Israel summer getaway: Escape to Tiberias

Heading home to Jerusalem thoroughly refreshed, waving goodbye to sweet Tiberias, I vowed I would not let years pass before my next visit.

 THE WONDERFULLY watery Kinneret, photo snapped while barefoot on the rocks. (photo credit: ERICA SCHACHNE)
THE WONDERFULLY watery Kinneret, photo snapped while barefoot on the rocks.
(photo credit: ERICA SCHACHNE)

As we accustom ourselves to the July heat, the last place you might think of to get a break is steamy Tiberias. Yet that’s just what I did recently – and had myself a restorative, relaxing getaway.

The last time I had been to Tiberias in any meaningful way was with my touring family as a damsel of 18. I had loved the famous waters and flowing Israeli breakfasts (nothing changes), and was impressed by the city’s history and the selection of great sages buried there, including Maimonides. What had changed in the intervening decades?

Not much, it seemed, as I rolled up to the Prima Galil. I had been anxious about the schlep involved, but after a painless ride, the bus deposited me a few minutes’ walk from the hotel. On the edge of town, overlooking the more-breathtaking-than-ever Kinneret promenade, it all seemed to hold the same homespun delights in store.

Prima Galil

Simple and straightforward, the Prima Galil hotel is a comforting nest away from the pressures of everyday life. The lobby and rooms have been renovated in a bright, vibrant style, the staff was helpful and friendly, and the first thing I did was kick my grimy city sandals off and sink into my welcoming bed for a few minutes.

Re-centered after munching on a few complimentary dates, I wandered out to the standard pool area, took in the view, and laid my aching body down on a lounger.

 CAVA AND cherries, a very Prima Galil (and much recommended!) repast. (credit: Aya Ben Eazry) CAVA AND cherries, a very Prima Galil (and much recommended!) repast. (credit: Aya Ben Eazry)

Losing myself in a novel that wouldn’t give War and Peace a run for its money, and going for a few dips, I enjoyed the sensation of forgetting where I was. Feeling parched, I quenched my thirst with an Aperol Spritz concocted by the very professional mixologist making an appearance that particular day.

Next on the agenda? Spirituality! A short bus ride and I was in the busy tomb complex of Rabbi Meir Ba’al Haness, healer of lost souls and finder of lost objects. Over 2,000 years ago, the revered sage vowed to intercede in Heaven on behalf of anyone who gave charity in his memory to the poor in Israel, and I had personally relied on him a time or two. I said my prayers and lit a candle, as is customary, and was certain miracles were surely on their way.

Lake Kinneret was conveniently situated right across the road, and I just had to dip my toes into the hydrating force of our Jewish state. Always keeping the Kinneret at top of mind like a true Israeli, I am zealous about shutting off taps and shower streams the second they are not in use. As the clear waters of the Sea of Galilee lapped over my feet, I felt a rush of pleasure at their fullness.

Returning on the bus, I passed a small water park I remembered from that long-ago trip. I laughed at the memory of myself as a teen being put in charge of my young cousin, losing sight of him for a minute or two, then suddenly looking up and seeing him at the top of the highest, quite-scary-looking slide. My fruitless shouts to reconsider went unheeded, and thankfully he emerged unscathed.

Safely back at the hotel, I braced myself for a veritable banquet. The chef of the celebrated Magdalena, which many call the purveyor of the best Arabic cuisine in Israel, was cooking, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. While the restaurant is not kosher, the Prima Galil is, and chef Joseph “Zuzu” Hanna had been specially brought in by the hotel to showcase the singular food experiences the Galilee has to offer.

And boy, did the chef deliver, using local produce, spices and fresh fish and meats. I feasted on Frena bread with outstanding olive oil, tabbouleh with candied pumpkin, sardines straight from the Kinneret, melt-in-your-mouth burri fish on a bed of okra, and the crowning glory, majestically tender lamb shoulder with root vegetables.

With a full stomach and content heart, I slept like a baby. While the breakfast was plentiful, I ate uncharacteristically lightly, my stomach still dreamily recounting the previous night’s Galilean gastronomy.

Heading home to Jerusalem thoroughly refreshed, waving goodbye to sweet Tiberias, I vowed I would not let years pass before my next visit.

Prima Galil rates (approximate; for a couple, including breakfast):July – weekdays, NIS 600; weekend, NIS 650-830.August – weekdays, NIS 750; weekend, NIS 850.www.prima-hotels-israel.com/prima-galil-tiberias-hotel ■

The writer was a guest of the hotel.