Galilee takes visitors back in time
Alonei Abba and Bethlehem (of the Galilee), founded by Templars in 1906, have a lot more to offer than just history
By Ronit Saversky
ALONEI ABBA - The southern Galilee farming community (moshava) of Alonei Abba was founded in the early 20th century by a German-Christian cult called The Temple Society. The cult's members migrated to Palestine from Germany during the 1860s to establish several communities and practice their beliefs without interference from established church groups.
The harsh weather conditions and diseases did not break the Templars' spirit, and the strong-minded farmers erected additional colonies in Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Haifa.
In 1906, the Templars founded two colonies in the western and southern Galilee: The first was Bethlehem (of the Galilee), and the second was Waldheim (Forest House in German), which eventually came to be known as Alonei Abba. Alonei Abba is named after Abba Barditchev, the Hebrew paratrooper who was sent by the Jewish settlement in Palestine to assist in the fight against the Nazis; he was caught and killed by the Germans in Slovakia in 1948.
The Templars' determination was of no help to them when Palestine was conquered by the British, and they were abolished. When World War I ended, they were permitted to return, but their association with the Nazi ideology brought about their final expulsion from the area.
Bat mitzvah in a church
Hanah Levav, whose family settled in Alonei Abba when she was just a baby, opened a ceramics gallery in her Templar-house basement, and when visitors repeatedly questioned her about her childhood and the Templars, she became the town's unofficial tour guide as well.
In the garden adjacent to Hanah's house stands the original Templar church, where Hanah celebrated her bat mitzva. During the tour she charmingly portrays the characters from her childhood, such as Yanko the caretaker, who distributed milk from a donkey carriage.
Hanah Levav: Tour: NIS 400 (about USD 91) a group.
However, Alonei Abba has more than just history to offer, as the local factory-outlet Hazara Letevah (Back to Nature) sells therapeutic herbs, natural cosmetic items, spices, honey, and olive oil.
Nurit and Eran Levy of the Oriel Center conduct holistic courses and workshops, and they also offer soothing treatment sessions for the body and soul.
At Hapina Shel Tzafrira (Tzafrira's Corner), you may purchase off-the-rack clothing items, gifts, and pampering accessories.
The Alon winery, which is surrounded by an oak tree grove, was built inside an old Templar home that was also used as a dairy. The winery's visitor center offers honey, olives, olive oil, homemade jam, and goat cheese from local dairies.
Alon Winery: Open during the weekends; please call in advance.
Telephone - 972.4.983.5412
Fields of Bethlehem
The Bethlehem farming community in the Galilee is located a few hundred yards from Alonei Abba, and our tour guide Kobi Fleischman revives the town's past with an abundance of charm and humor. He and his wife Nurit have also opened their Templar home to visitors, who may also spend the night.
Fleischman says the new settlers who arrived in Bethlehem following the Independence War of 1948 preferred
the new Jewish Agency-constructed homes to the old stone houses. Only the visionaries fell in love with old houses and preserved the community's unique character, he says.
Kobi Fleischman Tours: Telephone – 972.4.953.2901
The community's old Templar homes now accommodate several restaurants, such as Pundak Hajachnun, which is open every Saturday and serves Yemenite food in a garden surrounded by olive and citrus trees and grapevines.
Tanti Batchi restaurant offers an Italian menu, and the Provence in the Galilee restaurant is situated in an old dairy barn.
is located in the basement of a structure that is surrounded by vegetation, and a large cactus in the entrance greets the patrons. The restaurant itself projects an intimate atmosphere, complete with a working fireplace.
Etti Keshet fell in love with the quaint stone structure in 1952, and she resides in the top floor to this day. The restaurant offers a blend of French and Mediterranean cuisine, and Keshet uses fresh spices from the garden to add flavor to the dishes.
Ettika: Telephone - 972.4.993.1298
Pundak Hajachnun: Telephone- 972.4-855.7878
Tanti Batchi: Telephone- 972.4.983.6210
Provence in the Galilee: Telephone- 972.4.953.2266
After enjoying a hearty meal at your restaurant of choice, you may choose to wind down at the Kesem Hamaga (The Magic of Touch) treatment center. The center, which is owned by alternative treatment specialists Nehama and Yoram Medan, offers the standard pampering facilities, including a huge whirlpool, an oil bath, a sauna, and a resting lounge.
The Medans focus their treatments on couples, and those who arrive at the center are treated to a private three-hour session, followed by a homemade meal.
Kesem Hamaga: NIS 380-830 (about USD 86-190) per couple, per session.
Near the treatment center you may find Niraleh's Workshop, which has handmade ceramics, renovated furniture, and ornamental pieces.
Niraleh's Workshop: Telephone- 972.4.983.5196
Avi Tzitershfiler's Spice Farm, which is one of the oldest establishments in Bethlehem, has recently moved from the community's center to its outskirts.
The rosemary, mint, lavender, and lemon grass plants are grown in the farm's open fields, and indoors, pyramids of red, orange, yellow, and mustard-colored spices, as well as ground coffee and legumes, are a feast for the senses.
Tzitershfiler is the son of a Bethlehem farmer who grew spice herbs 56 years ago, and over the years the business became automated and produced spices for the country's food industry.
Due to a fire that obliterated the factory, the Tzitershfilers adopted the traditional methods of drying the plants in the open air, and the results were much better. Tzitershfiler even invented several cheese-flavoring additives, as well as spice mixtures for rice and meat.
Spice Farm: Telephone- 972.4.953.3405
Tour guide Simon Berkowitz, who specializes in group bicycle trips, organizes weekend tours in the area (NIS 50, or about USD 11, a person), but if you want to explore the sites on your own, you may rent a bicycle for NIS 25 (about USD 5.50) an hour.
Simon Berkowitz, tour guide: Telephone- 972.4.950.0915
The local farmers open their groves and orchards for fruit-picking during the appropriate seasons, and Amit Zahavy-London rents out horses and carriages for excursions in the area. Family carriage tours cost between NIS 200-300 (about USD 45-68).
Amit Zahavy-London: Telephone- 972.52.320.2801