As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, making the most of my Friday becomes that much more important. While I love nothing more than spending the day by a pool or on the beach, it is also fun to explore this great country of ours and find some of its hidden gems. Here are some examples of things to do near to Jerusalem so you can have a fun day out and still get back in time to get ready for Shabbat. You will see they all include exercise and food, so if you are feeling lazy, you can always just take a drive to enjoy lunch with a change of scenery!
Sataf Ruins and Cafe
Located about 30 minutes from Jerusalem either via Mevasseret Zion or Ein Kerem, Sataf is an ancient village dating back to 4,000 BCE. Two springs, Ein Sataf and Ein Bikura flow into the Sorek riverbed, below the village ruins and both haves caves and tunnels to explore. There are five hiking trails marked in different colors which are 2-3 kms long and most are intended for experienced hikers. More information can be found on the KKL website here.
After an exhilarating hike, enjoy lunch with your friends at Cafe Sataf. It has spectacular views over the valley and across to Ein Kerem. The setting is very simple, most of the restaurant is inside – which is a shame considering the location. The food is that of a typical Israeli cafe and they only serve breakfast until 12.30– annoying for someone who loves Israeli breakfast on a Friday regardless of the time! Shakshuka lovers will be glad to know that they do not consider that as breakfast, who knew?
The service is average and the saving grace is their delicious limonana granita (barad/slushy). There website includes directions of how to get there and photos of the view, www.coffe-sataf.co.il.
Neot Kedumim & Bonofait Reut
Take the 443 past Modiin to Neot Kedumim to enjoy a stroll around the Biblical Landscape Reserve where you can see life as it was lived by our ancestors 3,000 years ago. The reserve includes an ancient wine press, olive press as well as hundreds of varieties of biblical and talmudic plants (click here for the list).
On the way home, head into the quaint town of Reut, well known as the home of many senior army staff, to enjoy the tempting delicacies at Bonofait Café & Patisserie. Located in the Lev Reut Commercial Center, just a few minutes from the entrance to Reut, there is no view or picture perfect country setting, the reason to go there is simply the food. The croissants and pastries taste like they were shipped in from France that morning and I bought a delicious box of parev granola biscuits that were divine. The decor inside the cafe is simple and modern and there are also tables outside in the shopping center’s courtyard. The menu includes delicious quiches, pastas, sandwiches, and of course incredible desserts. The only downside is that breakfast is only served until 12 and we had such a great time at Neot Kedumim that we missed it. Of course I still had a croissant with my very good coffee so they were forgiven and my friend said it was worth the drive just for the hot chocolate that did look tempting!
Herodium & Gush Etzion Winery
Not as well know as Masada, King Herod’s combined palace and powerful fortress, Herodium, is located south of Jerusalem and east of Bethlehem in the Gush Etzion area. Touring the site takes up to 2 hours and is an easy walk. Entrance is 27₪ and guided tours in English can be arranged in advance for an extra charge.
Across the highway towards Alon Shvut (click here for a map) is the Gush Etzion Winery Restaurant, surrounded by the picturesque vineyards that provide the grapes for this boutique winery as well as the larger Tishbi winery. Tours of the winery and a wine tasting can be arranged in advance but it is a very small facility so don’t expect anything too informative. As well as the beautiful setting and intimate atmosphere, the food is very fresh even if the service is not always 100% (noticing a theme here – I will forgive bad service for a good view and good food). The extensive menu includes 5 different types of breakfasts served all day (another reason I like this place), as well as the usual salads, pizza, pasta, home baked pizza and an choice of various fresh fish. You can buy all the Gush Etzion wines in the restaurant/store as well as a selection of Tishbi wines and jams, Lavie liqueurs. I recommend trying the Gush Etzion Black Cherry Liqueur and the Lavie Creme de Cassis and Dark Chocolate Liqueur. They are always busy on a Friday (9am-1pm) so be sure to make a reservation, 02 930 9220.