Ta’am Kinneret Food Festival

A festival during the week of Hanukkah bring spirit to the Jordan Valley.

The ‘Legend of the bread’ bakery. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The ‘Legend of the bread’ bakery.
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The 10th annual Ta’am Kinneret Food Festival, which will last the entire week of Hanukka and continue through Saturday, December 27, also marks 20 years since Israel signed the peace treaty with Jordan.
Celebrations of this vibrant peace festival will take place in communities and kibbutzim around the Kinneret and in the nearby Jordan Valley. Restaurants and cafés will serve special dishes using local ingredients, and there will be many Hanukka attractions for the whole family. Many sites will be holding activities to encourage discussion about peace and to learn about the country’s history.
Festival participants are welcome to stay at hotels and resorts in the area, many of which are offering Hanukka deals. Nehara Country Lodging at Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’acov Ihud, for example, is offering a fantastic family package to stay in one of its 44 rooms. Whether you stay one night or more, you can enjoy a scrumptious breakfast at the café Hayo Haya (Once Upon a Time), which is located in a quaint building where old tools and gadgets are on display as well. The dairy restaurant offers a variety of quiches, salads and cheeses. For reservations, you can call 050-969-5679.
One of the most exciting activities this Hanukka is a tour of the kibbutz with Yonatan Alter, who focuses on beauti - ful vistas, juicy fruit and joyful singing. He tells the most fantastic stories and leads groups through the orchards, all the while offering informational tidbits about the fruit trees. There are also tropical trees that are native to Africa, and of course ancient olive trees, which are native to Israel.
Throughout the tour, Alter leads guests in singing traditional songs of the Land of Israel. The trail is 2 km. long, and it takes about two hours to complete. It costs NIS 20 per person. For details: 050-865-2355.
And since the Ta’am Kinneret festival focuses on peace, another site worth visiting is Naharayim Bagesher, where adults and children alike can experience, touch, see and learn about Israel’s history and peace activities. During the tour, guests will cross the bridge above the Jordan River and continue along the border fence with Jordan. The history of the kibbutz is fascinating – Naharayim sits on the spot where the old Kibbutz Gesher was located, which also happens to have been a rest stop for travelers in ancient times. Due to its strategic location right on the Jordanian border, the kibbutz was bombed numerous times over the years, and during the War of Independence, kibbutz members took up arms and successfully prevented the Jordanians and Iraqis from entering Israeli territory. After Israel and Jordan signed the peace treaty, the kibbutz decided to relocate to Givat Gamal.
Not much is left of the abandoned kibbutz, except for the old dining hall, which is now used for the screening of an amazing audio-visual show that describes the bravery of the kibbutz members. During one of the attacks, they managed to smuggle the children out of the kibbutz in the dead of night so they could remain and fight the Jordanians. The visit also includes a guided tour of sev - eral significant places, including the famous bridges for which the kibbutzim are named, the Jordan River, and the Naharayim power station that Pinhas Rutenberg built, which is now in Jordanian territory. Of course, guests do not physically go to the power station; instead, they visit it virtually in a simulation called “The Naharayim Experience.” Guests can also climb down into an old bunker that was hidden underground, where they can see a display of photographs and weapons from the period.
There is also a bakery called Legend of the Bread, where guests can participate in a baking workshop and create del - icacies in a historic brick oven built in the 1920s. During the festival, visitors will learn how to make individual peace hallot. It costs NIS 69 per person for the tour and workshop (NIS 49 for children under five). To register: (04) 675-2685.
If you’re interested in something a little more adventurous, you can join a group called Bashvilim at Kibbutz Kinneret. Bashvilim organizes guided tours for groups of 12 on all-terrain vehicles alongside the Jordanian River.
The tour passes by the fields of Kibbutz Kinneret, near Deganya, as well as dozens of date palms, fish ponds and the dry riverbed where the Jordan used to flow. The guide explains a bit of the area’s history to riders along the way, and how the Jordan River got plugged up and at some point turned into a swamp.
Apparently, about 100 years ago, when farmers came and tried to drain the swamps, they failed miserably because they didn’t realize that more water kept coming from under the ground. And so, in an effort to utilize the land for something constructive, they decided to use the swamps as fishponds. These ponds were used for many years for commercial purposes, but currently they are part of the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund nature reserve. During the tour, Bashvilim participants can also see the eucalyptus trees that the famous poet Rahel mentions in her poems, as well as the first house built at Kibbutz Kinneret, which was the focus of Naomi Shemer’s song “The Eucalyptus Grove.” To book a Bashvilim tour, you can call 050-656-4696 or take a look at the group’s Facebook page.
Hanukka is an especially sweet holiday, and if you’re looking to make it even sweeter, I recommend spending a delicious hour at the Galita Chocolate Factory in Kibbutz Deganya Bet, where you and your family can make dreidels and other Hanukka surprises out of chocolate.
The workshop lasts about 45 minutes, and afterward you can watch a movie about how chocolate is produced and then relax in the coffee shop or buy pralines for the road.
It costs NIS 45 to NIS 75 per person. To make an appointment, you can call (04) 675-5606.
If you’re an animal lover, I recommend visiting the zoo at Kibbutz Deganya Alef, which is split into two parts: the upper section of the zoo includes a playground and animals that are native to Australia, and the lower section is home to animals that are native to the Land of Israel. During the festival, visitors can view the animals, participate in arts-and-crafts workshops using wood and plaster, and bake pita. In addition, there is a petting zoo on the grounds. Admission costs NIS 30 per person, and workshops cost between NIS 5 and NIS 15 each. For details: (04) 660-8488.
To wrap up the festival, you can enjoy a festive banquet at Marindo near Kibbutz Ein Gev. Preparing the feast is chef Ariel Cohen, who promises a delightful culinary experience including succulent meat, fresh bread and your choice of alcohol. On the menu, you can find coffee-glazed spareribs, stews, lamb liver pate and smoked meat. And unbelievably enough, on Thursday, December 25, unlimited amounts of wine and beer will be available.
Cost is NIS 169 per person. To make a reservation for either early (7 p.m.-9 p.m.) or late (9 p.m.-midnight) sittings, you can call (04) 665-8555.