Israel's Good Name

Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

Nachal Kziv II

In Galilee, Israel on October 20, 2013 at 4:29 AM

A little over a week ago I had the pleasure of visiting the nearby Nachal Kziv (Kziv Stream) with a friend of mine who I met in the army, Nechemya from Tzfat. Starting our hike Friday morning, we spent a good seven hours in the park and returned to my house with time to prepare for Shabbat. Walking the long winding road down to the stream, we first stopped at an old Crusader building (which some say was a mill but since there is a mill downstream, I wonder if this building is really another mill or perhaps a different sort of building). Seizing the moment, Nechemya grabbed a metal cable that hung down and climbed up into the second-story window:

Climbing into the second-story window

Climbing into the second-story window

I joined him, taking an easier side entrance and we found that within the double-room interior, a section of the ceiling had caved in. I thought it looked rather alien, the vegetation hanging down from the illuminated “portal”:

The ''portal'' in the ceiling

The ”portal” in the ceiling

We continued on with our hike, passing the little Crusader inn and crossing over the stream over and over. At one point we stopped at a rocky streambed and I attempted to find a geode for Nechemya to see. He disappeared behind some boulders and came out holding the biggest geode I have yet seen in Nachal Kziv. Next we took the by-path to the Ein Tamir area – my favourite section of Nachal Kziv which we skipped last time. Due to the fact that it is the end of the summer – the dry season – the water level is quite low. First, the glassy little teaser pool:

The teaser pool

The teaser pool

After the first pool we moved over to the interesting area where cold spring water rushes through smooth channels and slides in the bedrock. I love sliding on the slick algae from one pool to the next. Here is a little slide:

A slick algae slide

A slick algae slide

There are fish and frogs sharing the pools with humans, here is one little frog that decided to go swimming with me:

Little brown frog

Little brown frog

And here is another shot of part of the pool area:

The spring water flowing through the rock

The spring water flowing through the rock

Next we attacked the little cave, a veritable tunnel in the rock wall. This is my favourite cave ever – the narrow entrance, the crystal clear cold water, the smooth rocks, the low parts that call for near swimming – it’s the best. Here is the classic bubbly cave interior, looking out after a few feet:

The immediate interior of the cave tunnel

The immediate interior of the cave tunnel

And as we walked in deeper, using Nechemya’s phone as a flashlight, I turned back and took another photo:

And deeper into the cave

And deeper into the cave

And then facing the gloom, another shot:

Going deeper into the dark cave

Going deeper into the dark cave

I can’t state enough how much fun it is to walk through this cave with the cold clear water underfoot. Always wear sandals or similar protective footwear but there aren’t any animals in the cave and the water is numbingly cold which makes walking deeper and deeper a fun experience. At one point Nechemya got really bored and sat down on a rock to play some Candy Crush – can’t blame him…

Playing Candy Crush

Playing Candy Crush

Pretty deep into the cave, here is this creepy alien-looking tunnel that goes straight up:

Weird alien-like vertical tunnel

Weird alien-like vertical tunnel

At last we reached the end, had some laughs taking photos in the pitch blackness and then headed back, chattering and shivering as we sloshed and scooted our way through the cold tunnel. At last we saw the light of day at the end of the tunnel and made it out. We broke out into the sunlight soaking wet and somewhat numb from the spring water. We basked in the noon sun, warming ourselves, and then continued on to the main swimming hole. Not surprisingly, the pool was quite shallow and the waterfall at the head was quite small and not the powerful blast of water I remember last time I swam in the pool.

Nachal Kziv's main swimming hole

Nachal Kziv’s main swimming hole

One thing that was the same as I remember was the incredible amount of fish that swarm about and nibble on human toes.

