A day by the lake

You'll find great fish, boat rides, workshops and more at Kibbutz Ein Gev, on the shore of the Kinneret.

ein gev 88 248 (photo credit: Ann Goldberg)
ein gev 88 248
(photo credit: Ann Goldberg)
It's difficult to imagine that until the IDF captured the Golan Heights in the Six Day War, the peaceful, attractive, tourist-filled resort of Ein Gev was a sitting duck, under constant bombardment from the Syrian army that straddled the Heights above it. From the time of its inception in 1937 as one of the fait accompli Tower and Stockade settlements thrown up overnight under the noses of the British, Kibbutz Ein Gev rarely had a peaceful moment. It was the first modern Jewish settlement on the eastern shore of the Kinneret. Members' lives were made so unbearable by the constant shelling from above that in the kibbutz's early years they abandoned the idea of tilling the fields and decided to turn their efforts to operating boat trips across the lake and a fish restaurant. Probably its most famous founding member was Teddy Kollek, who went on to be Jerusalem's longest-standing mayor. A memorial stone and miniature garden have been erected in his memory on the kibbutz's new boardwalk. Situated on the hill overlooking Ein Gev was the ancient town of Hippos-Sussita. Both names mean "horse" in Greek and Aramaic, indicated by the shape of the hill - which resembles the head, neck and saddle of a horse. Hippos-Sussita's heyday was from the 3rd century BCE to the 7th century CE. Excavations at Sussita have been carried out over the last decade (and continue for one month a year) and much has been uncovered of this important, ancient city, which is mentioned in the Talmud as being the enemy of Tiberias and is thought to have had an almost entirely non-Jewish population. There is an approach road to the lakeside excavations near the port area. Today, the Ein Gev holiday village is the largest holiday resort in the area. The restaurant, which was one of the first attractions that brought people to this spot, has gone from strength to strength. I remember visiting about 20 years ago and seeing the then-new computerized deep fryer, which cooked all the fries to exactly the same delicious crispness to accompany the renowned fried or grilled St. Peter's fish which, we were told, was freshly caught in the Kinneret. Nowadays, fries are not the only side dish, nor is St. Peter's fish the only fish on offer. If it's really too hot to sit outside, guests can be seated inside the restaurant, but the view from the terrace overlooking the lake is a shame to forgo, whatever the weather. However many people there are, the large eatery never seems crowded. Kosher diners will find its kashrut certification very interesting. The restaurant is kosher in one area only. On enquiring as to the reason, I was told that the rest of the restaurant is open on Shabbat, thereby disqualifying it for a kashrut certificate, but that the kosher area of the restaurant is closed on Shabbat and is served by a separate kitchen, which does not operate on Shabbat, and therefore is entitled to certification. A boat ride is always fun for city kids, whether it is out into the center of lake and back again or across to the other side of the lake, to Tiberias. Even if you leave your car at Ein Gev you could still take a trip across the Kinneret and visit Tiberias, then return on a later boat. Groups can also rent boats for parties. (For times and details see contact details at end.) For something really different, visit Saba Yossi's carpentry studio. Here you can buy a toy-making kit, and children can sit with Saba Yossi Zidkoni and his wife, Yochi, at one of their workbenches and make the toy under their expert and patient guidance and supervision. The children learn how to use real tools and can also paint their models when they are completed. There are a variety of kits suitable for all children over three, at various prices, and any younger children you may have with you can enjoy the all-wooden play area in the other half of the studio, which boasts make-believe boats and cars. If you don't want your children to make a toy then you can also buy one of the beautiful hand-crafted items from small toys and blocks to large wooden rocking horses and even a classic English "hobby horse" of nursery rhyme fame. Another unique site is the House of Anchors museum, established in 1995 by Mendel Nun, a veteran fisherman and member of the kibbutz. He has collected an incredible array of fishing artifacts, dating from ancient times through today, including varieties of nets. While visiting the kibbutz, hop aboard the Ein Gev train, which takes visitors around the port area and through the kibbutz. You'll learn a lot about local history, as well as the social and cultural background of the kibbutz. Many of the above attractions operate subject to demand, so call in advance for times (04) 665-8008. To visit the House of Anchors call Yoel on 054-565-8025.