The historic trails of the Zevulun

Exciting family visits along the prestate sites of Aliya Bet

Reaping the harvest at the Harduf Organic Farm (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Reaping the harvest at the Harduf Organic Farm
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Not far from the Jezreel Valley and Mount Gilboa lies the Zevulun Regional Council area, which despite its beauty still maintains a certain amount of mystery. The council region comprises 14 communities, most of which played a major role in recent Jewish history. Kibbutz Yagur is one of the most prominent ones, and a number of trails cross the kibbutz, such as Nahal Yagur and the popular Israel National Trail. There is still water flowing in the streams this time of year, and temperatures have still not risen to summer highs, so now is a great time to hike in this region.
I recommend starting the day with a relaxing coffee and cake at Café Unico, located at Chutzot Yagur at the entrance of the kibbutz. Owner Assaf Rifes prepares unique coffee blends for his guests made from beans imported from India, Colombia, Brazil, Indonesia and Ethiopia. He roasts the beans himself at the front of the café, and also offers sandwiches and pastries alongside his coffees. The café is open Sunday through Thursday, and next door you can purchase a variety of extra virgin olive oil, organic tehina and beauty products at the boutique shop Shamna and Salta.
The kibbutz is covered with greenery that was planted more than 80 years ago by its founders. Guests who visit the kibbutz by June 24 will be lucky enough to enjoy the seventh annual spring festival, celebrating everything connected with gardens.
When you enter Kibbutz Yagur, you are going back in history to prestate times of Aliya Bet, when Jews fought for their right to live in the Jewish homeland.
One of the kibbutz's most famous sites is the huge weapons cache, a visit to which is an exciting experience for children and adults alike. Visitors will learn much about Israel's history from their visit to the kibbutz, which was founded in 1922 by Aliya Bet activists who entered Israel illegally and settled the region.
Visitors will hear the moving story of 10 visionary pioneers who drained the swamps and built a successful, prospering community that is still in operation to this day. The weapons cache is located underneath an old hut, and you can clearly see how brave the kibbutz founders were to hide the weapons right under the noses of the British.
On a day that is now remembered as Black Saturday, the British stormed into Yagur in search of the Jews' weapons caches, just as they did in multiple locations across the country. They couldn’t find the opening of the cache, but they did notice an air pipe sticking out of the ground. They were clever enough, and so they poured water into the pipe and when they saw that it was not filling up, they inferred that it must lead to an underground space. So they dug around that spot until they located the weapons cache, from which they confiscated more than 300 guns and 90 mortars. Visitors can now view a collection of weapons from the period.
In addition to the weapons cache, Kibbutz Yagur also sports the Gan Avivim visitor's center, named after Aviv family members who were killed in the 2003 Maxim restaurant suicide bombing in Haifa.
Guests can also view a train car relic from the former Emek railway and the old British police fort. Inside the visitor's center, guests can listen to stories about pre-state times and view photos that tell the history of the kibbutz.
Some of the most interesting sites on the kibbutz are accessible only on a guided tour, so if you have the time, I recommend joining one. You can find details on their Hebrew website ( NIS 400 for a group of up to 30 people, and NIS 300 for up to 15 people.
If you're traveling with little kids, you can go straight to Balagan at the entrance of the kibbutz, where you'll find a fun kids' park full of attractions that are all included in the entrance fee. There's a carousel, carting, bumper boats on the lake, Battle of the Stars, foam balls and a toddler gymboree.
Price: NIS 70 for children under 15. NIS 30 for adults. Entrance fee also entitles guests to free entry into the kibbutz petting zoo.
After all this activity, you're probably ready for a rest and a good meal. There's not much of a selection in this region – especially on the weekends – so you'll be happy to hear about Mariana, a Middle Eastern-style restaurant that opened last August. Mariana manages the restaurant and, together with her husband, cooks fresh meals daily.
Located in Chutzot Yagur, Mariana is open all week long.
Another option that is especially fun with kids, is the Harduf Organic Farm Experience, which is run by Arnon Duvduvani. Open on weekends and the intermediate days of festivals by appointment only, Harduf offers fresh homemade meals as well as the opportunity to feed calves from a bottle, prepare food for the cows, feed the chickens right out of your hand and collect eggs from the chicken coop.
When all the animals have been fed, the group moves on to prepare its own meal of omelets from the eggs it collected, freshly cut salads from vegetables and herbs it just picked, and pitot baked on a taboun.
Preparations take about 45 minutes, after which everyone sits down together to eat a scrumptious organic vegetarian meal.
The entire program takes about 2.5 hours. NIS 60 per person.
Alternatively, you can take part in the activity only (NIS 30 per person) or meal only (also NIS 30 per person).
To reserve a spot: 052-725-0000.
There's one more fascinating heritage site that I must tell you about, which also includes a visit to a weapons cache. Ramat Yochanan Heritage Trail, part of the Council for Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel, comprises five sites, including the memorial for the victims of the battle for the region's settlements during the War of Independence.
There is a gorgeous view from the monument over the Zevulun Valley and Haifa Bay. From the monument, walk down a short path alongside which you'll see a display of old agricultural machinery, as well as a defense post from the War of Independence. Nearby, you'll see a sign that describes the battle kibbutz members fought in so heroically.
There's also an old water tower where you can see photos and all sorts of memorabilia from the kibbutz’s early years. There are activities and films for kids in the water tower and the weapons cache. The tour lasts about two hours and must be reserved ahead of time.
Details: (04) 845-9240.
■ Translated by Hannah Hochner.