Galil (Galilee)

The Galil is the green jewel in the north, with vast, lush valleys and majestic mountains, making it a terrific area to explore by foot, jeep or car. The Galil offers many Biblical and historical locations as well as modern sites; we can discover cities, villages, kibbutzim, walking trails and more.

 

The Galil can be divided into the Lower Galil, the Upper Galil and the Western Galil; each with their unique views and characteristics.

Lower Galil (Galilee) and Jezreel Valley

 

The Lower Galil borders the Kinneret  to the east and stretches almost to the city of Haifa to the west – from Sea to shining Sea! The luxuriant Jezreel Valley has been home to many of the first kibbutzim and moshav settlements since the early part of  the 20th century and had a significant role in the success of modern Israel.

 

On Mt. Gilboa, the site where King Shaul (Saul) and his sons fought the Plishtim (Philistines) and tragically lost their lives, we will find scenic roads and many hiking paths with magnificent vistas of the Jezreel Valley, Mt. Moreh and Mount Tabor. We will learn about the historic, biblical battles that took place in the area. If you happen to be visiting in the late winter or early spring, don't miss the multitude of wildflowers and  spectacular Gilboa irises that cover the mountain.

 

The Ma'ayan Harod Nature Reserve is the scene of the book of Shoftim (Judges) where Gideon chose his warriors using the 'water test'. The reserve is a great place to enjoy the cool springs, picnic areas and Gideon's cave. In addition, we will take a visit to the Hankin House, a tribute to Yehoshua and Olga Hankin who were responsible for purchasing over 250,000 acres of land that eventually became part of the State of Israel.

 

The ancient city of Tzippori is famous as the place where the revered Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi codified the Mishne in the early part of the 3rd century. This was a written account of the Oral Tradition that was handed down through Moshe (Moses), so as to preserve it for future  generations. It forms the basis of Jewish practice until today.  In Tzipori we can visit many remarkable archaeological sites including a striking 5th century mosaic synagogue floor, an exclusive Roman villa filled with many marvelous mosaic floors including female Amazon warriors and an illustration of the Egyptian Nile Water Festival adjacent to a Roman Cardo (main road). Walk through an ancient water system, view homes from the 1st to 6th centuries, Mikvaot (Jewish ritual baths), a Crusader citadel and a mosaic depicting the famous 'Mona Lisa' of the Galilee.   

 

Beit Shearim is an fascinating necropolis (city of the dead) with catacombs filled with sarcophagi and tombs from the 2nd through the 4th centuries ce. You will find intriguing inscriptions and designs decorating over 200 stone coffins, attesting to the rich local and foreign cultures that influenced the Jews during those times. It may sound a bit morbid, but in fact it's incredible to visit this national park. Nearby you can visit the monument of Alexander Zaid on his horse. He was one of the founders of the first Jewish defense organizations Bar Giora and Hashomer. His bronze statue overlooks the breathtaking Jezreel Valley.

 

Upper Galil (Galilee)

 

The highest peak in the Upper Galil is Mt. Meron, which rises 1,208 meters (~4000 feet) above sea level, and is the site of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's grave (Rashbi). You can enjoy some of the fabulous hiking trails in the area.

 

Ancient Tzfat, (Safed), one of the four holy cities of Israel, is known as the center of Kabbala (Jewish mysticism) since the 16th century. In Tzfat we will visit many resplendent synagogues, walk the picturesque narrow alleyways and stairways to find hidden galleries, artists' shops and the incredible Safed Candle shop. The city is famous for Tzfatit cheese, made with sheep's milk, as well as one of the most ancient Jewish cemeteries still in use. Tzfat is an exciting city perched on a mountain with spectacular views. And, oh the sunsets! As you walk its streets, you will feel the spiritual holiness of this ancient city and understand why the Kabbalists were drawn to this special place.

 

Located on a mountain across from the Golan Heights and the Hula Valley below, Rosh Pina is a lovely town to visit. One of the first moshavot (Jewish settlements) established in the 1880's, it is steeped in Zionist history. We'll visit the Rosh Pina's cobblestone streets, the original synagogue, and other historic buildings that can give you a bit of an idea of just how difficult times were for those first immigrants. Now the area is known for its charming B&B's, restaurants and arts and crafts stores. Let's take a hike on one of the many walking trails or explore the area.  Rosh Pina is a great place to visit and re-visit!

The Hula Valley has two wonderful bird watching sites, The Hula Valley Nature Reserve and the Agamon, where you can witness the breathtaking mass bird migration seasons.  Each site has different facilities. Nearby is the Dubrovin Farm with a reconstruction of a 130 year old settlement belonging to a Russian family who converted to Judaism in the 1880's.

 

Israel is a bottleneck for over 500 million birds a year - 200 different species  - migrating between Europe, Africa and Asia. Water buffalo and other animals live in the Hula reserves as well.

 

Let's visit the Tel Hai Courtyard,  a recreated compound that has become the modern symbol of Israeli heroism. Joseph Trumpeldor and seven others lost their lives protecting this small settlement in the early 20th century. Nearby, on Kibbutz Kfar Giladi, we can pay respect to their communal grave marked by a stone statue of a roaring lion, the symbol of independence and courage. Kibbutz Kfar Giladi is set in a picturesque area with a lovely hotel and historical buildings next to a lane of shops which used to be communal chicken coops, now housing local pottery shops, a used-book store and coffee shops.

 

The nearby town of Kiryat Shmona  is named for Trumpeldor and the seven people who lost their lives in Tel Hai (shmona, in Hebrew, means eight).

Let's ride the longest cable car in Israel up to the Manara Cliffs with a phenomenal view of the Hula valley below and across to the Golan Heights.   Manara has been developed as a family sports complex with mountain slides, rappelling, zip-line, archery and other extreme sports, as well as a leisurely train ride perfect for the whole family.

 

Let's not forget one of Israel's famous vineyard areas, the Galil (Galilee) has fertile soil, cold winters and warm summers making it ideal for growing grapes. We can visit a selection of award-winning boutique wineries such as Dalton, Adir, Galil Mountain and Rimon.  Le'chaim!

Glassblowing demo in Tzfat