About Time: You Discovered Galilee, IsraelBy Suzi Malin
We say: it’s about time you visited Israel – the most magical and inspiring place on earth.
I felt inspired to visit Israel after recently hearing the artist Anselm Keifer, who is credited with being the most famous living artist in the world, in conversation with Tim Marlowe. Keifer’s work, bold and exciting like the man himself, was a vehicle for highlighting the Nazi past – conveniently hidden behind a wall of silence. Anselm unlocked the silence with his paintings and in 1985, was invited to Jerusalem by the Israeli government. From here, he took an amazing journey into the mysticism of the Kabbalah which inspired his art and artistic life further.
I was recently invited to explore the areas he visited – Jerusalem and the Galilee, including Safed, the Kabbalah centre of the ancient study, which reveals how the universe works and how to receive fulfilment in our lives. Having followed a similar trail to the one Anselm took in the beautiful, and I was not the slightest bit surprised by this artist’s excitement for Israel – and his desire to acquire a studio in the Negev.
If you’re looking for your own Israeli experience, here’s 5 things you simply must try:
#1 Explore Ancient Safed
What: The people of Safed still live in ancient limestone dwellings in the Old City and are dressed in the Medieval costume of their forefathers – their faces etched with the wisdom of a lifetime of studying secret tracts of the Kabbalah.
The Idea: Inhale the pure mountain air as you wander along the cobbled streets, visit ancient synagogues,art galleries and shops; the area is also an artists village with all its quaintness.
#2 Visit the Galilee Region
What: Thousands of years of biblical life come alive in the Galilee region: a place of significance to Jews and non-Jews alike. It was in Galilee that Jesus gave his Sermon on the Mount and performed many of his miracles – and it was in this region over 1800 years ago that Rabbi Yehuda the Prince wrote down the Mishna which explains how the commandments of the Torah – the laws given by Moses in the Sinai – are to be carried out.
Why: Formerly Jewish learning had been handed down orally, but when a million Jews were slaughtered in rebellion the rabbis understood that one could not rely on preserving the faith orally. Whenever you cast your eyes to the hills, it is spiritual and uplifting as there is an awareness that this landscape was the backdrop for much Christian and Jewish learning.
What: Whilst in the region, stay at Mitzpe Hayamim – a hotel and spa with its own organic farm attached to the hotel. Formerly this land was in the ownership of Baron Rothschild and was purchased by a doctor in 1921 as part of his dream to combine traditional and holistic medicine for his patients. It was later purchased by a revolutionary entrepreneur, to create a hotel where the farm produce could supply the guests – a concept way ahead of its time.
Why: There is no attitude of exploiting animals here – as they are considered the children of God. These animals have a lovely life, as they believe that if an animal is mistreated the print of the suffering is in the food. It was in hotel restaurant, the Muscat,that I enjoyed the best meal that I have eaten in my life. No wonder; the farm grows over 100 varieties of fresh vegetables and 70 varieties of fruit, which are picked from the gardens three times a day, just hours before eating. There is unique tea area with bunches of every kind of of freshly picked herb which you pop in hot water to brew yourself during the day or can be eaten with homemade cakes at tea-time, hot from their bakery.
Don’t Miss: The Israeli breakfasts. The beautiful hotels offers marvellous breakfasts with a cold buffet of vegetables and cheese spread fit for a king. It has to be mentioned that they have their own bakery, dairy and cheese making rooms which are entirely organic, without fat, milk powder or additives.
The Idea: Attached to the hotel is a spa and huge swimming pool with views overlooking the valley. It is a perfect place to renew your energy and enjoy a very wide variety of international spa treatments, interspersed with day trips to the surrounding areas. From this base you can easily visit the beautiful Sea of Galilee, Safed or check out the cottage industries of the locals.
#4 Try The Olive Oil Trail
Israel’s olive oil is something remarkable. There are a few ways to explore it:
Visit the Druze Village in Beit Jann where the women make cosmetics from home-pressed olive oil and the herbs from their garden. In Beit Jann, also see the modern olive oil industry where the farmers take their olives to the local press to be made into extra virgin oil, whilst waiting half an hour for the process to be completed.
Don’t miss seeing Kfar Kedem, an ancient olive farm, and experience what life was like in ancient times. You can dress up in biblical Jewish costume and enjoy freshly ground olive oil, humus and hot pita in the sunshine.
Learn how to distinguish good oil with an organic oil tasting lesson at Rish Lakish. Here the residents built their idyllic house from bales of hay, mud, egg and olive oil – an incredible site!
Try wine tasting at the Tulip Winery. Established in 2003, the winery is where disabled people live independently and pay for themselves in work – giving them a huge sense of personal self worth. 10% of the profit from the annual sale of 100,000 bottles of wine is fed back into the disabled village community.
Israel: The Verdict
You simply put give it a go. There is such a huge amount of natural beauty, goodness and vitality to this land, that visiting this country is an inspirational and uplifting experience. The guide kept on asking us if we had any questions – “just one please” I said.
“Do I really have to go home ?”
It’s about time you explored Israel, too.
Photos: credit Ministry of Tourism – Israel.
For more information about Israel, please visit www.thinkisrael.com. El Al (0207 121 1400, www.elal.co.uk) offers flights from £310 per person from London Luton or £351 per person from London Heathrow over winter.