'Rosh Hashanah' Themed Trip in the Golan Heights
Updated: Feb 29
In light of the pending Jewish New Year holiday ‘Rosh Hashanah’, I decided to organize a holiday themed day trip and wish you all a Shana Tova! (i.e. Happy New Year!).
During the new year high holidays, ‘Rosh Hashana’ and later ‘Yom Kippur’, during prayer in the synagogue, a ram’s horn. Among other reasons, the sound of the horn evokes thoughts of self-scrutiny and reflection over your deeds during the past year hopefully leading to true penance and new year resolutions. Taking into consideration the ‘Rosh Hashanah’ theme, the focal point of this trip was the Shofar factory. The location of the factory in the Golan Heights dictated other local sites and since ‘Rosh Hashanah’ is a cause for several family gatherings, I thought I would include places where I could potentially buy gifts.
Trip Agenda Options
‘Kol Shofar’ factory tour.
Ancient Katzrin Park and Golan Antiques Museum.
‘Gamla National Park’
‘Kesem HaGolan’ Indoor Attraction Film and Model
Nature Lookout ‘Mitzpe Shalom’ or ‘Peace Vista’
Nature Lookout ‘Ayit Falls’
7th Armored Division Memorial and Salukia Springs
The Golan Brewhouse
Aniam Artist’s Village
Tour and Gift Shopping at the ‘Olea Essence Visitor’s Center’
Tour and Gift Shopping at the Golan Heights Winery
‘Kol Shofar’ Factory Tour
The ‘Kol Shofar’ factory is one of the largest Shofar factories in Israel. The tour takes about an hour and should be reserved in advance. Shimon Keinan the founder delivered the tour himself explaining the manufacturing process and demonstrating some of the blasts. He explained what the requirements were in order to manufacture Kosher Shofars and discussed differences between various Jewish communities. It was very informative and pleasantly delivered and I had a good time.
Ancient Katzrin Park and the Golan Antiques Museum
A major local attraction in the vicinity of the factory is the archeological site ‘Ancient Katzrin Park’. At the entrance you can purchase a combination ticket with the ‘Golan Antiques Museum’, which is located a 5 min drive away.
The ‘Ancient Katzrin Park’ is an excavation of a Jewish village from the Talmudic period ca. 3-6 CE. After the second temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, Jewish worship stopped being focused in Jerusalem and Rabbinical leadership was born. The center of learning became migratory moving first to the Yeshiva at Yavneh, then to Lod and finally to the Galilee in the North of Israel. Katzrin park is an ancient village and includes a synagogue, a working olive-oil press and a working house. The self-guided walk through the village takes about an hour. There is also a short film that presents the atmospheric setting of ancient life through a Talmudic story. The whole visit takes about an hour.
The ‘Golan Antiques museum’ is a 5 min drive away. It includes findings from excavations throughout the Golan and the film there is related to the ‘Gamla Nature Reserve’. The story of Gamla is one of Jewish Heroism in the face of a Roman Seige (similar to the story of ‘Masada’ in the Southern part of Israel). Artifacts from Gamla are on display at the museum so it would make sense to combine a visit to this museum with a visit to ‘Gamla’, which is also in the vicinity.
In Sukkot and Passover there are re-enactments of the village life in ‘Ancient Katzrin Park’ and children activities in the ‘Golan Antiques Museum’.
If you like ancient history and plan on visiting several nature reserve parks during your trip to Israel, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority has multi-site entrance tickets for tourists.
Nature and Other Stopovers
Nature Lookout - ‘Mitzpe Shalom’
Located just next to Kibbutz ‘Kfar Haruv’, the ‘Mitzpe Shalom’ lookout includes a paved walkway and balcony allowing a panoramic view of the Golan Heights mountain range as well a beautiful view of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret). In the photos you can even see the Sabras (Opuntia cactus or ‘prickly pear’ fruit) in bloom. ‘Sabra’ is a slang term named after the prickly fruit for Israelis, who are supposedly prickly on the outside, but sweet within.
