Chanukah in the North of Israel

As I mentioned a few days ago, my husband and I decided that in lieu of Chanukah gifts this year, we would take the kids on a trip somewhere in Israel.

Since we spent four days in the south of Israel over Sukkot (for my son’s Bar Mitzvah), we decided to go north for Chanukah.

Imagine my dismay when the weather app showed a 50% chance of rains or better for our entire trip! Thankfully the skies held up until the last day of our trip.

Here’s our itinerary:

Day #1: Keshet Cave for Rappelling & Spelunking

Keshet Cave is in the western Galilee, about 20 minutes east of Nahariyah. Ten thousand years ago (give or take!), the “roof” of the cave collapsed in, and today all that remains is this stunning archway. In addition to offering amazing views of the Galil, it’s also one of the most popular places in Israel for rappelling.

We hired a company called Israel Extreme (I found them through Googling, and have no affiliation with them), which provided our family with a licensed – and insured – guide for the day. He brought all the equipment and led us on our adventure-filled day.

First, we all rappelled from the top of the arch into the belly of the cave — about a 45 meter “drop”. What an amazing opportunity to conquer our fears!

Those first harnessed “steps” down the face of the cave wall, before you ‘launch’ into the air, are definitely the scariest.

Our guide Shachar was amazing with everyone, taking the time to not just patiently talk everyone through the technicalities of rappelling, but also helping each of us face our fears and overcome them!

(Some of us were more afraid than others, but each person got Shachar’s undivided attention and expertise!)

Once we all got to the bottom of the cave, Shachar led us on a hour-long hike around and back up the mountain to our starting point.

The hike wasn’t very challenging technically, but there were a lot of BIG rocks to climb down and huge inclines to climb up. (My quads were sore for days after, but of course the kids were impervious to it!)

All together, the rappelling and hiking took about three hours. After, we headed back to the parking lot, and drove a very short distance to our next adventure: Spelunking.

We took a short hike through the Namer Valley, until we came to the entrance of the cave.

We donned helmets and head lamps (we brought our own, but could have rented them from Israel Extreme) and army crawled into the cave. We made our way through the cave single file, with Shachar once again patiently directing us through some seemingly impossible crevices and twists and turns.

When we got to an open cavern area, we all turned off our headlamps and Shachar challenged us to pour ourselves some water into glasses he had brought and pass them between one and another in the pitch dark. What a cool and “eye opening” experience about functioning without sight. Thankfully we managed not to break Shachar’s glasses!

The way out of the cave was straight up a narrow shoot, aided by some well-placed hand rails. When we finally crawled back out to the light, we all had an amazing sense of accomplishment.

How much did this adventure cost? We paid $530 for our day with Shachar, including all of his guiding, plus the equipment for the rappelling. Tourists would pay 18% less, as they aren’t charged VAT.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. While it was far from “frugal”, working with Shachar meant that we had experiences we never could have had on our own. I would never try to rappel without a licensed (and insured) guide. It’s just not something we can do alone.

By the way, if you’re thinking about an adventure for your family on your next trip, Israel Extreme has guides who are fluent in many different languages and will make sure your guide speaks your language (literally!).  I also love that they work with you to customize your – making it a truly unique experience for you and your family.

The sun was starting to set as we got back to our car, so we decided to head straight to our accommodation.

We had booked a tzimmer (vacation “cabin” for lack of a more precise translation) in Amirim, a strictly vegetarian community, where most families have a separate cabin or two that they rent out.

Our host family also runs a olive oil press, so we got to try out their amazing product, too! We had originally planned to go out to eat for dinner, but since everyone was tired after our full day, I stopped at a mini market and bought some pasta and vegetarian patties (remember: strictly vegetarian!) and cooked dinner at our tzimmer.

The cabin was lovely! There were two bedrooms, plus a loft, and two full bathrooms.

And the couch in the living area was a pull-out, so we could have fit up to 8 people in total. There was definitely more than enough room for our five! The best part – according to my kids – was the private hot tub! As I cooked dinner, they took a dip!

Day #2: Rosh HaNikra, Park HaYoreh & Tzfat

Our second day was also fun-filled, but less physically challenging. After breakfast, we drove about an hour to Rosh HaNikra – the northern most point along the Mediterranean coast.

Thousands of years ago, the sea began to carve out these stunningly rugged grottos (sea caves).

Due to extreme wind on the day we visited, many of the sea-side views from the grottos were blocked off, but we still were able to take the cable car down and do some exploring.

We also watched the movie – which taught me a lot I never knew about the role that these caves played during World War I and the pre-state era. Very interesting!

