Adventures in the Gezer region

There is a lot to discover and enjoy in this frequently overlooked part of the country.

BishiQ Boutique Brewery spread (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
BishiQ Boutique Brewery spread
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
For the fourth year in a row, the Gezer region is holding the Havaya Bakerem (Vineyard Adventure) Festival, which was created to introduce Israelis to the many quality vineyards that have popped up in the region. The festival, which will last until tomorrow at the Barkan Winery at Kibbutz Hulda, includes lots of live music by Yehoram Gaon and local groups – and of course great wine. It is also an excellent opportunity to be reminded of all the great places in the area, even if you don’t attend the festival.
Some of the wineries participating in the festival include Bravdo, Yarden Bar’on, Bin Nun and Hertzberg. In addition to tasting wine, guests can enjoy nibbling on gourmet goat cheese made in local dairies and watch artistic presentations.
Prices: All the events are free of charge and wine tastings cost NIS 10 each.
Pakal Café
There are so many exciting attractions and places to see in the Gezer region that I recommend spending a full day in the area. If you arrive in the early morning, you should start your day with a cup of quality coffee at Pakal Café next to the IDF Combat Engineering Corps at the entrance to Kibbutz Mishmar David, from 7 to 11 a.m.
Galgalei Gezer
One fun but challenging outing in the region is a bike tour through the many vineyards and agricultural fields.
Experienced and amateur riders alike will enjoy rides with Galgalei Gezer, run by Moti Kalmer from Beit Hashmonai. A tour guide by training, Kalmer rents out mountain bikes and leads guided bike tours that last from an hour to several days, in which participants sleep out in nature. Kalmer is happy to lead a tour to any destination they desire. I once joined one of his short five-kilometer tours to Beit Herzl in the Hulda Forest, which was a home where new immigrants lived and worked in the fields during the early days of the state. Nowadays, the building functions as a museum and guests can watch a short film about the house and the area.
Prices: Bike rental is NIS 80 per hour. Guided tour: NIS 150.
Details: 050-209-9225.
BishiQ Boutique Brewery
Located in Moshav Mishmar Ayalon, BishiQ is the best place in the area to enjoy a cold beer and a hot plate of meat. Nir Bishiq has been brewing a number of types of beer for a year-and-a-half now, including Irish stout 4.5%, Amber ale 5.5%, Red ale 5%, Belgian Sezon 8%, Bavarian wheat 5% and a Pilsner lager 5.5%.
BishiQ offers all-you-can-eat meals for NIS 200 to NIS 250 per person that include sirloin carpaccio, beetroot carpaccio, hummus, grilled eggplant with tehina, fresh falafel and salads. After that, they begin to bring the meats to the table, including asado on the bone, kebabs and sausages made by Nir, lamb spareribs, entrecote and marinated chicken.
When: The restaurant is open Tuesday through Thursday from 8 p.m. until midnight and the rest of the week by appointment only. Kosher.
Details and reservations: 050-998-9199.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Local artists
One of the best parts of the festival is meeting local artists. One talented individual in Mishmar David is Gadi Friedman, who will open his studio for the festival on Friday and Saturday.
Friedman takes statues and adds life and movement to them. He works with bronze and stone.
Details: 050-723-1924.
Another artist is Tzvika Bar, who works with glass.
After working for the police in forensics for some 20 years, Bar was diagnosed with cancer in 2004. He was able to overcome his great distress by engaging in art. He studied in the Czech Republic and now creates striking colorful, optimistic creations.
Where: His works can be seen in Gan Aryeh in Moshav Sitriya.
When: Friday and Saturday, September 8 and 9. Bar’s wife, Ofira, also offers laughter yoga workshops.
Details: Tzvika: 054-571-1979; Ofira: 054-421-0646.
Bravdo Winery
One of the finest wineries in the region is Bravdo Winery in Karmei Yosef. Almost every member of the family is involved in the winery, which was founded in 2001 by Prof. Ben Ami Bravdo and his former student Prof. Oded Shoseyov, from the Hebrew University Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot. The kosher winery produces some 90,000 bottles a year, a third of which are for export, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosa, Merlot and Shiraz.
Price: Wine tasting: NIS 50 per person (which can be deducted from the purchase of any wine).
Details: 050-220-7022.
Bustan Shoshan
When you walk through Bustan Shoshan you can feel the peaceful atmosphere created by Amram and Ziva Shoshan, who’d dreamed of creating an educational tourist attraction. Unfortunately, Amram did not live to see this dream come true. In 2006, 30 days after his death, Ziva opened the garden, but she also died before it was completed.
Her son, Aryeh, was killed in a terrorist attack, and so it was her daughter, Shlomit, who finally opened the site, which is run by Havatzelet Gaoni.
Despite all of this pain, the garden is full of optimism.
The tour of the site lasts about 90 minutes, during which guests get to taste fruits straight off the trees and learn all about the different types of fruits. The site is also available for private events.
When: The garden is open Sundays through Fridays.
Open from 9 a.m. until dusk.
Cost: NIS 35 to NIS 50 per person, depending on number of participants. Tours require a 10-person minimum.
Details: 077-542-3560.