Exploring in the north and Hamat Gader

As mentioned in my previous post, the Shavit Family Guest House is both a lodge and a restaurant, and we were fortunate to be able to enjoy some of their delicious food during our stay there. The first night, we ate dinner at the family restaurant, ordering the signature dish of lamb casserole – cooked all day and stewed with potatoes and various vegetables. We also had breakfast at the restaurant both days and it was delicious! Like any good Israeli breakfast, there was an abundance of dips, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and beverages.

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After breakfast, we made a stop at Capernaum (where Noah and I have now been three times!) and looked at the ruins of a synagogue from approximately the 4th century (don’t mind the fact that the men in the photo below are actually looking at another camera…):

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After Capernaum, we began to drive north further into the Golan region, stopping at a lookout point along the road for some incredible views of and around Lake Kinneret. The area is called Offir lookout, and it is off of Rt 789:

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The lookout was a great find – we weren’t planning to go there and only happened to notice it off the road. In fact, we had to drive along a long, muddy trail to get there, and we almost turned back, thinking the path didn’t lead to anything. I’m glad we forged ahead!

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Given the slightly cold and rainy weather during the trip thus far (as you may have noticed from the photos), the group decided that this would be a great day for a refreshing activity. So, we headed to Hamat Gader, a hot springs spa located right by the Jordanian border and only a few miles from the point where Jordan, Israel, and Syria meet. Despite its slightly suspect location (and the fact that this is an Israeli spa, read: you need VERY different expectations than what you would expect from an American spa), visiting Hamat Gader was a lot of fun. When we arrived, we ate a quick lunch of salatim at a casual family eatery within the park and then headed to the main attraction: the hot springs!

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The hot springs basically look like a big public pool, but it is filled with thermal hot springs. Also, the natural sulfur in the water is said to have a healing and renewing effect. I am not so much of a water person, so I was content to sit by the side and watch the fun:

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After the hot springs, the rest of the day included more driving, gazing at lookout points, and a dinner on Mt. Gilboa before heading back to the Shavit Guest House for one more night (and breakfast!). Naturally, there was more rain – this time with a bit of hail!

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And I thought there wasn’t supposed to be rain after Pesach?!?!

The following day was again busy with exploration, visiting the Yigal Alon Museum at Kibbutz Ginnosar, more ruins, and a very rainy trip to Tzfat (sound familiar?!).

The day ended with a drive back home to Jerusalem, where Noah’s parents would spend the rest of their visit. We went for dinner at one of Noah’s and my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Kalo. Noah and I shared a camembert cheese sandwich and salmon/cream pasta, both of which were delicious:

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Noah’s parents stayed only a few blocks from us at the Little House in Baka – a small and casual hotel that has been very popular with the visiting parents of students in my program this year. Be careful, though, not to confuse it with the building next door: NOT little house in Baka:

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I guess those people have had one too many tourists try to come into their living room…. 🙂

Although Noah’s parents spent another 5 or so days in Israel after coming with us to Jerusalem, I could only spend one more day with the group because classes at Pardes were resuming. During my last day with the family, we went to the Israel Museum. Although Noah and I had been to the Israel museum before, it is a HUGE place and there were a lot of exhibits we didn’t get a close look at the first time. In particular, I wanted to look at the archaeology exhibit and the sculpture garden. I really enjoyed walking through the sculpture garden and, in particular, seeing a piece called Space that Sees by James Turrell. The piece is a large box of sorts that you enter through a walkway…

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Inside, it is a large square where you can sit and look up at the sky through the open ceiling:

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Very neat! I imagine it could be quite beautiful to see in the nighttime:

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Other posts about visiting with Noah’s parents:

Zichron Yaakov – visiting Ramat Hanadiv gardens and Caesarea
Ein Hod Artist’s Village and Acre (Akko) – Crusader’s Fortress and market

 

 

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Visiting Tzfat in the fog and lunch on Mt. Gilboa

This past weekend I went on a trip with some friends to Tzfat and the Lower Galilee. We started our trip bright and early on Friday morning by picking up a rental car in Jerusalem and cramming everyone/everything inside. Surprisingly, the car didn’t have much trunk space, so it was a little tight:

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Nonetheless, we got to our first stop – Tzfat – after a little more than two hours. Tzfat is one of the four holy cities in Judaism, and it is associated with the element of air (the other holy cities are Jerusalem:fire, Hebron:earth, and Tiberias:water). This was a particularly appropriate day to visit Tzfat since the weather gave us a definite taste of its airy quality!

