Here’s a reason to celebrate: Fifty years of eating lettuce and other vegetables at Amirim, the vegetarian and vegan village in the east of the Upper Galilee. The moshav, no longer the exclusive province of vegetarian enthusiasts, has become a tourist and vacation village offering accommodations, small galleries, and a variety of flavours.
Originally founded in 1950 by immigrants from Yemen and North Africa, Amirim was later abandoned. In 1956 a group of vegans and vegetarians settled there, and a few years later the first guest units were built. Twenty-five years ago Amirim was declared the first tourist village in Israel.
Today some 180 families live there, some of them third- and fourth-generation moshavniks who’ve established their own small businesses. Amirim has 150 guest houses for couples and families, restaurants, spas, jeep tours, galleries, holistic doctors and healers, artists, herb gardens, observation points, and hiking trails, and most of the people on the moshav make their living from tourism.
Amirim has two observation points that offer a view of the Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights, and the Lower Galilee. Mitzpeh Menahem, at the end of the street at the top of the moshav, is named after Menahem Kashtan, a pilot from Amirim who was killed in the Yom Kippur War.
The second observation point is named after Yitzhak Rabin, and is located at the end of the street leading from the entrance to the moshav. The observation points are not far from a sculpture garden in the center of the village featuring 20 sculptures created by both Israeli and foreign artists, which were once part of the Israel Museum’s collection.
Artists from all over the world are drawn to this special place, and many also sell their works in village galleries and studios. Some of the galleries are also small restaurants serving vegetarian fare. Check the galleries’ hours of operation before you arrive.
Artists and others
Clothing, classic Indian music for relaxation and meditation, jewelry, scarves, curtains, pillow covers, notebooks, furniture. There’s a small vegetarian Indian restaurant. Tel.: 972-52-578-4113.
Hamra Ceramics Gallery
Artist Rutie Miller has a variety of useful ceramic vessels and decorations: jars, kettles, bowls, casserole dishes. The studio holds one-session workshops. Tel.: 972-54-634-8778.
Clothes, aromatic oils, cosmetics, second-hand books, maps and guide books, CDs, hand-made artwork, wine, spices, and herbal teas. There is also a vegetarian restaurant. Tel.: 972-52-246-9696.
Meromia Ceramics Studio
Gallery-shop for lighting fixtures, sinks and basins, and hand-made tiles. Tel.: 972-50-774-1100.
Gallery, artwork in many colors, scents and sounds. Tel.: 972-4-698-9848.
Disc Meshelachem (A Compact Disc of Your Own)
Professional recording studio for stars being born. Record your own karaoke. Tel.: 972-4-699-0501.
Cafes and restaurants
Kosher dairy café-restaurant, Italian vegetarian style with first course, soups, special bread, salads, casseroles, pasta, and homemade desserts. Tel.: 972-4-698-0946.
Lehem Bayit 77
Bakery specializing in whole grain breads. Large selection of unusual delicacies. Tel.: 972-4-698-0984.
Home-style meals, soups, casseroles, stuffed vegetables, and salads. Low-sugar meals and meals without eggs or milk are served here. Call in advance. Tel.: 972-4-698-9316.
Dairy-vegetarian restaurant. Peanut and almond patties in onion sauce are among the house specialties. Tel.: 972-4-698-9349.
Melah Ha’aretz (Salt of the Earth)
Light meals, breakfast in your room, and pizza or lunch boxes for trips. Order in advance. Tel.: 972-4-699-0194
The Rosenberg Family Herb Garden
A guided tour of herbs and medicinal plants. You can also have a meal in the heart of nature that includes pita prepared on the spot, labaneh, homemade hummus, vegetable salad, and vegetable patties. Organic products are sold here, olive oil, herbal tea, and herbs for the garden. Tel.: 972-50-570-7669.
Suites and guest cabins
For years Amirim was associated mostly with modest, unpretentious guest houses that served vegan breakfasts. As a result of the competition from Galilee villages that now cater to tourists, the Amirim guest houses have changed, and Jacuzzis, TVs, DVDs, and Internet access
are no longer considered beyond the pale. Cost: USD 130 – USD 190 a night, depending on the season.
The Last Supper
Three large spacious suites with a private pool facing the wadi and a Jacuzzi for two facing the Sea of Galilee. The suites have antique furniture, a fireplace, a well-equipped kitchen, and wireless Internet. Tel. 972-54-774-2291, 972-54-774-2295.
An isolated wood cabin with a roofed balcony that overlooks beautiful scenery, with a rustic Scandinavian-style bedroom and separate living room, a well-equipped kitchen, and a dining area. You can order breakfast in your room when the nearby restaurant is open. Tel.: 972-52-26-9696.
Habayit Shel Blum (Blum’s House)
A spacious guest unit with clean design, surrounded by a garden and a view of a green wadi. Equipped with Jacuzzi and cable TV, and overflowing with books and games. Suitable for a couple or family. Tel.: 972-52-371-6939.
Iruah bakfar (Village Guest House)
Guest houses with a view, in the heart of a garden and a natural grove. Personal treatments combined with guided imagery workshops, story cards, and color cards. Tel.: 972-57-722-2924.
Gan Veradim (Rose Garden)
Guest houses made of sand plaster, wood, and natural stone, designed by an artist. Each guest house has a Jacuzzi surrounded by windows looking out at the Sea of Galilee. Tel.: 972-52-322-9956.
Zman Halom (Dream Time)
Stone guest cabin, suitable for two couples or a family. Each unit has a Jacuzzi and separate bathrooms. The hosts are professional masseurs who offer their guests Swedish massage, hot stone massage, Shiatsu, holistic massage with aromatic oils, face massage, scalp massage, and more. Tel.: 972-50-466-2642.
Worth a trip
Upper Nahal Farod
The hike begins in the northwest part of Moshav Shefer. The mountainous trail goes to the southwest within a small shady wadi until it reaches the Farod waterfall. Go around it and connect to the channel of Nahal Farod, which has pine trees, oak trees, and Palestinian terebinths. Level of difficulty: Easy to medium.
Mt. Mitzpeh Hayamim
The trail begins on the Acre-Safed Road (Road 866). Near Kfar Shamai’s pool of water climb toward the southeast on a route that is initially level but then turns into a path that reaches the peak of Mt. Mitzpeh Hayamim. From the peak there is an observation point that looks out on the Mediterranean and the Sea of Galilee, the Lower Galilee, Safed, and Mt. Canaan. The trail descends to the east until Nahal Seter and flows into Ein Seter, where it meets Nahal Amud. Level of difficulty: Difficult.
Mt. Meron Nature Reserve
The largest and highest nature reserve in the Galilee. From the path you can see the peak of Mt. Meron (close to 4,000 feet above sea level), and there are observation points all along from which you can see the Upper Galilee, southern Lebanon, and the Golan Heights. Level of difficulty: Easy.
Jeep trips in the Galilee and the Golan Heights with professional local guides. For individuals, couples, families, and groups. A visit to a Bedouin tent can be arranged as part of the trip. Tel.: 972-4-698-0434.
Reproduced with permission: Ynet