Tour Israel: Day-tripping

The region is full of breathtaking landscape and gushing springs, which are the perfect salve for people looking to get away from their hectic lives for a few hours and finally be able to relax

Ein Moda (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Ein Moda
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
 Emek Hama’ayanot, near Beit She’an, is a delightful place to go hiking in the winter.
The region is full of breathtaking landscape and gushing springs, which are the perfect salve for people looking to get away from their hectic lives for a few hours and finally be able to relax. This is so necessary in modern times, in which many of us seem to be running on empty.
If you’re looking to get out into nature during the last few days of winter that are left, I would like to recommend three perfect outings in Emek Hama’ayanot (Valley of Springs).
Going on a day trip is oftentimes the best option. All you have to do is grab the kids or a few friends and hop in your car. In just a couple of hours, you can find yourselves in an all-natural surrounding with a completely different microclimate.
This is so much better than going on trips overseas, where you have to deal with airport security checks and overweight suitcases.
In the wintertime, Spring Valley Park (Park Hama’ayanot) is full of springs and gushing streams.
Every Shabbat during January and February (don’t fret – there are still two weekends left in February), guided tours set out at 11 a.m. Each family drives its own club car during the tour of the fields, fish ponds and clear springs.
The tour guides tell lots of fascinating anecdotes about the natural findings and water sources of the area, and participants are treated to a glimpse of local fauna and seasonal flora.
Some of the stops along the way include Nahal Hakibbutzim (Kibbutzim Stream), Ein Shokek, and the water-driven flour mills. If you’re especially adventurous, you can take a dip in the spring, which remains at 25° year-round. 
When the group reaches one of the springs, there will be a stop for everyone to partake in some piping hot herbal tea.
This tour is fun for all ages, especially kids who almost always give in to temptation and jump into the water, so don’t forget to bring a change of dry clothes. Make sure to bring warm clothing and comfortable shoes for the two-hour tour.
Price: NIS 59 (under two, free).
Details: (04) 648-8060, 050-212-2564.
If you don’t have time for a full tour of Spring Valley Park, but you’d still love to enjoy an experience out in nature, I recommend taking a five-minute walk to Ein Moda.
This spring is filled with the most beautiful clear water that  flows into a large pool below, which is surrounded by tall trees and lots of picnic tables. As you’ve probably guessed, this is the perfect place to stop for a picnic, relax and enjoy the pastoral surroundings, before it’s time to drive back home and face the daily grind. 
Directions: Drive on Road 669 and then turn off toward the Mesilot Cemetery. From there, follow signs to Ein Moda. Park in the lot near the gate and continue by foot.
Once you’ve had your fill of lounging near the water, you can go back to your car and drive to nearby Kfar Yehezkel, where you’ll find Barkanit Dairy. This is a great example of an agricultural establishment that has successfully combined its daily operation with tourism.
Avinoam and Michal Barkin greet visitors to this small, family-run goat farm, which produces excellent goat cheeses made by
Avinoam, who’s been a cheese maker for over 40 years. 
During a guided tour of the dairy, you’ll see how the Barkins are invested heart and soul in their farm and cheese-making. Avinoam makes French-style hard and semi-hard cheeses, including Camembert, Sainte-Maure, blue cheese, Tomme and manchego.
The Barkins have also recently opened a café/shop where visitors can purchase products made on the farm and even order a vegetable and cheese platter to enjoy on the spot. 
Location: Barkanit Dairy, Kfar Yehezkel.
Hours: Friday, 10:15 a.m.-2 p.m.; Shabbat, 10:15 a.m.-4 p.m.
Details: 050-449-2799.
If spending time in these gorgeous surroundings has stimulated your appetite, and you’re not a goat cheese lover, then I recommend going to nearby Naharayim at Gesher, where you’ll find the Rutenberg restaurant, located in an old building with a view over the Jordan River.
While you enjoy the delicacies, you can look outside and imagine all the incredible events that have taken place here throughout history. The restaurant owners have made a concerted effort to incorporate the history of the building and the area into the restaurant, including in the type of dishes offered.
Chef Yizhar Sahar uses local ingredients and traditional techniques that were used in the Galilee and Gilboa in ancient times. The menu includes pickled, smoked, aged and salted meats served with mango chutney and fresh shrimp. 
Details: (04) 675-2237.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.