Fish

Fish

After a little time in the swimming hole we got out and decided to head back. Along the way we went off-trail, looking for adventure. What we found instead was this little waterfall and a miserable water hike with slippery rocks and tons of raspberry vines which scratched us repeatedly:

A gentle little waterfall

A gentle little waterfall

In between attacks from the raspberries, I found this tiny little green frog and held him captive for a photo-shoot. This is my favourite photo of him, and one of the last before he jumped away:

Tiny green frog on my finger

Tiny green frog on my finger

Not only do frogs live there, Nechemya found this crab shell – when I asked him to hold it on the end of his finger the eyestalks moved which was creepy in the extreme, so he opted for a bamboo stick:

Crab shell head on bamboo

Crab shell head on bamboo

After fighting our way through the dense thorns and then climbing up a steep dirt bank we found ourselves back on the trail. As we headed back we discussed coming back and climbing the sheer rocks walls that line Nachal Kziv – maybe one day!

Craggy cliff walls

Craggy cliff walls

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Arak Masada

In Galilee, Israel on October 6, 2013 at 3:31 AM

After visiting Achziv, we stopped off at Mi’ilya – an Christian Arab village – on our way back home. For a really long time I’ve been wanting to see the Arak Masada factory which was so near.  At last we entered Mi’ilya for this very purpose.  For those unfamiliar with this alcoholic beverage, arak is an anise-flavoured liquor that is quite popular in the Middle East. We turned into one street, drove about, turned back around and I asked directions. We were in the wrong area. We continued and then, after more asking and more searching, we found the factory! Hidden in a fenced area in the industrial section of Mi’ilya, the factory in a modest third of a warehouse, sandwiched between two other industrial operations.

Arak production (courtesy of Arak Masada)

Arak production (courtesy of Arak Masada)

We arrived just after closing and were told to come back. We did, the following morning, one of my sisters also tagging along. I greeted the owners, brothers Wadia and Jeryis Hadid, with “sabach al-chir” (“good morning” in Arabic) and after words of greeting and introduction, Jeryis began to show us around the modest factory.

Jeryis Hadid, one of the owners

Jeryis Hadid, one of the owners

The two Christian Arab brothers teamed up with a Lebanese man named Shukri Al-Hayak who, after serving in the Israeli-operated South Lebanese Army, found refuge in Israel after the IDF withdrawal of 2000. The trio then went ahead and began to produce their own arak, based off the Lebanese recipe that Shukri brought with him.

The distillery (courtesy of Arak Masada)

The distillery (courtesy of Arak Masada)

Their arak distilling process goes as follows: First, grapes are poured into vats and stirred for several hours daily. Instead of pressing or squeezing the grapes, the stirring slowly breaks down the grape skin and the juices flow naturally. After twenty-something days in the vat the fermenting grapes are then brought to a boil, the vapourised juice rising up and making its way into the little pipe, as seen below:

Close-up of the copper distillers

Close-up of the copper distillers

The juice then travels along inside a pipe, inside a long vat of cold water, and eventually drains out the far end, and into containers. Anise is then added to the liquid and the distinct taste of arak is born.

Anise (courtesy of Arak Masada)

Anise (courtesy of Arak Masada)

The arak is then put into large containers and is stored above the bottling station, where a hose is led down to release a whole new batch of ready arak to the market.

Arak waiting to be bottled

Arak waiting to be bottled

Arak Masada makes three types of award-winning araks: Alwadi, Kafroon and Jabalna – and we tried them all. The premium label, Alwadi, happens to be my favourite and while I don’t really like arak, I found the Alwadi to be rather flavourful and not just a powerful mouthful of anise. The Alwadi arak is uniquely triple-distilled and costs nearly twice as much as the others. The Kafroon, the second best, is also flavourful – however in a very different way, and the Jabalna tastes pretty much like regular arak. How the taste varies so much is beyond me, but each label tastes a world of its own in an anise galaxy.

Alwadi Arak

Alwadi Arak

These upcoming weeks are when the grapes are coming in and so, before we left, Jeryis asked us if we wanted to come help with the grapes (they need Jewish workers handling the grapes). I couldn’t attend, due to my demanding army position, but my sister decided to test it out and bottling arak there with a friend. How cool is that, to be able to boast that one once made Lebanese arak in a modest little factory? Definitely my kind of thing…

For those interested in visiting the factory, here is their site (available in Hebrew, Arabic and English).