Keeping cool in the Jezreel Valley

What to do on your next trip to the beautiful Jezreel Valley.

Give the kids a hands-on experience at the Milky Cow Way in Beit Lehem Hagalilit (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Give the kids a hands-on experience at the Milky Cow Way in Beit Lehem Hagalilit
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
As the temperatures outside are still unbearable, parents of young children are forced to find creative solutions for a family outing.
Summer break might be over and parents are now slightly more relaxed, but we are still facing the long holidays, and need to find interesting attractions for the family.
Over the past few years solutions for extreme weather (hot or cold) have been found. The solutions are usually in the shape of visitors’ centers, where younger and older people can spend a few hours, enrich their knowledge and release energy. There is no shortage of visitors’ centers, whether they belong to organizations, companies or foundations, but this time I decided to focus on the beautiful area of the Jezreel Valley, so that on the way to the air-conditioned center you can enjoy the open view.
The Valley Railway – Kfar Yehoshua
The Valley Railway site in Kfar Yehoshua is located in the historical structures of the old railway station near Kfar Yehoshua. This is the only place where one can hear the story of the railway built in 1905 as a branch of the Hejaz Railway. The old railway structures – which were fully preserved, surprisingly, considering the changes that the entire area underwent in the years prior to the establishment of the state – served the station workers and their families.
The site belongs to the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites and is well maintained; a visitor center was even opened in the building that used to serve the deputy stationmaster. Visitors can see a fascinating exhibition that tells the story of the railway, watch a short film, examine documents and pictures from that time, historic displays and a miniature model of the railway.
In addition to touring the center, visitors can walk around the site, see the water tower and well that served the locals, and see remains of the railway cars and track. The site is also home to the offices of the Tourism Association of the Valleys, where visitors will find an information point on attractions in the area.
Sunday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday for groups only by reservation. (04) 953-4226.
Café Nona in Kibbutz Sarig
After visiting the Valley Railway site, you can stop for coffee and a snack at Café Nona in Kibbutz Sarig.
For those unaccustomed to leaving the city, this is a unique experience because the café is actually a mobile caravan. The owners are Eilat and Ran, and they have recently settled their restaurant-café on wheels in the kibbutz. They are at Sarig permanently on Monday through Friday, from morning to afternoon. The decision to stop there came about after they were invited to cater an event at the kibbutz and saw the need for a communal meeting place. They plan to stay there permanently, unless the roads call again.
Ran, who worked in design for many years, and Eilat, who comes from a theater background, traveled with their caravan for years. This is how they came up with the idea to combine their love of nature with their second love, food. The name of the café, Nona, comes from Eilat’s grandmother, who taught her the secrets of cooking. The menu includes salads, excellent pastries, quiches and breakfasts. Everything is fresh and healthy, so even if you decide sinfully to eat Eilat’s cheesecake, you’ll feel it was worth it.
The Jezreel Valley Museum
Your next stop should be the Jezreel Valley Museum, better known as the The Museum of Pioneer Settlement at Kibbutz Yifat. The museum, as one can surmise by its name, tells the story of the beginning of settlement in the Jezreel Valley.
This is a must-stop for visitors; anyone who walks through the museum doors is immediately excited by the amazing view of the valley and the cool breeze, even on hot summer days. After the excitement from the natural postcard in front of your eyes, you can join a tour of the museum buildings, where you will discover a remarkable collection of historic pieces from that time.
The museum is divided into exhibits: aliya, pioneering, the Jewish National Fund, traditional agriculture, fieldwork, moshav, kibbutz and craftsmanship. The yard holds an exhibit of old and new John Deere agriculture tools and there is also a simulator of field driving.
Visitors will find a carpentry shop near the yard, where you can create anything your imagination desires.
The yard also has a delousing station with water and soap, where visitors can experience to job of the washer at that time. You can also see what a children’s house looked like, a typical dining hall at the earliest kibbutzim and even get dressed up in pioneer clothing.
Conclude the tour at the store of designer Keren Shavit at the museum site and leave with a galabieh or piece of jewelry.
NIS 25 per child; NIS 20 per adult For more information: (04) 654-8974.
Tnuva Visitors’ Center in Alon Tavor
The visitors’ center of the Tnuva dairy products plant is located on the foothill of Mount Tabor. The innovative center offers tours enabling the entire family (ages five and up) to embark on a journey connected to the dairy products we all love. The “milky way” tour includes five stations.
