Off the Beaten Track in Haifa and Just Beyond
Organic olive oils at Makura; photo: Liz Rueven

Off the Beaten Track in Haifa and Just Beyond

M and I have calculated that we’ve traveled to Israel about 40 times together to visit his family in Haifa. So you can imagine the challenge of finding new adventures while we’re based in their hometown. Luckily, we’re all history buffs and foodies so there is always something new to discover. In such a small country, it’s easy to find perfect spots to be wow’ed by the ever- changing Israeli food scene mixed in with plenty of cultural and Biblical sites.

Bahai Temple winter; photo Liz Rueven
Bahai Temple winter; photo Liz Rueven

We had a real “first” when we faced 4-5 days of torrential downpours in the Haifa area in late December. As M said more than a few times: “great for the land, tough on the soldiers and visitors”.

Since we arrived during Chanukah we thought it would be fun to explore the range and variety of sufganiyot (Israeli donuts) with an expert like Jessica from Haifa Street Food Tours. Considering my familiarity with the area, I was glad to check out some bakeries and food stalls down by the port that I had never visited.

Gal's Bakery Haifa; Photo: Liz Rueven
Gal’s Bakery Haifa; Photo: Liz Rueven

Although Gal’s donuts were the most traditional of those we tasted we loved his passion and appreciate his taking us into his teeny tiny kitchen to watch every step of the process. Gal’s Bakery was opened in the 1950’s by a Czech baker named Koestler (I heard Kessler) who owned it for more than 40 years until Gal bought it in 2003.

The shaded garden out back, the six varieties of veggie quiches and chocolate mousse cake are worth the stop alone. Did I mention that Gal makes over 18 varieties of cookies? Doors open at 5 AM but my guess is that if you knock between closing and dawn, Gal will welcome you.

israeli wines kosherlikeme
Israel Wine Tour with brothers Alon (L) and Barak Yitzhaki; Photo- Liz Rueven

We like to set aside a day or two to tour boutique wineries with experts like Alon and Barak Yitzhaki of Israel Wine Tour (shout out to my friend, JL who insisted that I spend the day with them). These deeply knowledgeable and highly trained sommeliers (Alon has his Level 4 cert) offer full day tours in every wine making region in Israel. We chose to head to “biblical wine country” in the Judean hills where we met with the wine makers at three beautiful wineries while we learned, noshed and sipped.

israeli wine tour
Nevo Vineyards and Winery with Nevo and a few of the Rueven’s

Alon and Barak were great to work with. Their communication was super clear and concise. They asked all of the right questions about where we would like to go, what we like to drink, if we wanted to include microbreweries in our outings and what our level of kosher is.

israeli wine kosherlikeme
Tasting from the tank at Sphera, where they produce only whites. Photo: Liz Rueven

Driving south from Haifa we always stop to chat and buy olive oil from the ecological and biodynamic, Makura Farm Owners, Orna and Guy Rilov, claim that their groves date back to Roman times. Their respect for the land is inspiring. All electricity is solar powered and their groves are watered from an underground spring that they harness. A couple of years ago they invited us up to their home to walk about and talk more about their zero impact farming. Their kalamata and souri olive oils are certified organic and kosher. We buy as much as we can carry.

Be sure to carry on up the same road to Amphorae Winery, also in Kerem Maharal. The magnificent stone barn and lovely patio for tastings can’t be beat.

Lavido herb farm, Nahalal. Photo: Liz Rueven
Lavido herb farm, Nahalal. Photo: Liz Rueven

Lucky for me, my niece lives only 30 minutes from Haifa and knows all of the greatest spots to visit. When R. says to go- we go. One of her suggestions a few years back was to visit Lavido, an organic skin care company with acres of herbs and flowers in Nahahal in the Lower Galilee.

Like any cook, I relish a stroll through rows of herbs and recognize their potential for healing in addition to great flavors. I love these products for their pure, organic, raw ingredients like avocado, citrus oils, pomegranate extract, rose hips and lavender. They are pure enough to eat, but I apply them to body parts instead.

israel herb farm kosher like me travel
Lavido herb farm’s rose blossoms and lavender. Photo: Liz Rueven

Looking for more ways to support Israeli businesses? Check out these products.

If skin care is not of any interest but you love herbs and spices be sure to visit Derech HaTavlinim, a mind-boggling shop filled with over 1000 herbs and spices (and blends labeled for specific dishes). All are grown on the adjacent family farm in Beit Lechem Haglilit, deeper into the beautiful Galilee. Check their schedule for lectures, workshops and kids’ cool activities, too.

cheese tasting israel kosher like me travel
Shwartzman goat cheese at Bat -Shlomo

Finally, one of our favorite stops, just a few miles south of Zichron Yaakov, is the Schwartzman family dairy   at Moshav Bat Shlomo.

travel israel cheese tasting
Bat -Shlomo street peek; Photo Liz Rueven

Walk down the one street in town and turn off into the alley where you’ll find a 100 year old stone house that has belonged to the Schwartzman family since the moshav was founded. In a small courtyard, with tented fabric overhead to protect from the elements, you’ll find picnic tables scattered among the family pitchers and washtubs, samovars, chicken coop and old photos that tell the family’s farm history here.

off the beaten track Israel travel kosher like me
Schwartzman family stuff; photo: Liz Rueven
israel travel food tours kosher like me
Schwartzman family at Bat Shlomo; Photo: Liz Rueven

Ziv Schwartzman jumps up from his warm seat in the back where he’s drinking hot nana tea with his buddies. “Taste these olives,” he insists in Hebrew. “Now try this salty cheese,” he says as he doesn’t give us a choice.

cheese tasting israel travel
Schwartzman cheese plate

We are thankful that the rain has finally stopped and we can sit outside tasting one delicious fresh goat cheese after another. We are served grape leaves wrapped around a nob of herbed cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and watercress salad alongside fattoush. We wash it down with red wine made on site and celebrate the difference between this rustic blend and the refined sips from our wine tour a few days before.


We leave the historic and quirky cafe sated and seeking sunshine now that the rain has abated. As we walk to our car we stop to admire grapefruit hanging low in the front yard of one of the seven houses on the quiet street. “Take a few”, says the long-haired neighbor as he breaks from his chores to notice that we are inhaling their scent.

After all of my visits, having relished many bites and sips, historic sites and views, my favorite part of traveling to Israel is still about the delightful unexpected moments with our people.

For more on some of my fave aspects and resources about travel to Israel click here.

Where are some of your favorite off-the-beaten track places in Israel? We would all love to know! Please share below. 


  1. This is such a beautiful and enticing post–if only those promoting BDS could understand and appreciate the history and values of the people making the products as you show here! Quite remarkable.

  2. Wow, I didn’t know you have family in Haifa. This city is my hometown in Israel since I moved here when I was 13. And I love Jess from the food tours. I attended one of her baking workshops! It was A M A Z I N G!

  3. Hello Liz. Stacey sent me a link to your website. Inspiring photos and writing. I did not know of the other farms besides Makura. Can I put the post on our Facebook page. In a couple of days, the annual shipment from Makura will arrive. We will have plenty of olives and olive oil from Makura at the Southern Connecticut Jewish Food Festival. I look forward to meeting there. Best, Scott

    • Of course and thanks. Can’t wait to stock up on Makura products! We look forward to welcoming you to the southern CT Jewish food festival on June 10, 2018.

Leave a Reply