D. got serious about the idea of reserving Thursdays for occasional excursions to interesting places. In one of her yoga classes she has an aging cycling buff turned tour guide, who recommended a couple of places, so we followed his recommendations the other day, and ended up in Ramat HaNadiv, near ZiKhron Ya'akov, which is at the southern tip of the Carmel mountains, about 30 km south of Haifa.
Our first stop was the public gardens of Ramat HaNadiv
. This "Nadiv" (benefactor) was Baron Abraham Edmond Benjamin James de Rothschild, who jump-started Jewish settlement at the end of 19th century. The tombs of the baron and his wife are there. I first visited the place in the framework of a professional gardening course I did about thirty years ago. This was at the beginning of the period when I became the gardener of our community, in which capacity I continued for about six years. But on that earlier occasion, we arrived just before closing time, after a longer field trip, so had time to see very little. In the meantime it has acquired various new features, and is a pioneering example of environmental technologies. The visitors center is under a green mound air-conditioned by geothermal technology, and all the water is recycled. The gardens are fertilized by composting all green waste, etc.
Israel has few great examples of public gardens. This one is well-planned, carefully maintained and pleasant. For the most part the plants and trees that you see there are commonly grown all over the country. But here they are grown to perfection, so it's inspirational to see how our untidy yuccas could look, and what we could make of that overgrown mastic tree with a little pruning. I wasn't so impressed with the formal rose garden, which seemed quite unimaginative, but there are some delightful corners of the park, as well as "windows" offering views of the coast and the blue Mediterranean. It was very blue on Thursday.
After the gardens, we took one of the nature trails leading from the parking lot to Horvat 'Aqav. These trails are on the same north-south trail that stretches from the extreme north of the country down to the Gulf of Aqaba. (Our village lies along this trail, with its distinctive orange-blue-white markings too.) We walked along to a place at the highest area of the cliff, where a Roman and Byzantine period ruin of a villa was found, complete with wine presses, oil presses, threshing floors, lime kilns, cisterns and ritual baths. According to the British Palestine Exploration Foundation, which visited in 1873, farmers continued to live in the ruins seasonally, through to the present period.
After the walk, we stopped in Zikhron Ya'akov to eat. This was one of the first modern Jewish settlements in the country. The baron reportedly purchased the land from a Christian family. The old town area has been turned into a pedestrian mall, where we stopped off to eat a meal in an Italian restaurant, sitting outdoors in the sunshine, with a cool breeze coming up from the sea.
Photo album is here
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