Tour Israel: Enjoying the holidays together

What to do on a visit to the Menashe Regional Council, just east of Hadera.

Drinking herbal tea and tasting natural delights under the pecan tree in Gan Shomron Spice Garden (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Drinking herbal tea and tasting natural delights under the pecan tree in Gan Shomron Spice Garden
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Location: Menashe Regional Council
Duration: Half day
Type: Outing requires a car. Appropriate for the whole family
Note: Wear comfortable clothing and a hat
Less than an hour from Tel Aviv and Haifa, there’s a small regional council called Menashe, which lies just east of Hadera and borders Ein Shemer. Other than its gorgeous landscapes, this area is populated with an eclectic mix of Jews and Arabs who live side by side.
In celebration of Succot, the regional council joined forces with an organization called Shared Tourism to create the Etrog Festival, which offers fun activities for the whole family during Hol Hamoed Succot. Shared Tourism has had great success in bringing Arabs and Jews together to provide tourist related products and services. Working together helps people get to know each other in casual, normative settings, and this is the main goal of the organization.
The Etrog Festival will take place from October 19- 21, and will include lots of fun, holiday-related activities, workshops, performances and tours. During the three-day festival, visitors will be able to participate in the olive harvest, prepare olive oil, bake bread, pick herbs, discover the mystery behind carnivorous plants and even ride on a tractor.
In addition, there’ll be a number of guided tours.
One tour is titled the “Etrog Controversy,” and another will take you on journey through nature in search of ancient oak trees and water springs. And if you want to take a piece of nature home with you, you can stop off at the Menashe agricultural market and purchase some local produce.
Talmei Elazar
Although the Menashe Regional Council is not as well-known as the Galilee or the Golan Heights, it is home to a surprisingly large number of family-run farms. One farm in particular that is really fun to visit, especially if you’re a flower lover like me, is Hai, Tzomeah, Domem, which is located in Talmei Elazar. Also known locally as Danny's Farm, this is the type of place where you can delve into the world of plants. It’s run by Danny Ben Avraham, who for years has been diligently collecting desert plants from around the world, and is the proud owner of the largest collection of xerophilous (arid climate) plants in Israel. The collection features lots of interesting flora and even includes carnivorous plants.
Price: children NIS 20, adults NIS 25.
Appropriate from age six.
To register: 050-732-4444.
Gan Shomron
Spice Garden Nava’s medicinal plant and spice farm offers lots of exciting ecological activities for the whole family.
There’s a lovely vegetable garden, an incredible maze made from herbs where children will love to get lost and a fun turtle feeding station. Nava, who is a naturopath and a dietitian, conducts workshops, offers tours of her organic greenhouse and gives lectures about the benefits of drinking herbal tea, which she’ll let you taste under the shade of her pecan trees.
Dates: October 19 and 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be two sessions each day, one beginning at 10 and the second at 1.
Price: children NIS 40, adults NIS 30.
To register: 052-371-9196.
Kibbutz Ein Shemer
The Old Courtyard at Kibbutz Ein Shemer has a museum that displays artifacts from one of Israel’s earliest Zionist communities. The museum includes a restoration of the dining hall, along with dishes and objects used in a typical settlement from those times. During Hol Hamoed, in addition to the museum, children will be invited to try on authentic pioneer clothing, bake bread in a stone oven and even participate in the olive harvest.
The oil produced in the old-fashioned way is not edible, and because the process is messy, visitors are recommended to come in comfortable clothing that can be soiled. You can also visit the tractor museum, which includes agricultural tools that have been restored.
There’s even a locomotive motor there that was built in 1875 in England! Dates: October 18, 19, 20 and 22, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and October 21 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Length of activity: three hours.
Price: children NIS 40 to NIS 45, adults NIS 45.
Details: (04) 637-4327.
Baka al-Gharbiya
In the heart of Abu Jamil’s ecological farm lies an ancient olive grove whose owners hope to use it to promote peace between Jews and Arabs. Hanan Abu Moch, who manages the farm with his capable team of female workers, is a very interesting character who has a reputation for being the village feminist.
The village is currently celebrating the olive harvest and is inviting the public to come walk through the streets of the village to see the model of an ancient house and imagine what it was like to live there in days gone by. In addition, visitors can see the ancient well, herb garden and fruit trees.
During the festival, guests will be able to take part in a three-hour tour including baking pita, harvesting olives, visiting the olive press and learning how to make soap from olive oil.
Dates: October 19 and 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Price: NIS 40.
Details: 052-544-6399.
And of course, no festival would be complete without having a nice meal at the end of the day. Because this festival is centered around agriculture, I believe the best way to end your visit would be to eat food similar to what farmers would eat out in the fields in ancient times.
Moshon Mosiyov opened a hummus restaurant at the Dor Alon gas station three years ago after working in finance for many years. After sitting in an office all day, Mosiyov had a desire to get outside and connect with the land and people. And that’s exactly what he does with his hummus restaurant. It was very important to Mosiyov that Jews and Arabs work together, and you can feel this synergy when you step inside his restaurant. He even has gluten-free pita for customers with celiac disease.
Mosiyov is offering a special festival price of NIS 30, which includes hummus and a lemonade, and half a portion plus lemonade for NIS 23. Both sizes include free refills of hummus and lemonade.
Translated by Hannah Hochner