The only village in Israel with a Maronite (Eastern Catholic) majority, serene hillside Jish (population 3000) was settled by migrants from Lebanon in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today it is the site of a pioneering effort to revive the use of Aramaic, the language of Jesus and an important source of identity for Maronites. Most shops are closed on Sunday. Map.
During the Great Jewish Revolt (66–70 BCE), Jish – then, as now, known in Hebrew as Gush Halav – was the last place in the Galilee to fall to the Romans, according to Josephus Flavius.
Near the entrance to the village, you can visit a large, modern Maronite church and, across the street, the tombs of Shamaiya and Avtalion, Jewish sages who served on the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem during the 1st century BCE. In a small valley 800m east of the entrance to Jish, hikers can explore the remains of an ancient synagogue (3rd or 4th century CE) amid gorgeous fig and olive groves.
A paved, 2.5km hiking and cycling path known as the Coexistence Trail (wheelchair accessible) heads east from Jish, leading to Moshav Dalton via Dalton Reservoir. At local farms you can pick your own cherries (May), peaches (starting in June), raspberries (summer) and apples (late August to October).
Sleeping & Eating
Several area restaurants serve authentic Lebanese cuisine.
Ruah Glilit (052 281 0433; firstname.lastname@example.org; d 500NIS)
George Samaan, a well-known oud, saz (a plucked string instrument) and violin player (you can see him on YouTube) who often appears with Ehud Banai, and his wife, Eva, offer guests a warm, musical welcome in a cozy sitting room outfitted with an upright piano, an old gramophone and a wood-burning stove. The three upstairs rooms feature wooden balconies and gorgeous views. It’s 600m up the main street from the entrance to town.
Misedet HaArazim (Wiam 054 552 5590; Rte 89; mains 45-98NIS; 10am-10pm or 11pm)
Scrumptious offerings include eight kinds of hummus, stuffed grape leaves (45NIS), grilled meats, shishbarak (meat dumplings in goat yoghurt sauce; 50NIS) and sheikh al-mahshi (zucchini stuffed with ground beef and lamb and cooked in yoghurt sauce; 55NIS). Situated at the entrance to Jish; the sign features a green cedar of Lebanon. A selection of two dozen different veggie salads costs 45NIS per person (35NIS if you also order a main dish; minimum two people). For dessert, try the chocolate shwarma (25NIS). I die for the desert. When I’m here with a group, I skip everything except the desert. Ha!
Baladna (04-699 1151; mains 40-80NIS; 10am-2am, closed Mon)
Ensconced in two 19th-century stone houses, this atmospheric restaurant specializes in authentic Galilee-style Arab cuisine, including shishbarak (40NIS) and dishes made with freekeh (roasted green wheat). Other offerings include pork schnitzel (50NIS) and seven cocktails (35NIS to 40NIS). It often has live music on Saturday night. Situated 600m up the main street from the town entrance.
Getting There & Away
Jish is 13km northeast of Tsfat, right where Rte 89 does a 90-degree turn. It is linked to Tsfat (20 minutes, every one or two hours) by buses 43 and 367; the latter also goes to Nahariya (45 minutes).
The area around Moshav Dalton, known as Ramat Dalton (Dalton Plateau), produces some highly regarded wines. Several wineries do their thing in the Ramat Dalton Industrial Park, 4km northeast of Jish on Rte 886.
Dalton Winery (%04-698 7683; http://www.dalton-winery.com; Ramat Dalton Industrial Park; admission 15NIS; 10am-4pm Sun-Thu, 10am-2pm Fri )
Using cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit syrah, shiraz and zinfandel grapes, this winery produces about one million bottles a year. It has a log-cabin-style tasting centre across the car park from the modern production facilities. Offers 45-minutes tours (call ahead if you can), the last one hour before closing.
Adir Winery (04-699 1039; http://www.adir-winery.com; Ramat Dalton Industrial Park; 9am-5pm Sun-Thu, 9am-2pm or 3pm Fri, closes later in summer)
Inside the all-white visitors center, you can sample Adir’s award-winning wines (30NIS; free if you buy a bottle); production is just 100,000 bottles a year. Also has a cheese shop that serves sublime frozen yoghurt (8NIS to 32NIS depending on cup size). At the cafe, breakfast (130NIS for two), based on goat’s cheeses, is served from 9am to 3pm (to 1pm Fri).
Nalchik (04-699 0548; Rehaniya; dishes 25-35NIS; noon-8pm daily)
This unpretentious, family-run restaurant is a great place to try dishes brought from the North Caucasus by Circassian refugees in the 1870s. The village of Rehaniya is 4.5km north of the Dalton Industrial Park; from Rte 886, follow Nalchik’s white, black and red signs (in Hebrew). Specialities include majmak (lentil paste, eaten with pita), shush barak (ground-meat-filled dumplings served in light tomato soup), k’ulak’ (chickpea-filled dumpling served with yoghurt), haloj (pastry filled with Circassian cheese and deep-fried in olive oil) and mataza (dumplings filled with Circassian cheese and green onions and served with yoghurt).