A winter wonderland on Kibbutz Merom Golan

The lion’s share of the kibbutz’s income is from agriculture and the beef industry.

Kibbutz Merom Golan (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Kibbutz Merom Golan
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
After the first few winter rains – and certainly after the first snow – the most amazing place to go for a weekend getaway is definitely Kibbutz Merom Golan.
The kibbutz, which was founded after the Six Day War, is located at the foot of Mount Bental and due to its high altitude (1,000 meters above sea level) is a true winter wonderland.
The lion’s share of the kibbutz’s income is from agriculture and the beef industry.
In recent years, however, tourist attractions have begun popping up, including a lovely guest village that stretches out over more than seven acres, wooden chalets, a cowboy restaurant and a variety of outdoor attractions for the whole family. At the moment, the entire kibbutz is covered in pristine white snow – you almost feel like you’re in a quaint little village in northern Europe.
THE BED-and-breakfast at Merom Golan does not look anything like a typical Israeli guest house; it offers a completely different experience. Once you enter the village, there’s almost no reason to leave it during your stay. There are 32 beautifully designed studio rooms, 40 35-square meter cabins built out of wood and basalt stone, and a number of new suites which come outfitted with cozy fireplaces. The holiday village offers almost every attraction visitors to the region could want. There is a lake walking distance from the rooms, a hiking path that reaches Mount Bental (takes about 40 minutes), rides on Tomcars or jeeps, horseback riding, a petting zoo and arts-and-crafts workshops. And to top off the most perfect holiday, you can even have a Swedish massage in your own cabin by the renowned masseur Shlomi Shaked (who is a kibbutz member and graduate of Ridman College) or one of his colleagues at “Touch and Magic.”
Price: NIS 250.
To book a massage: 052-464-3393.
THE GUIDED Tomcar tours leave Merom Golan and follow a trail down into the Quneitra Valley. You will pass by the kibbutz’s many plantations and will be treated to gorgeous views of the Golan Heights as you cross the wide valley. The trail you drive the Tomcars on is not too challenging, but you do cross over narrow creeks and small tank crossings. The highlight of the trail is the Syrian fortress near the border, where the guide stops and makes tea for all the participants while regaling them with anecdotes about the region. And since the path leading up to the fortress is named after Israeli spy Eli Cohen, caught and hanged by the Syrians in 1965, the guide talks about the trials and tribulations Cohen went through and shows the group the monument that was erected in his memory. At times you can hear rockets exploding across the border in Syria, which is especially surreal considering how serene and peaceful the mountainous landscape is. The trail takes about an hour and a quarter to complete and it ends back at the kibbutz.
Price for Tomcar ride (per couple): NIS 365.
For details: 04-696-0483.
ANOTHER ACTIVITY that is no less exciting than driving a Tomcar is horseback riding – since the horses can reach places the Tomcars cannot access. With the horses, beginners (from first grade up) as well as more experienced riders can climb up the mountains surrounding the kibbutz and enjoy absolutely breathtaking views. Once you get over your immediate shock from being saddled on top of a horse that is walking on a mountain, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the trail, which takes about an hour and a quarter to traverse. The horses are extremely capable and confident and know the trail by rote, which means that riders do not need to lead their horses or know how to control them.
Price: NIS 182 per person.
IF YOU’RE interested in something a little less adventurous, guests can also participate in two art workshops, or dally inside the beautiful art gallery/shop where you can find works created by kibbutz members.
In the workshop led by Ariel Shamir, for example, you can watch as he carves works out of wood using a chain saw and a chisel, using techniques that he developed himself. Shamir moved to the kibbutz 11 years ago from the Jerusalem area since he wanted some breathing space and to build a house. He uses only wood from trees that grow on the Golan Heights for his artwork, and is especially interested in using recycled pieces that have been discarded in order to preserve nature as much as possible. Shamir creates large and small sculptures, which often focus on music, women and animals.
The studio is open daily and Shamir is often on the premises to talk about his works. Of course, the artwork is available for purchase.
For details: 054-758-8752.
NEXT TO the Shamir art gallery you’ll find Joop de Jung’s ironwork gallery, where de Jung, who is originally from Holland, offers fun workshops using scrap metal discarded by the nearby army base. De Jung first visited the kibbutz in the 1970s and immediately fell in love with the place and decided to stay and build his life there. In the early 2000s he began sculpting and today he is famous the world over and has received many awards for his artworks. If you participate in his workshop, you will also be able to see the many works he’s created. De Jung also leads (for a fee) a tour of the kibbutz during which you can see many of his sculptures which are spread out around the grounds of the kibbutz.
For details: 052-323-6842.
ONE OF the absolute most popular attractions in Merom Golan, though, is the cowboy restaurant, which underwent renovations last year. It is currently located next to the horse stable, but it used to be situated inside an old train car. Kibbutz member Arik Golnedsky manages the restaurant, which specializes in fresh beef, steak and fish. Because the restaurant is kosher, Friday night dinner is served buffet style and includes a number of slow-cooked beef stews.
Mount Bental and Kofi Annan
Near Merom Golan, Mount Bental rises up 1,200 meters above sea level, which means that it’s pretty cold there this time of year, and you should dress accordingly. Access to the site is very comfortable, and in the center you will find an old IDF bunker which you can walk through. There is also a café called Coffee Anan, a humorous play on the name of the former Secretary-General of the United Nations and the fact that it’s so high up you almost feel like you’re dining in the clouds (anan is Hebrew for cloud). The dairy café, which is open all week long, also has outside seating overlooking the pastoral landscape and the wind turbines, the border crossing, Quneitra, the Golan Winery vineyards, the apple orchards and Mount Hermon.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Location: Golan Heights.
Type of outing: Easy trail that includes some adventurous activity, appropriate for the whole family.
Length: Full day, option for overnight stay.
Season: All year.
Price for night at guest house: Starting at NIS 640 per couple in the middle of the week.
Directions: Drive north on Road 65 towards Kiryat Shmona. Turn right onto Road 85, which becomes 90. Turn right onto Road 91 and then follow sign for Merom Golan.