A getaway in Gedera
The first time I heard the words “boutique hotel” and Gedera used in the same sentence, I thought it must be a joke. Boutique hotels are of course popping up in large cities and quaint towns all over northern Israel, but I never thought this trend would reach a sleepy town like Gedera. Not that I have anything against Gedera – in fact I’d never even been there or really heard much about the city before my visit. But was it likely that a boutique hotel had opened there and was already growing in popularity after just three months?
Gedera was founded in 1884 by members of the Bilu Movement, whose goal was the agricultural settlement of the Land of Israel. It was named after the town referred to in the Book of Joshua. The picturesque town is located near Route 40 and just half an hour south of Tel Aviv. There are many historical landmarks to visit in Gedera, as well as structures dating back to the 19th century. For example, there is the Museum of the History of Gedera and the Biluim, located in a restored historical building; the Biluim Pit, which was built in 1885; and the Sverdlov Hut, which was constructed two years later. You can learn a tremendous amount about the city’s history from visits to these sites.
Today, 135 years after the Biluim founded Gedera, the town is experiencing a renaissance, and is home to its first boutique hotel. Located at 5 Shachvitz St., the
Lear Sense Hotel boasts 24 guest rooms and is spread out over ¾ of an acre. The hotel was recently renovated and is located just a two-minute walk from HaBiluim Street, which is also undergoing gentrification. This means that guests staying at the hotel will have a lovely area filled with hip shops to browse through during their stay.
The entrance of the Lear Sense Hotel has been gorgeously decorated, and has an open view of the lovely gardens. It was extremely important to hotel owner Tzachi Tzuk that the experience of luxury and quality begin the moment guests walked through the front doors and that all our senses be pampered.
Located adjacent to the lobby, the gardens are full of sweet-smelling fruit trees and places to sit and relax. After spending some time in the garden, we ventured into a nearby building, which turned out to be the hotel restaurant. We felt as if we’d just been transported to New York City. The gentle lighting and expansive bar that’s open till the wee hours of the night looked very inviting.
By now, we realized that we should be prepared to be surprised every time we reached another section of the hotel, and when we entered our guest room, we were not disappointed. Apparently, each room has its own unique shape, size and design. Some of them have balconies that overlook the hotel’s gardens, while others have a view of the natural surroundings. A few rooms even have a private Jacuzzi and sauna on the balcony, and as if that weren’t enough, each floor is equipped with a snack corner that is restocked throughout the day with cookies, fruit and herbal teas.
Even though the room was so luxurious that I didn’t even feel the need to leave it for the length of our stay, we picked ourselves up and went out exploring. One of the most amazing things we discovered during out meandering around the hotel is that there’s a rooftop pool that overlooks the beautiful surroundings and a well-stocked bar, too, right next to it. I have a feeling the pool is going to be one of the hotel’s biggest draws. Since it was a bit chilly out, we went directly to the Turkish bath, where you can get all steamy and relax. After a quick shower and use of the hair dryer and hair straightener (each room comes equipped with both), we set out for dinner.
The hotel’s chef restaurant, Aberto, is located near the entrance of the hotel. Chef Assaf Stern, who has run a number of other gourmet establishments before coming to Aberto, offers an eclectic menu that includes focaccia, eggplant in yogurt, sashimi, pastas, juicy burgers and a variety of grilled meats. If you reserve half-pension, you’ll be happy to know that you will be eating your breakfasts and dinners at Aberto.
If you’d like to get out a bit, there are a number of enjoyable attractions in the area, which I was surprised I’d never heard about before. There are hiking trails, self-picking farms, historical and archaeological sites, horseback riding, bicycle rentals and wineries. All of these are just a short ride from the hotel. Below, I’ve picked two places that I found especially enjoyable.
Agronen is a self-picking farm run by Michal and Ronen Hillel. At this time of year, strawberries are ripe and sweet and ready for picking. Some 20 years ago, the Hillels decided to grow black raspberries to be sold commercially. Ronen is a fourth-generation farmer and from the first day he put up a sign advertising that the public is welcome to come enjoy a day of self-picking, their business has been going gangbusters. Soon after, they planted other berries and even a few pomegranate trees, too. Because strawberries grow low to the ground, this is a perfect outing for families with small children or adults in wheelchairs. Picking season is from November through July.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Price: NIS 30 (under 3 is free). Baskets of fruit: NIS 20
For many people, no outing is complete without a visit to a winery. If you’re one of them, then this might be your lucky day, because Kahanov Winery is very close by. This family-run boutique winery was founded by Eliezer Kahanov, who made his way to the Land of Israel from Europe. Now, his great-grandchildren grow grapes that they mostly sell to other wineries, but some of which they use to make their own red and white wines. Guests are welcome to taste the Kahanav wines for NIS 50 (which is discounted from the price of any bottles purchased). Phone: 052-252-3721