A get­away in Ged­era

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - TOUR ISRAEL - Text and pho­tos: MEITAL SHARABI Trans­lated by Han­nah Hochner.

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

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.

Phone: 052-653-6341

Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Price: NIS 30 (un­der 3 is free). Bas­kets of fruit: NIS 20

KAHANOV WIN­ERY

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

(Sim­plex 360)

(Sim­plex 360)

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