Tour Israel: Katzir artist colony

This is a great time of year to visit this region, since it’s no longer too hot, but it’s still dry and there’s usually a nice breeze.

Natural waterways on Kibbutz Ginegar (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Natural waterways on Kibbutz Ginegar
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Many artists go out into nature to be inspired for their artworks, and some even leave the crowded cities and move permanently to isolated areas. This connection to the land and nature helps them open up their souls and lets their creativity flow.
Yet, despite their dream of living in solitude, even artists at some point feel they need to be around people, so they build small, quiet communities in which they can continue creating, and where they don’t have as many economic worries as they would in the city.
Villages such as Ein Hod and Tzukim are not so unusual in Israel anymore, and artist colonies have begun popping up throughout the country.
But not all artists are looking to pick up and move to another location to start their lives afresh. In Katzir, for example, as in other artist villages around the country, residents realized that if they want to attract tourists, they must band together. So a group of artists in Katzir formed an artist colony in their community where local residents can create art, display their works and also open their studios to tourists who arrive on site in search of a unique and meaningful experience.
Just 90 minutes from Tel Aviv, Katzir sits atop Mount Amir, from which there is a gorgeous view of the Galilee below. The village is formed by two hills, the valley acting as a natural border between West Katzir and Central Katzir (which is to the east).
Not surprisingly, over 20 percent of Katzir residents rely on their artwork for their livelihood, and as a result they came to the conclusion that they should form an artist colony and a beautiful promenade (which has not yet been completed) that connects all the artist studios. Although the residents of Katzir like to call it an artist colony, it’s more like a complex with a few scattered structures.
One of the artist studios in Katzir is Goren Arts, a 10-year-old ceramics gallery, and another is Ya’acov Haziza’s carpentry shop, in which he built shelves to store an assortment of seeds (yes, the kind that grow into seedlings) and bookshelves which are filled with books that people are welcome to borrow for free.
In front of each studio stand display units in which the artists can exhibit their artwork and advertise their workshops.
Adjacent to the artist colony, and no less important than the artwork and the galleries, is an impressive culinary center. House on the Mountain is a café that was opened a year ago by two women who live in Katzir, Tali Ofek Argov and Efrat Tzimet. Both of them lived in the city for years and moved to Katzir after they fell in love with the pastoral landscape and the cool breeze on the mountain that overlooks the valley.
House on the Mountain offers incredible breakfast and brunch dishes, and it’s particularly hard to get a seat there on Friday mornings. Argov and Tzimet display artwork and jewelry created by their neighbors in Katzir, and every so often they hold workshops and private events in their café, too.
If vegan cuisine is more your thing, Kamala is the perfect restaurant for you.
Kamala began as a hummus stand but has developed into a vegan Indian-style restaurant with a wide variety of choices.
There’s a popular local pub next door that occasionally hosts small musical performances in an intimate setting.
Activity in the Katzir artist colony takes place mostly on weekends and holidays, and visitors who venture out there during the week might be a bit disappointed, since most of the artists are not available to spend time with guests.
But in my opinion, it’s still worth the trip to enjoy the local cuisine and breathe the fresh mountain air while you look out over the Galilee. And there are many hiking trails in the area to choose from, with gorgeous views and well-kept public gardens that are perfect for picnics.
If you are the type of person who gets obsessed with finding the perfect picnic spot, get in your car and drive to Kibbutz Ginegar, just 30 minutes from Katzir.
There is a lovely picnic area there, next to a gently flowing stream that flows into a charming pool with lots of beautiful water plants around it. There’s also a dirt path that circumnavigates the pool, and a large grassy area that’s perfect for spreading out your picnic blanket and relaxing.
This is a great time of year to visit this region, since it’s no longer too hot, but it’s still dry and there’s usually a nice breeze. If you feel like moving around a bit, you can take a short walk on the trail. But note that it is forbidden to enter the water.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.