Body and soul

Catch two festivals in one trip to the Galilee next week.

Bein Hakramim311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Bein Hakramim311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There are a thousand reasons to take a vacation in Galilee, but there are two specific and overlapping reasons to take a trip next week: The Klezmer Festival and the Bein Hakramim (Among the Vineyards) Festival.
Both annual festivals start on August 15 and both are worth an outing.
The 24th annual Klezmer Festival in Safed features both local and international musicians, and it’s the town’s biggest event. This year, more than 40 artists are expected to participate from six countries in 90 concerts spread over three days. Thousands of people traditionally descend on the picturesque city to the eight stages spread out in various courtyards and alleyways.
Music fills the air, as does the city’s spiritual and mystic aura.
The concerts are free, and all types of other events are planned to coincide with the music, including master classes, puppet shows, musical tours and sing-alongs.
I recently went to scout out the city prior to the festival to find some worthwhile spots for incoming visitors. I was surprised to see that the city has been cleaned up a bit, and the level of the art galleries has risen greatly in the past few years. While some trinket shops and run-of-the-mill art stores are still around, there’s a new sense of quality. For instance, the one-year-old Mikedem Fine Art Gallery would be at home in any classy city. However, it’s most at home in Safed, since the gallery features Israeli artists and Safed is pretty much the art capital of Israel.
The gallery is both modern and earthy, with light wood floors and many white walls and pedestals. The vaulted ceilings and archways give it a local feel. The gallery’s owners took their time getting off the ground since they had to convince serious artists to take them seriously. But in the end they succeeded, and the gallery now houses the works of five highly impressive and renowned artists. Sculptors Ruth Bloch, Zvi Lachman and Tolla Inbar showcase their works, as do the Moldavian-born virtuoso painter Leonid Balaklav and Sabra specialist Ilan Baruch. A few works by Ya’acov Agam are thrown into the mix as well.
Another interesting gallery is the Canaan Gallery, tucked back into a courtyard overhung by a branching fig tree. The little compound houses a weavers’ workshop filled with looms and brightly colored spools of thread, a café with a view of two synagogues and the mountains beyond and a gallery shop with all types of textiles for purchase, including halla covers and tallitot. Safed has a long history of textile production, and the small workshop continues the tradition, exporting its finished products to synagogues worldwide.
Safed also has many restaurants that will be open to festival- goers, some quaint and charming, others less so. An authentic Yemenite eatery tends to draw crowds, as does the well-established Maximilian Café, located in the heart of the original Artists’ Quarter.
When it comes to lodgings, Safed still has a way to go.
Luckily, besides the one main hotel in the city itself, there are a number of hotels on its outskirts and tons of B&Bs and guest houses in the vicinity.
And if you stay somewhere between Safed and Moshav Meron, you can easily straddle the two festivals. Bein Hakramim is always timed to align with Tu Be’av, which is kind of like the ancient Jewish version of Valentine’s Day.
The festival features moonlit concerts, nighttime tours, wine tastings, a farmers’ market, grape harvesting, some family events and plenty of food.
As a precursor to that festival, I made a few stops in the hilly area where the festivities will take place. The Adir Winery and Dairy visitors’ center is well worth a visit. Both branches of Adir are part of a family-owned- and-operated business, and the visitors’ center aims to drive that point home. Located in the Dalton industrial park, the large building invites both couples and families; it is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
A short film on the history of the dairy and subsequent winery is shown in both English and Hebrew. Unlike some visitors’ center films, this one is professional, informative and entertaining.
The Adir Dairy produces delicious products made with goats’ milk, including soft cheeses, hard cheeses, butter and even ice cream. The winery produces two series and has won quite a few awards. The head vintner, who is a member of the founding families and is Israeli-trained, is a stickler for quality – and it shows. Adir’s version of port is particularly noteworthy. At the visitors’ center, guests are invited to partake in cheese tasting on one side of the structure and wine tasting on the other. A porch overlooking a fountain and the cabernet sauvignon vineyards of Kerem Ben-Zimra beyond is the perfect place for a cheese-filled breakfast. On a recent Friday, the place was bustling. During the festival, the visitors’ center will host a Greek night, in addition to its regular operations.
Not too far from the visitors’ center is an olive oil factory store, located in Kibbutz Parod.
While Saba Haviv isn’t too exciting this time of year (oil is only pressed from October to December), the shop does offer an array of potions with supposed healing properties. Aside from the olive oil, honey, olives, carob jam and soaps, the factory store has a tehina press where visitors can watch as sesame seeds are ground into fresh and delicious tehina. Saba Haviv is owned by a Christian- Arab-Argentinean family, and any member of the family walking around there can tell you which salve will solve which problem. The kibbutz also has a mini-golf course, which may be worth keeping in mind.
If you’re worried about food with all your running around from festival to festival and site to site, a helpful service is run out of Moshav Amirim. While the moshav was founded on principles of vegetarianism and is thus home to many restaurants, one restaurant features a picnic-basket service. You just have to call ahead and place your order, and a kosher basket for two will be ready for you to pick up and take with you on your travels. It comes with a handy list of optimal picnic sites in the area, as well. Read-ymade meals can also be delivered to nearby guest houses.
The owner, Moriah, recently expanded her catering business and opened a café downstairs.
At press time, the forerunner in the competition to name the new café was Cafecito. It’s open seven days a week and offers a mix of healthful foods and “regular” options. While most of the fare there is standard dairy pastas and quiches, the drinks are exceptional. The lassi fruit shake (NIS 26) offers the right thickness and mix of sweet and tangy, and the ice coffee (NIS 12) – made with organic free-trade coffee – is particularly tasty as well. The café is tucked away in the back of the moshav and overlooks the Galilee hills.
Basically, if you can get away next week, you should. There’s a lot going on in the North and there are sites to interest any type of traveler. Don’t forget all the national parks, hike routes and holy Jewish spots as well.
Klezmer Festival
August 15-17,
Bein Hakramim Festival
August 15-19, Moshav Meron
Mikedem Fine Art Gallery
18 Elkabetz St., Old City of Safed (04) 682-9002
Canaan Gallery
47 Beit Yosef Street, Old City of Safed (04) 697-4446
Adir Visitors’ Center
Dalton Industrial Park Sunday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (04) 699-1039 
Saba Haviv Factory Store
Kibbutz Parod (04) 684-9074
Moriah’s baskets and café
Moshav Amirim (04) 698-0505 or 050-953-1113
Baskets are kosher, café has no certification