Holidaying in Hurfeish

A round-up of places to visit

AUTHENTIC DRUZE cuisine prepared by Maha Amar (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
AUTHENTIC DRUZE cuisine prepared by Maha Amar
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Holiday in Hurfeish
Gushing streams and impressive mountains are just part of what makes the Galilee such an amazing part of the country. In addition to the area’s unique natural surroundings, it’s also home to populations hailing from a variety of cultures who live side by side in peaceful coexistence. Every time I go hiking in northern Israel, I meet new people who have fascinating stories to tell. In the past, I would feel like I’d had a unique cultural experience if I stopped for hummus in a Druze village. But recently, I’ve discovered heritage sites and heard delightful tales by people from a variety of communities from whom I’ve learned a tremendous amount.
On my most recent outing, I set my sights upon Hurfeish, a Druze village in the northern Galilee. Many people who spend the day visiting Mount Meron or hiking alongside Nahal Kziv find themselves in the late afternoon in Hurfeish at the tomb of Nabi Sabalan. Located at the highest point of the village, this is a wonderful spot from which you can view Mount Meron, Hiram and Adir.
Sabalan is one of the five most important prophets according to the Druze religion. He is the one who was responsible for bringing the Druze from Egypt to Hebron. According to legend, Sabalan was forced out of Hebron by opponents, and so he fled to the mountains to hide out for a long time. I highly recommend visiting this enchanting site, in the middle of which stands a large building surrounded by a paved courtyard. If you enter the stone structure, you’ll see that you can descend into a cave where there is a small prayer hall.
Sabalan’s tomb is the best place to start your day tour of Hurfeish since you have a great view of the entire region from there. I was lucky enough to be able to participate in a tour given by local tour guide Hasan Amar, who knows the history and background of every nook and cranny of Hurfeish. He is incredibly engaging and knows endless stories about local residents.
I think Amar feels it’s his mission to teach Israeli and foreign tourists about his village, the Druze people and their customs. It’s also clear from the way he talks that he’s a very patriotic Israeli, and at the end of each tour he invites participants back to his home for a taste of delicious authentic Druze cuisine prepared by his wife, Maha.
After finishing at the tomb, we descended to the village and began snaking through the village roads. We soon arrived at the ancient section of the village, known as the casbah. To reach the casbah, we walked through the winding alleyways of the open-air market and historical structures, as Amar told us anecdotes about difficult times and how the local Druze community courageously pulled through together.
During the tour, Amar offers participants details about the unique architecture and how we can better understand residents’ needs as a result. As you walk through the casbah, you will see remains of ancient structures with areas specifically designed for cooking and heating, as Amar explains what a typical home used to look like and even how a traditional wedding ceremony was conducted. During the tour, the group passes by an ancient Gothic-style Catholic church.
Length of tour (including meal): 5 hours.
Price per group: NIS 850.
Price of meal alone: NIS 65 to NIS 125 per person depending on menu.
Details: 077-230-4338 or Otzrot Hagalil website.
Abu Afif
If you’re an olive oil or spice aficionado, you’ll enjoy a visit to the Abu Afif Visitors’ Center. The family-run olive press began operating in the 1950s when the patriarch of the family opened a small cafe that served Turkish coffee, hot grape cider and knafe. Visitors are offered tastes of the famous olive oil, as well explanations about how it’s made. In addition, the staff is happy to demonstrate how they make oil from sesame and nigella seeds. Abu Afif also offers olive-oil soap-making workshops for children and adults. Best to reserve ahead of time.
Details: 077-996-4663.
Ein Hotem
One of the most interesting springs along the Kziv River is Ein Hotem. Leave your car in the parking area and then walk along the river until you come upon the spring, which bubbles up out of a lovely stone structure and into a square pool. This water is used as a watering hole for animals and flocks living in the area. In the 1950s, before there was running water in every home, Ein Hotem functioned as the main water source for villagers. People would come down to the spring on horseback, fill their buckets and containers and trudge back up the hill. Nowadays, Ein Hotem is a wonderful place to stop to cool off and relax in the refreshing water on hot days.
The 1-km. trail (one-way) leading to the spring is relatively flat, but mostly exposed to the sun.
Directions: From Kfar Havradim, enter Hurfeish along the main road and turn right when you see the blue trail marker on the electricity pole. Drive to the end of the road where you’ll come upon two structures that are not homes. Park and set out on your hike from there.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.