Winter activities in Israel: taste of the valleys festival

While it’s nice to take advantage of cheap flights to go overseas in the wintertime, it’s good to know there are also many worthwhile events in Israel this time of year.

Taste of the Valleys Festival (photo credit: GAL MONSSON)
Taste of the Valleys Festival
(photo credit: GAL MONSSON)
While it’s nice to take advantage of cheap flights to go overseas in the wintertime, it’s good to know there are also many worthwhile events in Israel this time of year, such as the upcoming Taste of the Valleys (Te’amim Ba’amakim) Festival, where families can enjoy breathtaking landscapes, quality restaurants, great concerts, warm drinks and lots of hiking trails.
The 16th annual festival, which will take place over the three-week period of February 2 to 22, was created to strengthen the connection between the local authorities and the restaurants, wineries and farms in the region, and to encourage guests to patronize local businesses and enjoy nature trails maintained by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund and the Kishon River Authority.
As in previous years, the opening event will take place at the Valley Museum in Kibbutz Yifat. In addition to the exhibition, which focuses on the early settlement period, a number of local restaurants will offer tastes of their specialties, while musicians perform on nearby stages.
During the festival, tastings will take place in a number of communities and nature reserves around the region, some of which are free, while others charge an entrance fee. On February 6 and 7, a culinary event will take place in the newly renovated shuk in Afula, which will include performances by musicians hailing from all over the region.
On February 8, there will be a Green Shabbat in Ramat Yishai with activities and arts and crafts workshops focusing on recycling and sustainability. Children are invited to join a cooking contest at the mall in Yokne’am, as well as heritage events at the Basmat Tab’un Community Center, including a visit to a heritage tent in the community’s Hilf neighborhood, where guests will be mesmerized as they watch an artist chisel figures out of wood, and hear musicians play tunes on a special Bedouin flute. In addition, there will be a special Tu Bishvat hike with fun activities for the whole family.
On February 15, visitors can participate in a musical parade in Zarzir, alongside tastings of local cuisine. At 11 a.m., the main road will be closed for an hour to allow the parade performers and members of local Scout troops to parade by as they play their trumpets, bagpipes and drums. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., across from the local municipality building, there will be a dabke performance, folk dancing, as well as routines performed by the youth of Shimshit and Harduf.
This year, for the first time, sports events have been added to the festival’s schedule. An orienteering (competitive sport navigation) event will take place on February 21 in Balfour Forest, starting at Kibbutz Ginegar, and on February 22 in Beit Hakeshet Forest.
Orienteering is an internationally recognized sport that is slowly becoming more popular in Israel, too. Every Shabbat morning, families from all over Israel will gather in KKL-JNF forests to enjoy using maps and compasses to locate stations, acquire points and reach the finish line ahead of the competition.
The festival’s closing event, sponsored by KKL-JNF and the Kishon Drainage and River Authority, will take place on February 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. along a section of Nahal Tzipori. The authority is in charge of rehabilitating streams and making them accessible to the general public and also to people with disabilities. Visitors are invited to take part in a guided tour alongside the river that starts at the Kibbutz Hasolelim parking area and ends at the Zarzir intersection parking area. There will also be an arts and crafts workshop, games, the telling of folktales accompanied by music and dancing, as well as coffee and tea. Participants can return to their cars by catching a ride on the safari trucks or by walking.
The nine restaurants that will participate in the festival will offer specially formulated menus with mouthwatering appetizers, entrées and desserts, as well as a glass of wine or beer at reasonable prices ranging between NIS 79 and NIS 129, Sunday through Thursday, between February 2 and 13, as well as on Friday, February 7, until 4 p.m., and on Saturday night, February 8, from 6 p.m.
Some of the participating restaurants include Octogan, Asado Bar, Bella, Basar Basar Steakhouse, Hashuk 34, Gilboa Spice Farm, Tanduka, Piano Piano, Chang Ba, and ChezVeze. ChezVeze, a new restaurant run by Roni Galiko in Tivon, is full of French chic style and has a tantalizing menu that includes Croque Madame sandwiches, feta cheese croissants, vegan Beyond Meat hamburgers, and a variety of filling shakes. Two menus will be offered during the festival (NIS 99 and NIS 119), both of which include appetizers, entrées and desserts.
Location: 1 Harimonim Street, Kiryat Tivon
Details: (04) 953-5742
If you’re already in the neighborhood, I recommend taking the time to visit Simon Winery, a boutique family-run establishment nestled among the ancient oak trees of Kiryat Tivon. The grapes are handpicked, and the winery produces only a few thousand bottles a year. Guests are welcome to taste and enjoy the rich aroma of the wines and tour the visitors center. A special evening of cheese, music and wine-tasting will take place on February 14 and 15.
Location: 43 Borochov Street, Kiryat Tivon
Details: 054-456-7847.
February is also the perfect time of year to go hiking, if you love hearing the sound of gushing water and seeing colorful flowers. You can also go horseback riding at Duby’s Farm, located in Kibbutz Ramot Menashe, go for a bicycle ride in the Alonim Forest, rent electric bikes from Stein in Sdot Emek Yizre’el, or rent Range Rovers at Raveh Etgarim. 
Translated by Hannah Hochner.