Back to Batzra

Located just north of Ra'anana, Batzra is home to an upscale moshav vibe.

batzra moshav 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
batzra moshav 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Just north of Ra'anana and a two-minute detour off Road 4 lies Moshav Batzra. Established in 1946 by Jewish soldiers who served in the British army, the first housing in this cooperative farm (moshav shitufi) comprised glorified tents. While Batzra was never a slum nor a "ma'abara" (transit camp), the standard of living in Batzra - the name is a derivative of the Hebrew word for fortress - was once basic. First settlers earned a living from agriculture: particularly citrus growing, operating beehives and producing animal feed. Over the years, however, and like so many of the moshavim in this area, Batzra has become less pioneering and more moneyed. Land here now goes for over $500,000 for a 150-sq.-meter plot, a fact that has driven out much of the agriculture and lured in the business sharks. Nevertheless, Batzra retains much of its original charm. Although there is enough to keep an avid shopper on their feet for a good few hours, Batzra isn't - as yet - a second Rishpon. There's still an authentic moshav feel, and parking lots aren't a dumping ground for 4x4s. If you're looking for a good place to imbibe the original moshav vibe start at Cafe Tapuz where people come from all over the country to rest, relax and refresh. CAFE TAPUZ You really can't miss Cafe Tapuz if you come in from Batzra's main entrance. Charming wooden signs on Rehov Nahalim lead you into an orange orchard which houses the cafe to the right, private grounds to the left, and a pebble parking lot in the middle of all the citrus. This is one of the prettiest entrances to a cafe this reporter has ever seen, and first appearances don't disappoint. Tapuz has been around for seven years, and in that time the owners have gently landscaped the sizable gardens, added a fish pond, gazebo, a wooden deck and more. The overall effect is one of a green, bright oasis. On a weekday morning the cafe deck was full of customers, many of them young couples with babies in tow. Tapuz's owner Ran prides himself on a fresh, simple menu, which manages to offer small surprises here and there to keep customers on their toes. Everything, down to the cakes, tarts, pastries, cookies and, of course, the orange juice, is made in-house. We sampled the breakfast and shakshuka which was served with warm, homemade bread, various spreads and juice/coffee. Prices certainly aren't rock bottom, but they also aren't outrageous (expect to pay around NIS 50 to NIS 60 for brunch here). Service is good. As you leave the cafe, try taking your eyes off that freshly made lemon meringue pie in the chiller and raise them a little higher. Evidence of Batzra's simple beginnings can be seen in the black-and-white pictures hanging in Tapuz's side office. One amateur shot shows a baby girl no more than a year old standing in a crib in the forefront with the tents of settlers in the background. The girl in the picture is now nearing 60 and is still a resident of Batzra as well as a loyal customer of Cafe Tapuz. According to the owners, she brings friends and shows off her public baby album. Cafe Tapuz, Rehov Hanahalim. Closed on Shabbat, no Kashrut certification. MOVILLA If Tapuz offers a taste of slow country living, the Movilla boutique may well be a vision of Batzra's future. Movilla, which opened in 2007 opposite Tapuz, is a clothing boutique which mixes local designs with imported goods, but it is designed and run more like a home, so that customers walk in to complimentary espresso and cappucino, pastries and soft drinks, and continue to enjoy personal shopping assistance. One room at Movilla holds a more casual, sporty clothing collection (prices start at around NIS 150), another an enviable selection of jeans and hip dresses by designers such as Meltinpot and Pepe, and the third, which essentially functions as Movilla's main living room, holds pricier designer items and accessories reaching up to NIS 1400. Off to the right is the "bedroom" with a bed made up with neutral-colored luxury Israeli linens made by Vanilla. The atmosphere throughout is of discreet consumerism with a personal touch. Uber-hip owners Shahar and Shlomi came to this business after a good decade-plus of work in the retail industry and you can tell that this is a well thought-out project. There's no loud music; voices are hushed and friendly. "No-one comes in here to buy without being welcomed and helped with their choice," says Shahar. "We know our customers and pride ourselves on helping them make the best decisions. It's not about numbers here, it's about building a customer base with whom we have a relationship." For those wishing to finish off their pampering with yet more pampering, Movilla offers a resident hairdresser. "Instead of a sale price we'll often offer a blow dry, why not..." she says. Movilla, 17 Hanahalim, 09-744-0695. Closed Shabbat. VASTU Past the villas, salubrious houses, and barking dogs and on to the east side are the furniture "hangers" of Batzra. There are a number to choose from and any day is a good day to wander around and think about how beautiful your house would be if you only had those two pure wood outdoor pool chairs from the TAHO outdoor furniture store, let alone the pool itself. One of the more remarkable stores is Vastu, which is owned by Gavriella Baumgarten. Baumgarten made aliya from Germany, and for the last couple of years she has been importing teak furniture from Asia, particularly Indonesia. The range here is beautiful and includes larger items such as office desks, beds and glass and wood vanity cabinets from around NIS 6,000 upwards down to NIS 500 for an elegant letter desk perfect for a reception area. While nothing here is "cheap," if you're looking for elegant, well-made wooden furniture, this is a great place to start. In the heart of Tel Aviv you can expect to pay double or even triple for almost identical items.n (09) 741-4178 for details. Scattered among all this are the usual services that make up a contemporary moshav. There's an organic fruit and veg store, corner store and more. More unusually, many event design companies have also chosen Batzra as their home. If you're on your way up north, Batzra can be a nice place to stop, unwind and get acquainted with Israel's less well-known moshavim.