I recently took a 3 day trip in the north of Israel which combined some quality family time, historic sites, beautiful nature and of course some great hidden foodie gems.
When it comes to traveling I am a researcher, especially for restaurants. Although it can be fun to be spontaneous and find somewhere nearby to eat, I have too often been disappointed this way and when you are trying to pack lots of activities into a relatively short time, I prefer to know in advance what is around and discover new food experiences. However, I will often have a few options to choose from, depending on what we are in the mood for at the time.
We started our trip up north with a quick stop at a Lavido visitor’s center in the agricultural Moshav Nahalal in the Jezreel Valley. As well as the Lavido factory shop, there is a beautiful herb garden and a peaceful refreshment area where you can make your own tea infusion using the herbs from the garden.
Lavido natural beauty products are now Vegan Friendly and we particularly like the Lavender hand cream and body lotion which is especially nice to put on before bed. Unfortunately, I had an allergic reaction to their award-winning eye cream and the sales assistant was not very helpful and tried to blame me for not knowing that I might be allergic to some of the products, but that aside, I recommend a visit.
Time for lunch in nearby Ramat Yishai at a small coffee shop named Eva Batya which was recommended by someone in the Restaurant Club Israel Group. It is a very simple coffee shop in a strip mall overlooking a parking lot so the setting is very unexciting but I was with people who only eat in kosher places and the choices in that area are very minimal (the products have a hechsher but the coffee shop doesn’t even though everything is dairy and they are closed on Shabbat). The menu is limited with a few pre-made filled savory croissants, quiches and salads. The salads were all freshly prepared and the bread that came with it was delicious. I had the endive salad (NIS 52) with toasted almonds, poached pears, blue cheese and a tangy citrus vinaigrette which I enjoyed. The coffee was also very good and came with a lovely linzer torte cookie. Over all the food was nice, but I would not recommend going unless you only eat kosher as there are much nicer non-kosher places in the area (like Limousine)
Following lunch, we drove to Zippori, a national park which contains the remains of an ancient city that was once the capital of the Galilee, the seat of the Sanhedrin, the place where the Mishna was completed and it is also believed to be the home of the parents of Mary and possibly where Mary and Joseph first met.
The park includes Roman, Jewish and Christian buildings and ruins. It happened to be a beautifully sunny spring day and the site is very spread out so we enjoyed walking around and exploring the various excavations. We particularly enjoyed the Dionysus House, a Roman villa, containing a mosaic floor describing scenes from the life of Dionysus, god of wine in Greek mythology, as well as several other elaborate and well-preserved mosaics.
The city Synagogue dates back to the end of the Byzantine period and also contains an impressive mosaic floor which depicts the Sacrifice of Isaac, the signs of the Zodiac, a description of the Tabernacle in the desert and the Arc of the Covenant in the Jerusalem Temple. The floors have been beautifully restored and the synagogue ruins are housed inside a building to protect the mosaics.
There are also breathtaking views, especially from the roof of the Crusader Castle that sits on the top of a hill. As the park is large with many interesting buildings, you do need to allow a few hours to see everything, including a very nice introductory video. As it was still officially winter when we visited the park closed at 4 pm (which they failed to mention when we arrived at 2.30 pm) so we were rushed at the end to get out before they closed and I could have happily spent more time exploring.
For those who are interested in visiting wineries, there are several great ones that we passed nearby on our journey but we just didn’t have time on this trip to do everything. I am mentioning them here as suggestions for alternative itineraries in this area. The Jezreel Valley Winery is close to Zippori and the Netofa Winery is about 30 minutes away, on the road up to the Hula Valley.
Here is a post about the second day of our trip in the Hula Valley – How the Hula Valley made me a bird watcher.