Kibbutz Beit Alfa: A perfect vacation for before lockdown

Since a trip to the Seychelles or Dubai might not be in the cards, get away from the city and the daily grind with a trip to the beautiful Gilboa region.

GET YOUR lunch on with a Little Frenchwoman basket. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
GET YOUR lunch on with a Little Frenchwoman basket.
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Before yet another lockdown keeps you in your own four walls, get oxygen in your lungs and get your blood pumping with hikes and adventures. Since a trip to the Seychelles or Dubai might not be in the cards, get away from the city and the daily grind with a trip to the beautiful Gilboa region, currently covered with colorful flowers like an actual Eden. The eastern part of the Jezreel Valley is bursting with natural springs and rivers flowing with water from recent rains.
This week I will focus on excursions in the Kibbutz Beit Alfa area since the surroundings are gorgeous and there are so many great activities for the entire family, as well as culinary options. In my opinion, this is one of the best options available now for Israelis to feel they are on a true vacation. A number of local businesses have recently adapted to the influx of tourists from all over the country and are excited to provide visitors with the highest-quality treatment, all while following strict corona regulations. And we all know how good it feels to help “blue-and-white” businesses to thrive.
GAN HASHLOSHA
We will start the day at Gan Hashlosha (aka Sachne), since this is the most refreshing place to begin after a long early-morning drive. This gorgeous nature reserve is home to one of the most popular natural swimming pools in all of Israel, which maintains a steady temperature of 28° Celsius all year round.
BURSTING WITH springs: Nahal Harod in the Jezreel Valley. (Photo credit: Meital Sharabi)BURSTING WITH springs: Nahal Harod in the Jezreel Valley. (Photo credit: Meital Sharabi)
THE LITTLE FRENCHWOMAN
After a short dip in the warm water and enjoying the lovely surroundings, it’s time to move on to lunch to avoid getting “hangry.” I recommend ordering a basket lunch ahead of time from The Little Frenchwoman, a beloved restaurant located in Afula. Just pick up your order and then find a nice spot for a picnic with a pleasant view.
They prepare a really nice and filling lunch basket with lots of nourishing foods, including a gourmet cheese plate, gluten-free felafel balls, croissant sandwiches with cream cheese and lox, homemade cheese burekas made with pure butter, shakshuka, salad, fresh bread that was baked on the premises, cookies and freshly squeezed orange-carrot juice.
Price: Baskets, NIS 250
Details: Can be ordered Sunday through Friday, with only an hour notice (quite helpful for those who like to be spontaneous).
Phone: (04) 652-6516
BEIT ALFA GUEST HOUSE
On your way to the Beit Alfa Guest House, you will pass by the horse stables, and if you’re interested, you can stop there and watch the horses being fed. Then, on to the guest house, which might not be a five-star hotel, but it is a wonderful kibbutz hotel. There is a huge grass lawn area equipped with a number of hammocks. There are plenty of chairs and benches to lounge around on, and barbecue pits so you can prepare freshly grilled food for dinner. Nearby, you will find an impressive Japanese garden, and a number of play areas for kids spread out around the kibbutz. Prices for rooms begin at NIS 350 (breakfast is no longer included, due to COVID-19 regulations).
Phone: (04) 653-3026
TEA HOUSE AT KIBBUTZ BEIT ALFA
The next stop is the Tea House at Kibbutz Beit Alfa. There doesn’t seem to be much connection between how the Queen of England has her afternoon tea and the humble buildings found at the kibbutz, but when you enter the new visitor center you really do feel like you’re entering a different world. This tea isn’t just any run-of-the-mill tea, but a unique artistic and cultural experience that touches both your body and your soul. It’s been known since the dawn of history that tea leaves have the power to heal bodily ailments. Tea, which was first cultivated in China and since then has spread around the globe, is the most sought-after and popular beverage imbibed around the world.
Drinking tea is a true art form that enables you to connect with the different tastes, aromas and colors of tea. At the Tea House at Kibbutz Beit Alfa, you can participate in professional tastings of a variety of teas. In the visitor center, you will learn how tea leaves are grown, cultivated and then harvested. Afterwards, you can walk around and view the displays of the various teas and read about their qualities (for example: did you know that certain teas can help lower blood sugar levels?). Visiting the Tea House at Kibbutz Beit Alfa is an encounter completely different than anything you’ve ever experienced before.
Booking Visits: 052-420-0203
X VALLEY ATTRACTION COMPLEX
Once you have satiated your hunger, it’s time to drive to the X Valley attraction complex, where you can ride on razor ATVs along trails throughout the region. The complex is open daily (except for Shabbat) for groups only, between six and 50 people at a time, in capsules of 20. There’s paintball and professional laser tag, electric EZ rider scooters, electric ATV and rangers, which can be ridden around on the extreme trails in the area (wet trails in the summer and beautiful views and flowers in the winter). Or you can take part in planting or ODT (outdoor training) team-building workshops, go rappelling, eat food from a café and purchase souvenirs at the gift shop.
Prices: Paintball: NIS 70-150.
Rider tour: NIS 135-200.
Razor and ranger tour (for four people): NIS 600-1,000.
Phone:  052-700-6199
 ARTICHOKE OFFERS a nice variety of pizzas. (Photo credit: Meital Sharabi) ARTICHOKE OFFERS a nice variety of pizzas. (Photo credit: Meital Sharabi)
ARTICHOKE
For dinner, we decided to follow up on a recommendation and went to Artichoke, a kosher dairy establishment where we picked up the most fantastic takeout. They offer a nice variety of pizzas alongside salads made from the freshest locally grown ingredients. There’s also a cute shop near the kibbutz gas station where you can buy organic produce and plants grown on nearby farms.
Hours: Sunday–Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; and Saturday nights from one hour after Shabbat.
Phone: (04) 993-8895.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.