At the foot of the mountain

The Region between Mount Carmel and the Mediterranean Sea offers endless possibilities for fun-filled days.

Hof Dor (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hof Dor
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Carmelim region is the area between the Carmel mountain chain and the beach strip that extends from Haifa to Caesarea. It is one of the most beautiful of all regions in Israel and is a short drive from Haifa or Tel Aviv, and not more than an hour and a half from Jerusalem. One can manage a visit to a goat farm, a winery or two, have lunch and visit a few museums and still have time to go for an afternoon swim and catch the sunset while horseback riding.
Me Ez Ve’ad Hayom is the brainchild of Yossi Lepar of Binyamina. His grandparents, Naum and Gila, started the dairy farm in 1946 in the part of Binyamina called Nahalat Jabotinsky. Back then, they had mainly cows on the farm. Today, Yossi’s father and brother raise and milk the goats, while he runs the visitors’ center and a small cheese-making center. The farm offers visitors a short and very interesting film, a tour that follows the milk from the goats all the way to the supermarket, and a hands-on milking experience, awarding the brave participants a milking expert certificate. At the end of the tour there is a workshop for kids and a delightful cheese breakfast.
Tel: 057-576-0026 [email protected]
Avital provides another family-oriented activity in the area. In her chocolate workshop, she teaches visitors how to create pretty chocolate petits fours, providing all the necessary ingredients and toppings. The fun-filled workshops are very popular with locals, who hold birthday parties there, as well as weddings, anniversaries and fun mornings for friends. After the two-hour workshop, everyone has his/her own box of handmade chocolates to take home (if you can resist eating the lot in the car).
Located in the Binyamina industrial park.
Call for reservations at (04) 628-8689;
Those who are not interested in chocolate- making can enjoy a bicycle tour of the area. You can either rent the bikes and get a map or join a guided tour with Haim, who will take you into the vineyards, a nearby stream or around the moshava.
(04) 638-8239;
It is recommended to end the tour in the Binyamina Winery visitors’ center, which underwent a major face-lift recently and now offers not only a beautiful wine and liquor store but also a great family restaurant. (04) 610-7535
A great stopping point is the artists’ village of Ein Hod. Recovering from the horrific fire in December 2010 that damaged a few of the houses, this pretty village is home to many artists, musicians and writers.
There are a few well-known museums here, such as the Janco Dada Museum, the main gallery and the Nisco Museum of Mechanical Music, which features dozens of antique working mechanical pianos and music boxes, as well as a lovely shop.
Nisan Cohen, founder of the museum, is American-born and gives his tours in English.
While in Ein Hod, do not miss Doña Rosa, a meat restaurant situated in the center of the pretty village. The restaurant, owned by brothers Uri and Doron Rochfleish, serves Argentine-influenced food, which they say is inspired by what their grandmother Rosa used to serve at home in Argentina. The (non-kosher) menu offers excellent beef dishes and many South American dishes such as empanadas, chorizo sausages, fish and seafood, as well as delicious desserts.
Doña Rosa (04) 954-3777
Another recommended bistro is located in the center of the old part of Zichron Ya’acov. Haneshika (The Kiss), provides a serene haven where tired tourists and locals can relax in the attractive interior dining areas or the lovely garden. Offering a fantastic continental cuisine, chef Ronen Raviv, a native of the place, is inspired by the dishes cooked in his parents’ and grandparents’ kitchens, as well as by the local Arab dishes he grew up eating. Try the lamb stew – it’s excellent. And don’t hesitate to ask for the recipe – Raviv will be glad to give it to you. Not kosher.
Haneshika (04) 639-0133.
There are numerous hotels, hostels and guest rooms in the area, catering to many different budgets and tastes. Try the Dor Beach cabins. Their location is the best, right on the beach, but their prices are high accordingly and the rooms, although recently renovated, are not worthy of the high-season prices. Off season, their prices are much more reasonable. The wooden cabins all have a kitchenette and shower, television and a sitting area outside with BBQ areas. There is also a camping area and other guestrooms with varying prices.
New in the area is the holistic spa Derech Halev, operated by Dvorit Lusky and colleagues. They offer a variety of treatments and classes, such as massage, healing and dance therapy.
If you stay there or nearby, a recommended breakfast spot on the beach is Yamas (“cheers” in Greek), where you can have a full-course meal or just a beer on the deck overlooking the beach (052-434-2080).
Other places of interest include the organic farm Mekora and the adjacent Amphorae Winery at Kerem Maharal. We do not usually like referring to areas of Israel as Little Tuscany or Provence, but this is an exception.
The impressive stone building in which the winery is located, the surrounding herb garden and the large organic farm all have that European charm about them. A guided tour of the winery and a wine tasting are available. And if you reserve in advance, they will also prepare a cheese buffet with the wines. Call before you go. (04) 984-0702.
The fishing park at Ma’ayan Zvi is a great place to spend a day with the kids.
Located at the mouth of the Daliya River, there is an ancient flour mill that was powered by water. Now the park’s theme is fishing and wildlife. While the little kids run around on the lawns, the older kids and grown-ups can go fishing, learn about nature, watch the birds, ride horses, have lunch and even get a fish pedicure in the shallow pool.
Open daily between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. (04) 639-1603.
You can also start your horseback ride here. The Dor riding ranch has trained horses, and you don’t need to have any experience to ride them. So enjoy a slow ride between the fish ponds and along the beach at sunset – it’s a winner. Call 054-354-4325.
Last but not least, if you haven’t been to the The Atlit Detainee Camp, which has been turned into the Ha’apala (“illegal” immigration) Museum, do yourself a favor and take time to go there. It is a must-see for Israelis and visitors alike. The Atlit national monument is a restored detention camp from the time of the British Mandate period. First built as a military camp in 1938, it was later used by the British as a temporary holding facility for thousands of illegal Jewish immigrants.
Neglected over the years, it was declared a national monument in 1987 and now operates as a museum, telling the story of the struggle of Jews fleeing Europe from Nazi persecution, trying to reach British-controlled Palestine, only to be incarcerated in camps similar in appearance to the Nazi concentration camps of Europe. On the site there is a ship that is similar in size and appearance to those used to transport immigrants to Israel. This provides a more authentic experience for visitors to understand the events connected with the camp. Besides the ship, visitors can also view a model of the original camp, restored barracks, the reception facility where new immigrants went through the trauma of removing their clothes for disinfection and had to shower before being admitted, a computerized information database and much more. Get your hankies ready – it’s a very moving experience.
For more ideas, hotels, restaurants and touring information, call Carmelim (04) 984-1114 or go to