Gem in the Galilee

My dad and my husband have this routine:

My dad, an archaeology enthusiast, always keeps his eyes peeled for the undiscovered artifact when he visits Israel. My husband always ribs him, “They’ve already found everything there is to find, Paul.”

I take my dad’s side on this one and whenever archaeologists make a big discovery in our area in the Lower Galilee, I’ll usually send the article to my husband and my dad with the subject line: “So there’s nothing left to find in Israel…”

I am reminded today, too, how much there is still yet for me to discover here in this region — not ancient artifacts, necessarily, but unexplored paths, little known attractions, charming exhibits and people.

I wasn’t the one to stumble upon Hemdatya, a particularly special bed and breakfast in the Lower Galilee; my husband (the one who says there’s nothing left to find) did. Ilaniya, the historic community on which the b & b is located, is across the street from where he works and the company often recommends the place to out-of-town visitors.

My husband was so charmed by Hemdatya and by the owner, Atalia, when he was there recently with his colleague, he invited me to breakfast  there to see exactly what a gem in the Lower Galilee it is.

I was smitten.

Atalia (l) owner of Hemdatya Bed and Breakfast, and me

Atalia (l) owner of Hemdatya Bed and Breakfast, and me

With Atalia, yes, who was a gracious, sweet and entertaining hostess (not to mention an amazing chef!). But with the grounds themselves, and more so with her vision for Hemdatya, which is a haven for any traveler interested in ecotourism, organic agriculture, or permaculture. It’s also a charming, potentially romantic retreat for both foreigners and locals looking to get away for some low-key relaxation.

Hemdatya is located on a historic Israeli village about 15 minutes from the Sea of Galilee called Ilaniya, originally a farming community and agricultural training center for long-ago pioneers. The stone buildings of the b & b —  renovated with both historic conservation and sustainability in mind —   are constructed much from nearby materials.  Hemdatya installed and employs a system for collecting rain water and recycles gray water throughout the site. The water from the rooms (bathrooms and kitchens) drains into a biological purification system and from there irrigates the orchards that grow vegetables, fruits, and grapes for wine.

We ate in the main kitchen — a traditional Israeli breakfast of breads, salads, cheese, and shakshouka. The cheese was from goat milk; gifts from the local goats. And the eggs in the shakshouka were from the local chickens.

Breakfast at Hemdatya

Breakfast at Hemdatya

Many tzimmerim in Northern Israel can claim goats and chickens, but not many can claim the fruits and veggies grown not just organically, but according to the ethics and principles of permaculture. No pesticides in her gardens, says Atalia. No need.  Using permaculture, the gardens grow in harmony with the “pests.”

After breakfast, Atalia gave us a tour of the five guest rooms (each with a small kitchenette and eco-friendly bathroom) which are so delightful in their decor, you can tell attention was paid not just to construction and conservation, but also to aesthetics. I gushed to Atalia (and I meant it), “I am sure all of your visitors are as struck as I am at how enchanting these rooms are.”

Last, we toured the grounds. Vegetables grow everywhere, from little gardens in front of the farm-house guest rooms

Peppers grow on Hemdatya in Israel

Peppers grow on Hemdatya in Israel

to the grape vines that overhang the entrance to the jacuzzi room.

Grape vines at Hemdatya in Israel

Grape vines at Hemdatya in Israel

The gorgeous stone pool sealed the deal and I am already planning in my mind a getaway in the near future:  a writer’s retreat, let’s say, just me, my laptop and my thoughts. Or a birthday weekend.

Hint, hint. 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m really the farthest thing from a gardener

My photos on instagram paint a pretty picture.

broccoli 2013

The above broccoli and cabbage are part of the harvest from our backyard vegetable garden. We took advantage of the beautiful weather today (70 degrees and sunny) to weed and pull.

It’s the second season we planted; and the second season we’ve tasted vegetables we grew ourselves.

And, yes, our broccoli tasted delicious. And yes, it was exciting for us and for our children.

Truly.

And, while I am so proud of us; because even a backyard garden takes effort and intention and love, part of me judges me in a way I imagine some of my Facebook friends silently judge me:

Like:

“Oh how quaint. Look at us. We grow our own vegetables. Look at us. We teach our kids how to get their hands dirty.”

I can see how people might say that when they see my posts.

I can see it…because … um … sometimes I have thoughts like that about you.

Facebook tends to make you look like a braggart, a goodie two-shoes, a whiner, or an asshole.

But the people who really know me, know that I grow my own food as practice.

Practice being the perfect mom I’ll never be, but moreso practice being Caroline Ingalls … for the day when the grid goes.

My green lifestyle … the green gardener I play on TV?

It’s still practice.

Every day I am practicing how to be less dependent on stores, stuff, and things.

Less dependent on electricity; less dependent on gas.

Less dependent on the internet, too, though that proves to be a bit more challenging.

I’m just a formerly semi-spoiled Jersey girl looking for meaning and hope on a semi-vanishing planet.

If I can do it, so can you.

Start small.

Buy less. Recycle more. Eat less. Grow more. Take less. Share more. Drive less. Walk more.

Find five minutes to talk to your kids about the impact of trash.

Find five minutes to talk to your neighbor about the impact of pesticides.

Find five minutes to strategize with your partner about taking small steps that make a big difference.

Then actually take those steps. Do something. Anything.

And then write about it. Talk about it. Paint about. Blog about it. Scream and shout about it.

Pass it on.