Finding kinship on Kibbutz

Nathan Jeffay experiences serenity and a special sense of belonging in the Galilee


Want to try one of Israel's star beaches? In listings, Nahsholim invariably scores very highly. It is a popular day-trip destination for people in the north of Israel - and also the site of a quality hotel with a difference.

The Nahsholim Seaside Resort consists of houses, spread out to maximise views, just a hop from the sea. It is part of Kibbutz Nahsholim and exemplifies the kind of hospitality that kibbutzim do best.

"It's a very special location, because we are right by the beach and I would call it the most beautiful beach in Israel," says Itay Eshel, the general manager. "It is very peaceful; the beach is wide and long, giving everyone the opportunity to find a quiet spot."

The Nahsholim beach is known for its little islands and lagoon, where you can wade or swim. The location is between Tel Aviv and Haifa, in an area that has views of the Carmel Mountains as well as the Mediterranean.

When you leave the big cities, resorts tend to have more space and Nahsholim uses this advantage to offer a range of rooms beyond the standard doubles. There are family units, couples units, country resort rooms, a family villa and 40 new "boutique" rooms. The Nahsholim Resort is kosher with rabbinic supervision and, on Passover, offers Sedarim and synagogue services, as well as a children's club (which also runs at other busy holiday times).

Kibbutz hotels and guesthouses across Israel fill up for this festival. The Galilee is very popular - after all, the region is the cradle of the kibbutz movement. One of the best-known kibbutzim of this area is Kibbutz Kinneret, which was founded in 1908 and played a major role in the growth of the kibbutz movement.

Today, it runs several tourism ventures, including a thriving baptismal site and - of more interest to Passover visitors - the Ohalo Manor hotel.

By the Sea of Galilee, the hotel has a spacious dining room, overlooking the water, where guests can conduct their own Seder or take part in a communal one. As at Nahsholim, the food is kosher with rabbinic supervision. The hotel is not aiming at high-end luxury, but has a reputation for trusty accommodation, good food and an attractive setting.

Just west of Tiberias is Kibbutz Lavi, set up in 1949 by young British Bnei Akiva members. They dreamed of settling in the Galilee, of making it bloom and of building what they envisaged as a model modern-Orthodox society, just a few miles from where much of the Palestinian Talmud originated.

Lavi's hotel has comfortable rooms and gives guests access to the indoor kibbutz pool - as well as offering an unusual tourism experience. Instead of the popular model of kibbutz hotels, run by hired staff, the Lavi hotel is very much a kibbutz enterprise, where the members do the work. And as they are religious - modern Orthodox - on Shabbat and festivals they actually observe Sabbath laws in running the place. Tourists are well taken care of by the kibbutzniks but also feel a certain kinship with their hosts, who are celebrating with them, instead of merely serving them.

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