Travel Israel: Hanukka highlight travels

Step back in time to the Hasmonean period at Neot Kedumim (photo credit: PR)
Step back in time to the Hasmonean period at Neot Kedumim
(photo credit: PR)
The weeklong Hanukka vacation from school is a wonderful opportunity for families to spend quality time with one another, especially since after Hanukka there is a pretty long stretch of time without any holidays.
Although it’s wintertime, the weather is usually pleasant, and I recommend taking advantage of every sunny day to get out into nature.
Since we’ve already had a few nice rains this season, many areas around the country are looking luscious and green, and some rivers are already flowing with water.
As in years past, this Hanukka holiday will be jam-packed full of activities for the whole family.
Here are a few of my own personal recommendations for how to celebrate the holiday of lights joyfully.
Neot Kedumim, located just west of Modi’in, will be holding a special Hanukka program called “Back to the time of the Hasmoneans.”
Guests are invited to participate in a tour of traditional olive presses, during which they will learn how to produce olive oil.
The next stop on the tour is the ancient Clay Cave, where a potter will demonstrate how to make oil lamps like those used in ancient times, and a storyteller will tell about feats carried out by the heroic Maccabees.
Next, visitors will learn how to use a bow and arrow and prepare their very own oil lamps.
The last and most special stop is an exhibition called Bameh Madlikin, which displays 20 different types of clay candle holders.
When: 90-minute tours will take place on Friday, December 11; Sunday, December 13; and Monday, December 14, every hour starting at 9 a.m.
Price: NIS 30 per person, or max NIS 130 per family Details: (08) 977-0770
Wine at the lake
The Bazelet Hagolan Winery in Kidmat Zvi invites the public to take part in a fantastic experience in which you can learn about the connection between wine-making and a love of nature.
During the tour of the winery, visitors will hear explanations about how wine is made and the differences between the various types; watch a short video clip about the wine-making process; and of course get to taste the Bazelet Hagolan wines as well as partake of accompanying refreshments.
Price of wine-tasting tour: NIS 25 When: Sunday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Details: (04) 696-5010
Saba Haviv
The Saba Haviv olive press at Kibbutz Parod in the Galilee has officially opened its harvest season and for Hanukka is planning a series of entertaining workshops for visitors.
Saba Haviv, the patriarch of a large Arab- Christian family, began making soap from olive oil in 1913 when he was just a boy, and his grandchildren are still following his secret recipes to produce olive oil, tehina, halva, honey, za’atar and soap.
Visitors are welcome to watch a video titled “The story of olive oil,” which explains how olives are harvested and then pressed and about the different strains of olives.
While the children are busily engaged in activities such as pickling olives, painting clay jugs, preparing pouches from fragrant olive oil Hanukka highlight travels soap, olive crushing and making oil with a millstone, the adults can taste the different types of olive oil and pita with za’atar.
When: The week of Hanukka, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
All activities are free Details: (04) 699-1888
Utopia Park
Utopia Park at Kibbutz Bahan in the Sharon region will be holding an exciting Hanukka festival for children.
If you haven’t ever been to Utopia Park, you are in for an incredible surprise, since this heavenly botanical garden is full of unique flowers and plants, including thousands of orchids.
At the festival, which will take place December 7 to 14, children will be able to create art projects and caress colorful parrots – and even have their picture taken with them if they want.
Of course, no Hanukka festival would be complete without sufganiot, and Utopia Park will be offering special orchid- and vanilla- flavored sufganiot.
Each evening, there will be a hanukkia lighting ceremony in the orchid park amphitheater, and a huge jug filled to the top with dreidels will be stationed in the rain forest amphitheater.
Whoever guesses correctly how many dreidels are in the jug will win a prize.
Price: NIS 44 to NIS 59
Details: (09) 878-2191
Banana festival
This year, the Taste of the Galilee Festival will be sponsored by both the Tzemah and Emek Hayarden regions and will be in celebration of – the banana.
There will be a plethora of unique gourmet banana dishes available for tasting, a farmers’ market, workshops, tours and a host of other surprises, all connected with bananas.
The festival runs until December 12. This morning (Friday), the traditional Poika King competition will take place at the Yarden parking area.
On Saturday, December 12, the annual bicycle ride on the banana roads in the Jordan Valley will take place. You can go horseback riding along the fields of the Jordan Valley, where avocados, bananas, dates and olives grow in abundance. These trails are suitable for the whole family, and there are plenty of places to stop along the way for a picnic.
All activities are free. Note: You need to bring your own bicycle.
Location: Tzemah junction, next to Tzemah Experimental Farm
When: Saturday, December 12, starting between 8 and 9 a.m.
Details: Night of meteors
Every year, in the middle of December, a meteor shower paints the night sky with enchanting lights. To enhance the public viewing of this incredible natural wonder, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel is organizing activities and locations from which we can gaze up at the moon and the stars.
The two-day event, which will take place on December 13-14, will begin with a festive meal and a lecture about meteors and the solar system, and will be followed by a bonfire under the starry sky.
In the morning, the tour will lead guests through the Sheizaf Nature Reserve and the Peres River, with breathtaking views of the Dead Sea and Gav Yam.
The tour includes an overnight stay and meals at the Hatzeva Field School. Travel to the starting point requires use of a private car.
Details: SPNI, (03) 638-8688
Translated by Hannah Hochner.