In the Western Galilee, not far from Nahariya, lies a city called Ma’alot-Tarshiha, an idyllic place where Jews and Arabs live side by side, naturally interweaving the old with the new. There are many interesting historical surprises to be found in the region, but what has been drawing Israeli and foreign tourists alike in recent years is the fresh culinary scene.
This change is particularly striking in the Tarshiha section of the city. In recent years, many restaurants have been opened there, proving that the Galilee has more to offer than just Druse pitot and hummus. The new eateries blend in well with the ancient architecture and narrow alleyways, churches and mosques, as well as with the open-air markets.
One particularly lovely place in Tarshiha is Delicate, which was an allday breakfast type of restaurant until recently, when it changed owners. Under the new concept, Delicate offers a variety of styles of breakfast, lunch and dinner options assembled from around the world.
The new owner, Gil Dror, who was born in Nahariya, decided to return to northern Israel after working for years in top Tel Aviv restaurants such as Uno, Herbert Samuel, Zepra and Café Italia.
He makes an effort to use local ingredients, but the end product is not typical Galilee cuisine by any standard. Delicate serves smoked spareribs, smoked salmon, cheese platters, pasta, salads, soups and sandwiches. Vegans will also find plenty to eat, and there’s also a take-away stand called Hook De Luxe, from which visitors can purchase food items for picnics or to bring home.
Location: 1 Hashuk, Saria Building, Ma’alot-Tarshiha
Another great place to start the morning is Mount Me’ona, which stands at 600 meters above sea level at the edge of the town. From the top, you can look down over the crowded homes of the village just below, or out at the gorgeous beaches along the Mediterranean Sea.
After you’ve finished your visit at the mountaintop, visit in Tarshiha the Hushi Courtyard and the Orthodox Church. If you happen to be there on Saturday, I highly recommend walking through the lively open-air market, which is full of activity. The Hushi Courtyard is in essence the garden of a private home that has morphed into a pilgrimage site for those promoting optimism and peace. In the middle of the courtyard, Hushi erected a memorial to the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, which has his countenance engraved upon it. The courtyard is located in the heart of the Beduin section of the village.
Some people think that if you’ve seen one church, you’ve seen them all, but in this case I must say that this Orthodox church is truly unique. Recognizable by its tall red roof, the church was built in 1903 on the ruins of an 800-year-old
Crusader church, which is now located right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Right from your first step inside you’ll be impressed by the numerous gilded decorations and artwork. During the tour, the head priest regales visitors with anecdotes that describe the lives of residents who lived there many years ago, including a Jewish community that existed on site until the 1950s.
Visits by appointment only. Details: (04) 997-4087, 052-660-9851
One of the most enjoyable attractions in Tarshiha is the open-air market, also known as the Shabbat Market. It’s open from the early hours on Saturday mornings and closes around 4 p.m. It’s really interesting to watch farmers early in the morning unpack their fruits and vegetables, sweets and juices, freshly ground spices and even clothing, shoes and toys – pretty much everything you can think of. It’s usually an eclectic mix of tourists and locals, and it’s fun to hear the mix of languages, watch the interactions between sellers and buyers, purchase some local produce and savor the powerful energy that is unique to open-air markets.
A very popular activity for Israelis on vacation is riding on ATVs, and there are many places to rent these in northern Israel. Some rental agencies are reliable, and some less so, so I recommend that you do a little research before picking a company. One ATV rental agency that I find is most trustworthy is Nof Havradim Razors, located at the entrance of Kfar Havradim.
Na’im Rabah, the vice principal of the high school in Kafr Sumeia, who is a former border policeman, is the owner of Nof Havradim Razors. Rabah built a memorial in the forest for a family member who fell while in the line of duty, and he leads ATV tours that pass by hidden pools that are known only to locals, and caves, some of which descend 40 meters underground (ropes are required to reach the bottom). Rabah also leads tours to popular sites such as Lake Montfort and Beit Ha’emek, during which he loves to tell his own personal story. Tours last 1-2 hours.
Price: NIS 300-500 for a two-person ATV. Details: 077-996-4454 , www.ozrothagalil.org.il