With the days getting longer but before it gets too hot, I try to plan some fun Friday day trips outside Jerusalem, that include two of my favorite things, good food and exploring the Israeli countryside.
Buffet Brunch at Tzuba Hotel
I had heard about the brunch buffet at the Tzuba Hotel on Kibbutz Tzuba for a long time and kept meaning to go and try it. They recently re-launched with a new taboon oven, which gave me an extra push to check it out. The cost for the buffet is 95 NIS per adult or 115 NIS including a wine tasting tour at Tzuba Winery. I have been to the winery before so just went for the brunch option. It was not easy to book, I called a few times but there was no answer, I sent an email which went unanswered but eventually I got through by phone. Even though the brunch runs to 2pm, the lasting booking slot is 12 and by 1pm the omelet and focaccia stations closed so make sure you arrive on time.
The buffet was a typical Israeli breakfast buffet, with the addition of more hot food like fish, lasagna other oven-baked dishes. The focaccia from the taboon on the balcony was fresh and delicious and definitely a great feature but I felt uncomfortable going out to get food there as it was next to the private party. I also felt that the omelet station was very standard and lacked any exciting fillings.
Most of the food was replenished as it was finished and we particularly liked the cheese selection which was more unique than an average hotel breakfast. The dessert section was also varied and interesting and we enjoyed having unlimited fresh coffees.
Overall the food was very good and it was a pleasant atmosphere for a brunch in the country. We probably ate our money’s worth and you certainly pay a premium for the section a buffet offers, but I personally prefer less food and higher quality. We enjoyed the meal but I wouldn’t rush back unless I was in the area.
Brunch at Tzuba Hotel, +972(0)2-5347090, Kosher Rabbinate Mate Yehuda
Belmont Crusader Fortress – Tel Tzuba
A few minutes’ walk from the main hotel building is the beginning of a hiking trail of Tel Tzuba, which is believed to be the site of an ancient Jewish settlement in the days of King David. In 1170 the Belmont Crusader fortress was built there to guard the route to Jerusalem and it was conquered in 1191 by Saladin. The Arab village of Suba, built on the site of the ruins, was the scene of fierce fighting during the 1948 War of Independence due to its strategic location overlooking the road to Jerusalem. In July 1948 most of the inhabitants fled before the fighting and moved to Jordan or the nearby village of Ein Rafa. In October 1948 a group of Palmach veterans established Kibbutz Misgav Palmach, 1 km south of Suba, which was later renamed Palmach Tzova (known as Tzuba).
The receptionist at the hotel gave us a helpful map of sites in the Tzuba area (which includes various walking trails around the kibbutz and The Cave of John the Baptist) but the entrance was very badly sign-posted and even though you can access it by car, we advised it would be better by foot. We followed the road that winds up the hill past some incredible looking cactus plants.
The small path that goes up the castle and village ruins was not signed and was also closed off by a barrier but we soon realized that this was the only way up and climbed over the barrier to go exploring. We didn’t make it all the way to the main ruins as the path became a slightly precarious and we were not prepared for a proper hike, but the views from where we reached were incredible and well worth the climb. We could see over to Kiryat Anavim and Maale Hamisha in one direction and to Ein Kerem and Hadassah Hospital in the other. There was not much to see among the ruins we passed but it was still a beautiful mini hike. I believe there was more to discover on the other side of the hill but we didn’t get that far.
Apparently Tel Tzuba is in the process of becoming a national park which will hopefully make it more accessible and clearly signed.
Once again I found very little information online in English about this location even on the Tzuba tourism website, so hopefully this post will be helpful to other people who are planning short day trips from in the Judean Hills surrounding Jerusalem.