Cool, calm and collected

A Friday morning visit to Kibbutz Tzova mixes a walk in the woods, meditational yoga and a brunch fit for kings.

kibbutz tzova 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
kibbutz tzova 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The kibbutz located on the hilltop aptly known to Crusaders as Belmont (beautiful mountain) sits high above the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway and is already known as a local hot spot for the 14-and-under crowd, thanks to the Kiftzuba amusement park. But now, visitors to the site can enjoy more adult pleasures through a new weekend program run by the kibbutz hotel. For grown-ups, the kibbutz offers a well-being-oriented combination of conscious walking in nature, meditational yoga and healthy brunch, with an option to cap off the day with a wine-tasting at the kibbutz's kosher winery. The program begins with a nature walk, led by professional instructor Vered Cordo, through the kibbutz grounds, while Cordo calls attention to aspects that might otherwise be taken for granted, reminding walkers to note the rhythm of their steps and breaths. Stopping at an overlook that affords expansive views of the matchbox-like cars passing on the highway below, as well as the steeples and minarets of nearby Abu Ghosh, Cordo takes visitors through a series of yoga-based moves, urging couples to facilitate each others' stretches while standing on a rock slab that contains traces of millennia-old games. Cordo then leads the newly flexible group around the base of Tel Tzova, through dunams of land that once were shaded by the kibbutz's apple trees. In light of recent water shortages, Cordo explained, the kibbutz has planted water-efficient vineyards instead of the fruit-bearing trees. Crossing over a dirt road, the nature walk leads down to the spring known as John the Baptist's Spring. The proximity to the Christian figure's hometown of Ein Kerem, together with evidence that as early as the fourth century Byzantine monks commemorated John the Baptist at the site, has led some to believe that the spring is associated with the period in which he retreated to the wilderness. After a crawl through a massive ancient water system and a round of calming yoga on the grass over the cistern, visitors are led back through the kibbutz to the hotel lobby for a well-deserved brunch. Tzova's trademark brunch will challenge even the heartiest appetites after the walk. A wide variety of hot entrees, including casseroles, duchess potatoes and quiches - tasty as they are - are overshadowed by the truly spectacular cold salads that take center stage, including quinoa with olive "raisins," antipasti vegetables and cracked wheat with figs. On chilly mornings, the usual morning coffee can be replaced by creamy sahlab with all the toppings. Freshly baked breads, smoked fish, homemade fruit preserves and luscious cakes round out the offerings, which should be eaten on the lobby's balcony overlooking the hills. Mini-vacationers seeking something more intimate can also assemble their own brunch basket, picking out the elements they prefer and topping it off with a thermos of herbal tea and trekking out to the woods. And for those who can find one more hour to add on to the mini-vacation, Tzova offers tours and tastings at its award-winning winery. Along with one of the few port-style wines produced in Israel, you can also sample the excellent olive oil, produced and marketed as a special project by the kibbutz's children. It may not be a weekend getaway - although you could certainly stay at the kibbutz's hotel - but kibbutz Tzova can cram a lot of calm into one Friday morning. Brunch (kosher) runs NIS 95, the walk and yoga cost NIS 30 and a wine workshop is NIS 25. Advance reservations required. For more information, call (02) 534-7000 or visit