West of Tsfat, antenna-topped Mt Meron (1204m), Israel’s second-tallest peak (after Mt Hermon), looms over the Dalton Plateau and scattered Jewish, Druze and Arab villages. Until recently, the area was planted with deciduous fruit trees such as pear and apple, but more and more land is being given over to grapevines for the thriving wineries of Ramat Dalton, sometimes called (with some exaggeration) the ‘Israeli Napa Valley’ or ‘Israel’s Tuscany’. Oh, one word of warning! This is the ‘land of the not-meat eating communities’.
Founded in 1958 by pioneers of the Israeli vegetarian movement, Amirim (elevation 600m) is still 100% veggie – no one here cooks, eats or serves meat, fowl or fish. Set on the southeastern slopes of the Mt Meron massif, the moshav is known for its clean air (no chicken coops or cow sheds), excellent organic food and rustic guesthouses – a beautiful place to bliss out.
So, no steak and no meat for those who live there.
Amirim is a quiet settlement of single-family homes with a few artists’ galleries, a sculpture park in the center of the moshav, and a swimming pool (open approximately mid-June to mid-September) situated in an enchanting canyon.
Trails lead from Amirim to the nearby Mt Meron Nature Reserve. Everything is well signposted. Many locals are as passionate about alternative medicine as they are about vegetarianism, and yoga teachers, shiatsu practitioners and naturopaths abound – for details, see http://amirim.com/health/en.
Sleeping at Amirim
Amirim has an (over)supply of about 170 tzimmer (B&B) rooms. In winter prices drop by as much as 30%!
Campbell Family Guest Rooms (054 532 2640, 04-698 9045; email@example.com; d 1/2 nights 400/700NIS)
Friendly British expat Phillip Campbell and his wife, Alit, rent out two unpretentious double rooms with kitchenette, patio and spa bath. A great spot for some peace and quiet.
Ohn-Bar Guesthouse (04-698 9803; http://www.amirim.com; d/q without breakfast from 660/920NIS, additional child 50NIS)
Perched on a terraced hillside, these 14 wooden units come with balcony, spa bath and fully equipped kitchenette. Outside, hammocks swing among the fruit trees and there’s an organic vegetable garden. In-room breakfast costs 94NIS to 140NIS per couple. Discounts are offered if you stay three or more nights, are a student or arrive by public transport. American-educated owners Ohn and Anva are excellent sources of information on the area. The guesthouse is wheelchair accessible.
Amirim has three vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Having breakfast/dinner delivered to your B&B generally costs 100/200NIS per couple. If you get desperate, here’s a little secret: there’s a hamburger joint up on Rte 866, across from the access road to Amirim. But I didn’t say that of course.
Bait 77 (04-698 0984; http://www.bait77.com; 77 Mitzpeh Menahem St; mains 24-38NIS; h8.30am-6pm Fri-Sun, 8.30am-9pm Thu, open daily in Aug)
This attractive little bakery and cafe, run by Melbourne-raised Joy and her son Ariel, specializes in light, healthy meals: soup, salad, quiche, pasta, pizza and foccacia, complemented with home-made cakes, pastries and gluten-free muffins. Breakfast costs 100NIS for two, Thursday is pizza night in the garden, and there is whole-wheat bread and pitas for sale and, on Friday, sweet challah bread.
Dalia’s Restaurant (04-698 9349; http://dalia-rest.co.il; breakfast/brunch 50/65NIS, set menu 100NIS; h8am-10pm daily)
Dalia has served a hearty set menu featuring soups, stuffed vegetables, ‘meatballs’ made of almonds, walnuts and peanuts, and delicious salads since 1974. The relaxing, old-time dining room has panoramic views of the Sea of Galilee. Children three years and under eat for free.
Hemdat Yamim (04-698 9423; www.hemdatyamim.com; Moshav Shefer)
A much beloved music venue, with frequent concerts of Israeli pop, jazz, Western classical etc, especially on Thursday and Friday nights and Saturday mornings. Situated across Rte 866 from Amirim. Check out their program when you want to visit this place.