Surrounding by fertile green pastures ripe with vines holding tiny clumps of blossoming grapes showing only the earliest signs of their meaty fruit and skin, it’s easy to visualize how the Galilean countryside was the setting for Jesus’s miracle of turning water into wine. While a lot has changed in 2000 years, some things have not.
Wine production is not only alive and well in the Galilee, but the region, with its 68 wineries and hundreds of homemade food products, is fast becoming known as a culinary hotspot. True, most tourists still visit the region primarily for its rich history and renowned holy sites, but for those seeking to add a local flavor to their tour, visiting the Galilee on and off the “eaten path” will definitely spice up your visit to the Holy Land.
As you head north to tour Nazareth make sure to visit the village of Kfar Tikva, which in English means the village of Hope. Kfar Tikva is home to 200 adults with developmental and emotional disabilities, ranging in age from 20 to 74.
A dedicated professional staff as well as 20 full-time volunteers from Israel and abroad serve the needs of the residents of the community. Many of them also work at Tulip, the boutique, family-owned winery located within the village. They participate in the entire production cycle beginning with the arrival of the harvested grapes until the sale of the finished bottles in the winery shop. In the last few years, the winery has become a popular destination for day-trippers and affords an excellent opportunity for interaction between Kfar Tikva’s members and the community at large, including tourists. The Yitzchaki family from Kiryat Tivon owns and manages the winery, which is open to visitors every Friday and by appointment by calling: 04-983-0573.
Continue ten minutes down the road and just a few kilometers off the main highway 70 follow the signs to Beit Lechem Hagalilit, known in English as Bethlehem of the Galilee. This small community was founded in the late 1800s by a small group of German Templars who settled in the Holy Land. Local tradition holds that Jesus may not have born in Bethlehem but rather in this small village only about a half day’s walk from Nazareth, and just a few kilometers away from Sepphoris, Mary’s hometown.
With its historic templar-style homes constructed from stone, wide streets and lush surroundings, Beit Lechem Haglilit is reminiscent of Tuscany. The fields abutting the village are carpeted by beautiful anemones in the spring as well as sunflowers and other plant life. The area is also renowned for its herbs and spices grown by local farmers. Derech HaTavlinim, established by the Zifferspiller family over 50 years ago is known for its unique farming methods including open air outdoor drying which allows for the preservation of minerals as well as a unique smoking process that gives spices additional flavor. The large farm is situated close to the entrance of the community and prides itself on the 20 or so different plants and herbs grown in the fields behind their store. Inside the large facility is a lecture room, mixing hall, a workshop as well as hundreds of colorful and beautifully displayed spices and herbs. Visitors are welcome to participate in one of the many workshops offered, from learning about medicinal herbs to demonstrating healthy cooking techniques. The farm welcomes tourist groups and offers a host of different workshops.
Time for lunch?
About a 45-minute drive north into the lesser visited western mountains of the Galilee is a small vegetarian moshav known as Amirim. Aside from being a popular destination among local Israelis who enjoy the fantastic views from one of the many bed and breakfasts situated within the picturesque village, Amirim offers a host of holistic businesses, workshops and vegetarian restaurants. A small boutique spa hotel strategically situated at the entrance of Amirim, Amirey Hagalil, offers 16 guest units for adults and older children (must be at least 12 years old to stay there). In addition to its extensive spa facilities and treatment rooms, the property has a small restaurant operated by the celebrated Chef Gili, who is famous for his unique culinary creations. On the day we visited the chef had us prepare one of his specialties, fish fillet wrapped in grape leaves.
The locally caught St. Peter’s fish was marinated and later wrapped in grape leaves and sautéed tightly in a cast iron skillet. The white fish peeking from inside contrasted nicely with the grape leaves, which retained their bright green color even after 15 minutes of cooking. For more information call 046989815.
Still fewer tourists ever make their way to one of the most northern communities in the Galilee, Keren Ben Zimra. However, local Israelis have discovered that this little village is a gem of a find. Situated just a few kilometers south of the Lebanese border, the village is a popular starting point for outdoor enthusiasts seeking a thrilling jeep trip. The jagged hilltops offer fantastic viewpoints into southern Lebanon while the rough terrain adds a high excitement factor to the experience. The village’s industrial park is home to a number of boutique wineries. Among the most well-known is the Adir winery, which features a two-year-old visitor center. In addition to making a number of prized wines grown from grapes handpicked in the neighboring vineyards, the Rosenberg and Ashkenazi families, owners of the winery, also produce a selection of special cheeses. For those seeking a true “hands-on” experience, make sure to ask for their cheese-making workshop.
Complete with your own gas burner and utensils, you’ll transform fresh goat’s milk into a perfect circle of warm, fresh goat’s cheese and dress it up with an assortment of spices for on the spot consumption. Finish off your day with by tasting some of the fabulous wines and homemade frozen yogurt produced by Adir (For reservations call 04-6991039).
Taking time to get to know the local Galilee will not only please the palate but will provide a cultural and spiritual experience that can only be had not just by walking in the footsteps of Jesus but eating and drinking
in the footsteps as well. The Galilean landscape has always nurtured the people of the region and with so many home grown establishments ripe for visiting, its a wonderful opportunity to get to know the local people as well.
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Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah-Holy Land tours, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.