Tour Israel: Kibbutz Tzova

Founded in 1948 by Palmah members, Kibbutz Tzova still functions as a cooperative community.

The hotel at Kibbutz Tzova (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The hotel at Kibbutz Tzova
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
There are many beautiful places and cool paths that lead to springs and historical sites in the hills surrounding Jerusalem.
Located not far from Mevaseret Zion, one such place is Kibbutz Tzova, famous for its amusement park Kiftzuba. It turns out that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are actually lots of interesting things to do in the area.
The first thing you see when you reach the kibbutz is the Galita Chocolate Farm, which, following tremendous success in Deganya, has opened a new branch in Tzova. Galita offers a charming café, a charming store where you can purchase pralines and other chocolates, and of course, the heart of Galita: the inner sanctuary where the chocolate workshops take place. The workshops are varied and suitable for adults and children alike (prices start at NIS 45 per person).
In contrast to many places in the region, Galita is open seven days a week. I do, however, recommend making an appointment for the workshop, since they are very popular.
Before we proceed, here is a little background on Kibbutz Tzova. Located at 730 meters above sea level, the kibbutz was built just next to the ancient ruins where archeologists found items dating back to the Canaanite period. The name Tzova is mentioned in the Bible in the First Book of Kings, and there are wine presses and burial caves that prove that trade was active in the region at the time. Founded in 1948 by Palmah members, Kibbutz Tzova still functions as a cooperative community and runs a beautiful pastoral hotel with 64 large and renovated rooms.
From the kibbutz hotel, guests can set out on any of a number of lovely hikes. Alternatively, they can sign up for a free guided tour the hotel offers its guests to the famous 700-year-old oak tree, the hollow olive tree, the remains from the Crusader church, hewn cisterns, the Tzova spring and the cave of John the Baptist.
Just behind the hotel’s main building, there is a dirt path that leads to a number of interesting sites with incredible views of the hills and valleys. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk here, because there are 39 small caves that are practically hidden from view, including a relatively large burial cave you can crawl inside.
This burial cave served as a Jewish family tomb for the tribe of Judah. At the entrance to the cave, there is a stone step, which makes it easier to step inside. Once inside, you’ll see there are three “beds,” at the end of which there are five “pillows” on which they laid the heads of their loved ones.
Underneath one of the beds is the entrance to another room, in which they stored the bones of their ancestors. When the burial cave was first excavated in the 1980s, archeologists found piles of bones, which of course were moved to a new location.
In addition to all the bones, around 200 plates were found inside the cave. If you venture farther along the path, on your right you will see the remains of an ancient mikve and the walls of a structure from the Second Temple period.
If you follow the green trail markers, you’ll reach the next stop: a special rock platform that has a very interesting story.
In the 19th century, Edward Robinson, an American intellectual, visited Israel. He was interested in locating geographical remains connected with Bible stories. He wanted to prove his theory that the Arabs living in Palestine had named their villages after communities mentioned in the Old Testament, just with Arabic pronunciation.
At the end of his visit to Jerusalem, he wrote a book about his discoveries. Robinson had also visited the Arab village of Tzuba, and he came to the conclusion that it had been named after King Saul and was connected to the story in which young Saul was searching for his lost donkeys. When Saul came upon this stone near Tzuba, he stood face-to- face with the Prophet Samuel, who anointed him king.
As a result, this stone is considered to be the place where the kingdom of Israel was established. From the stone, you can look out over the neighboring villages and the mountains surrounding Tzova.
Of course, no outing is complete without a good meal, and the restaurant at the Tzuba Hotel is famous for its scrumptious Friday brunches, served as a buffet. Guests can eat overlooking the pastoral valley. There are hot dishes, such as quiches, and an endless variety of salads, breads and local cheeses. Cost for brunch is NIS 95 for adults and NIS 70 for children. If you’re interested in joining a hike to the wine presses, you can reserve both as a package deal at a reduced price.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.