It’s very peaceful and the perfect place to stop and share your plans for the new year and even snack on an apple dipped in honey if you want to add a traditional twist to your trip.
The place includes restrooms, a kiosk and a gift shop, and even offers B&B hosting in the Kibbutz called 'Country Lodge Mitzpe Hashalom' nearby.
Ayit means eagle in Hebrew. Ayit Falls include two waterfalls that supposedly flow year-round into the Sea of Galilee. A short unpaved walk from the driveway brings you to the lookout. The sun was setting when I got there so I only managed to take a photo of the lovely ‘Drimia Maritima’ otherwise known as the ‘Squill’ flower, which is a symbol of the approach of autumn in Israel.
7th Armored Brigade Memorial and Salukia Springs
This memorial is a few minutes away from Ayit Falls and commemorates the soldiers who fell throughout the various wars. It’s a good place to discuss Israel’s history and show children the tanks.
Right next to it, is the Salukia spring park, another free pleasant shady spot for a break. The natural spring is one of the sources of the bottled mineral water used by the Mey Eden company. A 5-10 minute walk leads you to the pools. The water is shallow (~ half a meter) and is suitable for children to dip into. There are chemical restrooms, but food is not allowed.
The Golan Brewhouse is situated within walking distance from the ‘Golan Antiques Museum’. The Brewhouse is a kosher meat restaurant. You can reserve a guided explanation of their beers if you’re in a group of over 20 people.
The brewhouse is located in the same building as another attraction called ‘Kesem HaGolan’ or ‘Golan Magic’. The attraction includes a film about the Golan Heights and a model. If you didn’t visit ‘Ancient Katzrin Park’ you can still see a film overviewing the history and topography of the Golan here. I didn’t visit it this time.
Aniam Artist’s Village - Food and Gifts
For those who have been to the artists’ village in San Diego’s Balboa Park, the Aniam Artist’s Village is built much along the same lines. The ‘village’ is comprised of a mix of artists’ studios and various types of places to eat so you can fit it in at any time of the day. Although recommendation is that you call beforehand to ensure that places are open since I arrived at around 15:00 and most of the galleries were closed despite the fact that it was a Sunday, a working day in Israel. Although, I didn't eat there, instead of stopping at the Golan Brewhouse, you can drive to Aniam directly and eat at one of the restaurants there. A well known meat restaurant is Zigel.
You are also welcome to stay there at the ‘Greek Style Cabin Vacation Enchanti’.
Tour and Gift Suggestions
The Olea Essence Visitors Center in Katzrin is a large facility since it includes the visitor’s center and laboratories for manufacturing of the olive-based cosmetics in one building. The takes about 45 minutes including a short film about the company and sampling of both the olive-oil line and their award-winning product, the ‘Olea Essence Olive Wash & Exfoliate for Hands & Body’. These and other products are available at the gift shop.
The Golan Heights Winery offers a few tours ranging from 1 hour to 3.5 hours that include wine tasting and that need to be reserved in advance. If you have small children and don’t think it feasible to take a tour, you can visit the store independently.
Since I came from the center of Israel, a 2.5 hr's drive up North, I reserved the 'Kol Hashofar' tour for 11:30. On the way, I stopped over at 'Mitzpe Shalom' coffee at about 10:30. Since the tour takes about and hour, I arrived at the 'Ancient Katzrin Park' at 12:30 and after completing both the park and the 'Golan Antiques Museum', I stopped for lunch at the 'Golan Brewhouse' at 14:00. By 15:00, I was at the 'Aniam Artists' Village' and by 16:30 arrived back at the 'Olea Essence Visitor's Center'. I arrived at the 'Golan Heights Winery' shop at 17:20 and concluded my day by viewing the lovely sunset at 'Ayit Fall'.
This is what it looks like on the map:
Altogether, I had a lovely day and hope you do too. I wish you a sweet new year. If it’s too late for you to enjoy the tour this year, you can always come back next year.
Are there any other holiday suggestions that you want to share?
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