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My friend Sasha went for a private lesson with glass artist Sheva Chaya.
(you can learn about Sasha’s super cool glassworks here!)

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…and the rest of us wandered around the city for a bit:

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Since the weather was a bit cold and rainy, before too long we ended up inside a falafel shop eating lots of delicious fried food:

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Once regaining Sasha, we headed to a grocery store for some snacking essentials and then checked into the Karei Deshe Guest House where we were staying for the night to get ready for Shabbat:

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The next day, we had a full day of activities that started with a hike on Mt. Gilboa. Mt. Gilboa is located in the Lower Galilee region and is particularly known for the wildflowers that grow abundant in the spring. We went for about an hour hike and (although we lost the trail and were mainly just forging through the brush!) had a lot of fun:

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After the hike, we went for lunch at a restaurant called The Gilboa Herb Farm

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The restaurant was adorable with amazing views looking out from the mountaintop. There were so many delicious things on the menu! We ended up ordering focaccia and some mushroom/sweet potato falafel to share as appetizers, and I got gnocchi as a main dish – Noah got a lamb sausage something with mashed potatoes:

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We also ordered a few desserts as a table to share afterwards and everything was delicious! If you are going to Mt. Gilboa, I would highly recommend visiting this restaurant.

Check back soon for a post on the rest of the trip’s adventures including a trip to the Sachne hot springs and a visit to Gan Garoo (can you guess what that is? Hint: it is related to an animal that rhymes in gangaroo!).

Tzfat and Mt. Bental

Tzfat is a town in the Galilee region, known for its spiritual vibe, artsy aesthetics, and ‘airy’ feel. My family stopped by Tzfat for a few hours on our way north, walking around to get a sense of the town and grabbing a bite to eat. The town itself is full of narrow, windy cobblestone streets that lead past old synagogues, art shops, and eateries:

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The ubiquity of art is definitely the most unique quality of Tzfat. In addition to an abundance of art shops and vendors, the streets themselves are covered with art. Tzfat is also one of the few places in Israel outside of Jerusalem where religiosity is visibly expressed at every corner. Literally.

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This is a picture seen painted on a wall along the street depicting ‘The Torah Kid’ as a superhero:

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Besides walking around, we visited Abuhav Synagogue – a Sephardic synagogue in which a Torah written by Abuhav, a 14th-century Spanish scribe, resides. The synagogue is fairly simple from the outside, but the interior is colorful and beautifully decorated:

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One of the highlights of visiting Tzfat was a trip to a store called Tzfat Candles. True to the spirit of Tzfat, this is much more than your average candle shop. It is candle art.

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You can buy candles in the shape of pretty much anything you can think of (besides all the fancy stuff, they also sell beautifully colored ‘regular’ candles). In addition to the variety of candles for sale, there was some pretty magnificent Biblical candle art on display. Highlights included David and Goliath:

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Noah’s ark:

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And Samson:

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I don’t know about you, but I would sure feel bad lighting any of these on fire! Noah and I bought a havdallah candle at the store and used it for the first time last week! It was awesome. 🙂

And, just for giggles, a misspelled sign advertising the popular Tzfat cheese (a semi-hard, somewhat elastic, cheese popular in Israel):

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After Tzfat, we continued north to Mt. Bental. Mt. Bental is a volcanic cone in the northern part of Israel, near the Golan heights, and very close to the Syrian border. Due to its positioning near Syria, the location used to be a military outpost. Looking out from Mt. Bental, one can see, to one side, into the demilitarized zone between Israel and Syria and across into Syria itself. To the other side lies the Israeli Kibbutz Merom Golan. When we arrived at the site, we saw a UN vehicle parked in the lot (these vehicles are also commonly sighted in Jerusalem):

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Noah investigating a view as we walk to the main lookout:

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This sign highlighted Mt. Bental’s unique location and proximity to several significant cities:

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At the lookout, we could walk through the former military trenches and tunnels:

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View looking out towards Syria:

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Check back soon for a final post recounting my family’s visit and our stop in Tiberias!