To start the New Year celebrations off properly our group of day-trippers headed north from Tel Aviv and Raanana to seek out treats from the Lower Galilee.
Our first stop was a nearby apiary, where for the past several decades they have been producing honey the old-fashioned way. Until very recently, they have been mostly hosting groups of school-aged children, but now, to our good fortune, they are concentrating on adult groups.
We were able to see how the beehives work, learn about the functions of the queen and worker bees, and see the machinery that is used to bottle the honey as well. Our guide for this part of the trip was a very sprite, enthusiastic and energetic older lady.
Some of the brave among us even tasted the honey at the various stages of production. The rest of us satisfied ourselves with tasting the finished product and buying jars to take home for the holidays – honey being one of the most important products to have for Rosh Hashanah!
One of the special versions was a mixture of honey and tehina – very yummy!
Back on the bus, we headed further north to the factory in Zichron Yaakov of Kibbutz Beth-El that makes Aunt Berta's Confitures. Kibbutz Beth-El is a Christian Zionist communal village with branches located in several locations in the Galilee.
However, it operates in a truly kibbutz collective fashion, maintaining a simple lifestyle for the residents and contributing significantly to the local community. Kibbutz Beth-El has its roots in Stuttgart, Germany.
Two sisters Emma and Elsa Berger, Christian Zionists, brought a group of followers to Israel in 1963 to found the kibbutz.
Kibbutz Beth-El owns seven factories and other businesses and is the second largest employer in Zichron Yaakov after the local council.
We viewed a presentation about how the kibbutz is run and what it produces. We were also treated to a performance by their kibbutz choir.
In addition to the jams, jellies and preserves, their most important product is an air-filtration system, a device for combating poisonous gases, can be operated by electricity, battery or manually in the event of an attack.
They also produce fine down comforters and pillows, baked goods and more.
Our next stop was Ein Hod, where we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the village's main square before touring several interesting art galleries.
Nestled in the rolling hills and olive groves, Ein Hod became an artists' colony in 1953.
An administrative committee strives to ensure that only artists live in the village. As a result, many Israeli painters, sculptors and musicians live there maintaining studios and galleries. Ein Hod became an artists' colony in 1953.
The driving spirit behind the project was Marcel Janco, an acclaimed Dada artist, who kept the village from being demolished by the security forces and convinced the government to let him build an artists' colony there.
Our guide for the afternoon was Dan Ben-Arye, who is himself a talented photographer specializing in photography of clouds.
Both he and his wife Leah are accomplished artists as a visit to their joint gallery made abundantly clear. Leah makes beautiful fabric articles and innovative jewelry.
They also offer hands-on workshops for family and other private groups where the participants create their own art works to take home.
One of the most fascinating galleries that we visited was the Magal Studio, featuring colorful ceramics and paintings. The gallery was founded by Ben-Zion and Chaya Magal, who immigrated to Israel from Russia.
Ben-Zion's paintings are strongly Impressionistic in style and incorporate aspects of the Israeli landscape and Judaica from his youth.
The ceramic work is carried on by their daughters; we learned how the ceramics are meticulously hand-glazed in amazingly vibrant colors and designs.
Ein Hod has 22 galleries, 14 art workshops, 2 museums and tourist accommodations. Workshops offered include printing, sculpture, photography, silk screening, music (vocal), ceramics, mosaics, design, stained glass, lithography and blacksmithing. Needless to say, we only skimmed the surface of what Ein Hod has to offer.
Fittingly, our last stop of the day was the Nisco Museum of Mechanical Music, which is the first museum in Israel dedicated to antique musical instruments.
The collection, accumulated over 40 years by Nisan Cohen, contains music boxes, hurdy-gurdies, an automatic organ, a reproducing player piano, a collection of 100 year-old manivelles, gramophones, hand-operated automatic pianos and other instruments.
Nisan is an entertainer par-excellence and treated us to a demonstration and concert of some of the antiques musical instruments in his collections.
Thus entertained, we were ready for the bus ride home.