Klil: off the beaten path

Nestled in the green hills by Nahariya and fueled almost exclusively by natural energy sources, Klil takes organic, creative living to a different dimension.

klil 224 (photo credit: orit arfa)
klil 224
(photo credit: orit arfa)
You'll probably need a GPS to get you to the entrance of Klil, but be warned: once you enter, it stops working. Klil consists of dirt roads carved through shrubby hills leading to custom-made one- and two-story homes. Klil doesn't look like it belongs in the tiny state of Israel. Residents' gardens consist of acres of land filled with organic herbs, orchards and olive trees. Colorful signs lead the driver to Klil's attractions, among them a goat cheese shop, a bakery and a few cafes, a soap and honey maker, and jewelry, glassworks and ceramic shops. Just watch out for the wild boars (don't worry, they don't attack humans, only agriculture); I almost ran over a pack late at night on the dirt road. Klil, located 14km east of Nahariya was built as an ecological settlement in 1978. It started out with seven seed families and grew to accommodate some 100 families today. Dr. Irit Schreier, the head of the Klil community council, explained the principles behind the community in the wilderness. "We call it an agro-ecological model of settlement that combines three elements: First is organic agriculture - it's forbidden to grow non-organic agriculture. The second is sustainable orchards - growing trees with simple methods that maintain ecological balance. The third is developing the wild greenery of the region." The residents try to use only natural sources of energy. Every home has solar electricity panels, but residents soon found that solar panels are not always enough, so they are backed up by generators. There is a sense of refined beauty in Klil and it is a unique and quirky alternative to the more predictable resorts in the Golan and along the Kinneret. The residents are hospitable, and several Klil families have built tzimmers on their land to host out-of-towners. Here are some highlights, but don't worry about the GPS: part of the fun is getting lost and exploring on your own. FOOD Brunch at Smadar BeClil comes recommended if you're looking for delicious vegetarian food and friendly hospitality. Smadar and Yossi Yardeni, among Klil's first residents, converted the family's first home into a restaurant furnished with handcrafted wooden furniture both indoors and out. While cutting up organic vegetables from the kitchen, Yardeni explained the reason for her move from Jerusalem, where she was a student at the Bezalel School of Art. "We decided our future needed more space; we wanted land," says Yardeni. "We loved the virgin nature of Klil; you can preserve it." To realize the Klil dream, they bought land from Druse living in Galilee and started out in a tent: "We were very self-sufficient; we grew vegetables, herded goats." They closed down their own organic goat-cheese dairy about six years ago, and Yardeni, now 50-years-old, considers managing her restaurant and two tzimmers as her form of retirement in comparison. The love she puts into her work is evident in the brunch, consisting of fluffy herb omelets, a plate of delicious goat cheese (including some from Klil's own cheesemaker), a platter of vegetables topped with Yardeni's own olive oil and fresh mint lemonade. (Don't miss her homemade guava jam.) For lunch and dinner she offers salads, sandwiches and homemade pastas. Further along the rocky road is Café B'Clil, a well-kept camping ground with its own cafe for those who don't need the comforts - and expense - of a tzimmer. Camping tents go for NIS 80 per person (NIS 60 for children) and they come with mattresses only. The founder is Tamar Schoer, a former art teacher and veteran resident of Klil. I visited the shanty café as the cooks were preparing for the Thursday night crowd. Open to the public only on weekends, the café is reminiscent of the cushioned-lined restaurant huts in Sinai, minus the desert, water and Beduin. The conditions may be simple, but the olive trees, avocado trees, white tents, and lots of green that surrounds Cafe B'Clil make this place exceptional. Smadar BeClil: 04-956-1678; http://www.ohalimretreats.com/cafe_clil.htm Café B'Clil: (04) 996-9432; 052-326-1898 CRAFTS Craftsman and artists have made Klil their home for the inspiration and solitude the surroundings provide. For ceramist Yael Shemer, the electricity shortage has actually sparked a new way of working. Moving to Klil ten years ago has forced Shemer to fire up her clay using a method she never thought she would implement when she learned ceramics as a Bezalel student: gas ovens. Electric solar panels were simply not strong enough for her to power the more widely used electric oven. Shemer has found that she prefers this method. The oxidation of the gas oven renders unpredictable, unique color streaks in her ceramic jugs, plates and mugs. Inside her garage-like studio, her shelves are filled with dozens of literally half-baked works. As a result of the energy shortage at Klil, Shemer fires the oven only about three times a month, and the ceramics require several rounds in the oven. Luckily for newer Klil resident Reut Keret, electricity isn't required for her work. She sells her own handcrafted jewelry from a little corner in the small house she shares with her husband. She named her small boutique "Sundri", which means "pretty woman" in Hindi since her jewelry is made using gemstones imported from India. She crafts jewelry using a method that requires minimal tools - and no electricity outlets. While her selection of jewelry is rather small, she sells striking gems that follow the length of the ear lobe. Yael Shemer: (04) 980-4571; Sundri: 050-634-3114 ENTERTAINMENT Ada Moril of Diane and Ada, a folk music duo popular on the folk and world-music circuit, has made her home in Klil for the past 30 years ago. When I stopped by her "Yellow House," as it is officially called, she and her family were in the middle of separating olives from the branches to make their own olive oil. Sitting under an ancient olive tree, the Canadian-Israeli explained in native English how she moved to Klil to find a quiet place in nature focused on ecological living. "Already in Canada I knew I wanted to live in the country, in the hills overlooking the sea." She has fulfilled her dream: It was a clear day and the coast of Nahariya shone cobalt blue. In her living room Moril hosts her own concerts as well as those of other folk acts. From her home she also leads groups on herb trails, explaining the culinary and medicinal properties of herbs that grow wild in the Klil hills. www.diane-ada.com; www.clil.net/ada Tel: 04-996-9540 A BOON IN THE BOONDOCKS B'Vadi Etzel Ayali: If Klil feels like it's located at the end of the earth, then B'vadi Etzel Ayali's is at the farthest end. It takes a few turns on thin dirt roads to reach one of its two mountain cabins, built on stilts, but once you do, there are nothing but mountainous forests of mint green and gray-hued lavender to distract you. You can feel like you are the only two people who exist on earth, so be sure to come with someone you really, really like. The cabin I stayed in was designed in wood and warm, reddish tones, but clearly the best part about the tzimmer was the view from the patio, smartly situated with its back to the rest of Klil. The only sign of life in the forests was a rundown crusader fortress located at Kibbutz Yehiam at the peak of a far hill. In the winter, water flows through Nahal Yehiam below, and the Jewish National Fund has carved out a hiking trail along it. The cabin includes a lounge area, a fully stocked kitchen, and a small hot tub room adjacent to the bedroom. But you might have to ruin your private moment and tell the owner, Esti Ayali, when you want to use the hot tub; she needs to turn on the electricity generator to generate the bubbles. Esti and her husband, Yoav, live next door in their home and they're always available on their cell-phone (when you catch a line!) to cater to the guests' needs. Blame it on the electricity solar panels, but lamps don't shine too brightly inside, adding to the intimate and romantic setting. There is no television - fortunately - but a stereo system with a small music selection. This trip's most relaxing moment came when this writer popped in one of their Mozart CDs and dropped on the queen size bed to the sounds of birds chirping in the carob trees. NIS 1,500 per couple for two nights, including breakfast, on weekends; weekday discounts available. Tel: 050-379-4661; www.eyali.co.il