on weekdays.
Dinner is served only on Fridays/ holidays or for groups by reservation.
There is also a meeting room for groups or big families.
Guests have free access to the kibbutz swimming pool during the summer. Some of the packages include access to Beit Eyal, Hamat Gader and other nearby attractions.
The pool, as well as Beit Eyal, are located within walking distance.
Prices are reasonable, starting at NIS 500-600 per room (extra for children). At the peak of the summer season, they go as high as NIS 1,000-1,300, but children are free in some of the rooms. Breakfast is included in the price. Check the website for exact room rates.
Address: Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’acov, Mobile Post Jordan Valley 15155
Phones: +972-73-758-2032; Marketing director (Yonatan Alter): +972-50-865-2355
Tzel Tamar Restaurant
The Tzel Tamar (Palm Tree Shade) Restaurant is located at the entrance to Ashdot Ya’acov Ichud, on the right-hand side, on the road to Naharayim Park. This makes it a perfect location to dine. The restaurant is known for its food and service, and people come from afar.
Tzel Tamar serves meat, seafood, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free food. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was opened 18 years ago in the same format, serving fresh, tasty food with a varied menu so that everyone can find something to eat. I find it quite surprising how a restaurant can specialize in so many types of food, but Tzel Tamar does it, and well – everything we ate there was no less than excellent! Tzel Tamar is situated in its own paradise, surrounded by trees and vegetation. A small stream crosses the yard, with entrance to the restaurant via a small pedestrian bridge. The restaurant is quite large and includes an external balcony featuring air-coolers for the summer; it is also great for the winter.
It is perfect for parents, as there is a play area with soft surfaces and a bouncing castle.
The interior of the restaurant is somewhat rustic, with wooden walls and ceiling, and wooden furniture.
Some of the seating is in the wine shop. In the center of the restaurant is a big pizza oven. There is a partially open kitchen where we could see the focaccia and pizza- making process.
We had a late lunch, everything was excellent, from the schnitzel to the beef medallions. The antipasti starter is stunning, something not to miss! They make everything, including the specialty desserts.
The food is yummy! The restaurant is not cheap, but it is not extremely expensive, either.
And the service is some of the best I’ve seen.
Tzel Tamar, Ashdot Ya’acov Ichud (not kosher) Website: Email: Phone: +972-4-996-6226, +972- 53-809-4620 The writer was a guest of Nehara, Ashdot Barkai and Tzel Tamar with the assistance of the Emek Hayarden Regional Council.