Travel: Musical pastures in the North

What better place to spend a weekend under the title of ‘Love and Romance in Music’ than a pastoral kibbutz hotel nestled in the verdant landscape of Upper Galilee?

The Pastoral Hotel 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Pastoral Hotel 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
If ever a hotel name fitted the bill it was this one. The Pastoral Hotel in Kibbutz Kfar Blum nestles in a classically verdant landscape surrounded by manicured gardens and sprawling fields and orchards.
What better place, then, to spend a weekend that gloried in the unequivocal title of “Love and Romance in Music.”
And there were plenty of man-made delights in the three-day weekend agenda at the end of last month too. There were three generous repasts a day to be negotiated, plus, as befitting the nature of the program, an abundance of musical entertainment with some brain ticklers thrown in for good measure.
Between the music and the gastronomic delights, an appropriate amount of eye opening and heart expanding sightseeing was laid on.
The room we were allocated was tailor made to impress, and it did the job and then some. The hotel comprises four two-story buildings and each room has a balcony or access to lawns. Our balcony looked out over the gently undulating green landscape to snow-capped Mount Hermon. For the 99.9 percent of Israelis who live in other parts of the country, and especially in the middle of a winter that has thankfully provided some precipitation but none of the white stuff, any view of snow, even from a distance of over 10 kilometers, stirs the emotions and memories of other countries with different climes.
The room was spacious and the bed was equally expansive. We could have brought our two kids along and there would still have been room for the cat. The room’s most intriguing feature was the deep shell-shaped bathtub located close to the bed which enabled one to soak and watch TV at the same time. A delight which was savored to the max.
The weekend program, which started on Thursday, combined cerebral enlightenment with entertainment. After the gastronomic kickoff, complete with a choice of tasty Galil Mountain wine, we repaired to the Symphony Auditorium where we were given some insight into the works and life of composer Robert Schumann, complete with live vocal and instrumental presentation.
On the morrow, following a substantial breakfast, buses departed for several points in the vicinity, starting with a guided tour of the Dobrovin Estate, which was home to pioneers in the early part of the 20th century. The short film about the place and the history of the region was delightfully though unintentionally antiquated, but the talk was entertaining and informative, and the museum tastefully quaint. The brief foray to the village of Yesud Hama’ala included a visit to the remains of the Byzantine-era synagogue, but the highlight of the trip was catching a glimpse of white and gray herons, and other rarely seen feathered friends, at the nearby fishponds.
The topic of the Friday evening lecture was intriguing. Ro’i Aloni promised to fathom the reasons for Schubert’s decision not to complete his eighth symphony. In fact we got much more than that. Besides being an accomplished classical pianist, Aloni is a polished performer and the lecture often veered towards the standup end of the entertainment spectrum, a tack which was greatly appreciated by the packed audience.
After Friday dinner, the guests were invited to saunter over to the kibbutz’s cultural building where internationally renowned singer Ahinoam Nini (Noa) and her longtime sidekick guitarist Gil Dor put on a spirited show with the lush support of a string quartet.
Saturday morning started with some extracurricular solo activity – a bike ride towards the hills near Gonen, to the east – before the calorie combustion was replenished with a hearty breakfast followed a concert of works by Schubert, Schumann and Chopin, courtesy of the Aviv Quartet.
And there was just enough time to squeeze in a visit to the hotel spa, compete with sauna, foot whirlpools, hamam and water jet room before heading back south feeling relaxed and delightfully spoiled. The drive back to Jerusalem was obligingly stress-free too.
There are more musical weekends in store at Kfar Blum, starting with a program based on Hebrew song and poetry (February 24-26), followed by a high-energy Latin music weekend at the end of March. For booking information and details of Pastoral Hotel musical weekends: (04) 683-6611 and

The writer was a guest of the Pastoral Hotel.