The first station is a milk-receiving observation point, after which visitors enter the busy center to hear a short explanation of how workers dress in special, hygienic clothing to keep clean. Following that, visitors watch a short movie about Tnuva and then go up a floor and watch interactive videos about the world of milk. From this floor, visitors can observe the dairy plant in action.
From there, visitors go up another flight where yogurts and chocolate milk await. Visitors enjoy them and then enter a simulation movie with moving seats.
The movie, called The Calcium Code, tells the story of a group of kids who save the world from an alien who wants to steal the calcium.
During holidays and vacations, tours are open for the entire family, and during regular days for groups.
You must pre-register. Tours cost NIS 20 per person. Alon Tavor Industrial Zone (in front of Orhan Dovrat between Afula and the Golani Junction). Info: (04) 640-8140 extension 2.
Dvorat Hatavor
The Dvorat Hatavor visitors’ center offers a fascinating one-of-a-kind tour for the entire family. The center was founded by Yigal and Malka Ben Ze’ev 24 years ago. Together they created an agriculture-based tourism site, one of the first in the country. They offer a guided tour in four languages that is geared toward children but captivates adults, too.
The tour takes visitors through the honey extracting station where they hear a short explanation about honey production. After that, visitors go to the beehive observatory where they see a beekeeper and bee farm in action. You can also visit the silk farm. Finally, children can participate in an arts-and-crafts workshop and create a candle, decorate plaster, make a door sign and a bee cape. The tour lasts approximately 1.5 to two hours and costs NIS 37 for adults; NIS 49 for children.
Pre-registration is advised: 050-563-7645 Sunday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays and holidays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Milky Cow Way
If all of that is not enough, continue to the “Milky Cow Way” in Beit Lehem Haglilit. In the heart of a dairy farm founded 53 years ago by the Brandes family, Zvika Brandes opened a visitors’ center for the entire family. Inside the farm, which is still active and provides dairy products on a daily basis, is a path with guided tours teaching about the milking process and what happens to our milk from the moment it leaves the udder until it arrives at the supermarket.
The guided tour for families is an hour and a half to two hours long and stops at seven stations where visitors can make chocolate milk, produce butter, feed a calf, manually milk, watch the automated milking process and more.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pre-registration is required: 052-327-5682. NIS 40.
Where to eat?
In the pastoral Kfar Tavor awaits chef Yoram Barzel, who specializes in Hungarian and vegan cooking. Barzel, who was born in Kibbutz Kfar Hahoresh – home to many Hungarians and Holocaust survivors, including Ephraim Kishon – has been active in the culinary world for more than 40 years.
Naturally, the first kitchen Barzel worked at was the kibbutz kitchen. After 12 years there, he decided to move on and specialize in other cuisines. Over the last three years he started hosting homemade Hungarian and vegan meals at his home. In many cases he combines the two cuisines. He describes his food as “food people love,” and his menu is built with health considerations while highlighting the precise flavors of each dish.
His concept is built on hospitality. His home is open for meals and hosting, and guests can witness the food making its way to the plate, straight out of the pot. His homecooked meals are appropriate for eight or more guests and take place in his living room or beautiful garden. The experience costs NIS 160 per person and includes a first course, soup, main, side dishes, salads, desserts and wine.
Book at least three days in advance: (04) 325-3331 or 050-857-9648.
Life’s a Picnic
You can find another enjoyable culinary experience with Chef Assaf Madar, who specializes in Asian and Italian cuisine, and he incorporates elements of molecular cooking. He has recently decided to expand his range of activity – in addition to catering private events and cooking meals at the homes of clients, he is now offering picnic baskets that are perfect to take on couple or family outings. Enjoy Madar’s meticulousness and his refined flavors, perfect for the Mediterranean palate.
In the basket you will find a focaccia with za’atar, labaneh and tomato omelet, a focaccia with white cheeses and a tomato omelet, two dips, two bread sticks coated with za’atar and sesame seeds, six mini focaccias, beetroot salad, cold carrot salad and a seasonal fruit plate. The basket also includes a mat, cutlery, plates, napkins and trash bags.
A picnic basket for two will cost you NIS 250.
For reservations: 050-325-3331
Translated by Sharon Aharoni