How much did it cost? Typically it costs 45 NIS per adult and 36 NIS per child or senior citizen to take the cable cars down to the grotto. Due to the wind, there was a 10% discount. 

How long did it take? We took our time and spent about 75 minutes at Rosh HaNikra. In the summer, when it’s more crowded, you might need a bit more time.

After riding the cable car back up to the parking lot, we headed about an hour south to Beit Lechem HaG’lili, a small moshav north of Haifa. There we found Park HaYoreh, a very fun and family-friendly archery course.

After a quick introduction to shooting with a bow and arrow, our family headed into the forest and followed a winding course with 20 targets.

We all had so much fun and, turns out, we’re all pretty competitive, too. (Shocker 😉 )

How much did it cost? 75 NIS per person, with children and adults being charged the same amount. (Basically anyone who shoots, pays!)

How long did it take? We were at the park for just shy of two hours, but we really got into it – and everyone wanted to shoot all three of their arrows at each target. You could probably do this in 90 minutes.

By this point, we were all ravenous, so we stopped at a very funky coffee house in the moshav and ate some of the most amazingly delicious focaccia I’ve ever had!

Then we headed north east to Tzfat. I was hoping to get there in time to check out some of the galleries and the candle factory, but between traffic and early closings due to Chanukah, we missed them.

It was a real bummer, but we grabbed dinner at a steakhouse (amazing food, but horrible service!) and then had a complete blast at Tzfat’s Puzzle Room.

If you like escape rooms, you will love this! We had a total blast working together; even my nine year old was completely into it!

After we “won” (with a few minutes to spare! Woohoo!), the husband and wife owner team came out to chat with us.

Talk about a small world: It turns out I “know” the wife! Ester runs Frugal & Kosher, a blog about frugal living in Israel, which I’ve followed for a while! Although we had never met in person, we definitely recognized each other. So fun!

How much did it cost? 90 NIS per person or less if you have more than 5 people in your group. Children 9 & under are 15 NIS. If you mention KOAB, Ester said she will give you a 10% discount. Sweet!

By the way, reservations are required. But we just called from dinner and were able to get in later that night.

How long did it take? You have an hour on the clock to solve the “puzzle”.

Day #3: Zichron Ya’Akov & Nili Museum

We had planned to head back to Tzfat in the morning to take in some of the sites we missed the night before. Unfortunately, we woke up to torrential downpours; turns out walking around Tzfat just wasn’t meant to be on this trip. There’s always next time!

Instead, I blogged a bit and packed up our bags, while the kids took one last dip in the hot tub! We sadly said goodbye to our tzimmer (my daughter actually said she’d rather live there than our house!), and then headed south.

I had planned to visit the Bahai Gardens in Haifa on our drive down – something I’ve always wanted to do, but the storms cancelled that option, too.

Instead, we stopped in Zichron Yaakov, one of my favorite cities in Israel, and toured the Nili Museum. What a fascinating chapter in the pre-state history of Israel!

After touring the gallery and watching the movie, we had a private tour (in English) of the Aharonson’s home. I LOVE touring historical homes, so this was right up my alley.

How much did it cost? Admission and the tour costs 26 NIS for adults, 20 NIS for children and 16 NIS for seniors. You must call in advance to book a tour.

How long did it take? We had to wait a bit for our tour, as the English language tours are every hour on the hour (in retrospect, we should have done the Hebrew tour!), so we were there for nearly two hours. If you time it better than we did, you could do the whole thing in 60-75 minutes.

We stopped for lunch at a mall (I had pictured eating at an outdoor cafe, but alas the rains chased that idea away… instead I had to settle for McDonalds in a food court!), picked up our dog from the kennel, and fought traffic and downpours for a very long drive home in the dark.

All in all, it was a fantastic three days, with something for everyone!

As I said to the kids, travel was a lot more costly than gifts would have been, but the memories will truly last a lifetime – and so I don’t regret it in the slightest.

Here’s to more travel, more fear-conquering adventures, and more family memories!


  1. Amazing stories and amazing pictures! Thanks for the inspiration Mara!

  2. Flora and Isidro Chavez says

    Thanks Mara for sharing the wonderful and meaningful moments of your life with your great family. My husband and I really enjoy reading and seeing the lovely pictures. We visited Israel in 2000 and look forward to one day be able to visit again. We just loved the people
    we met there and the land.

  3. Lisa Richman says

    Thanks for this terrific information! Headed to Amirim at the end of this week. (My daughter and her husband moved there a couple of months ago.) Looking to explore the area and appreciate some of your recommendations!

  4. 4daughters says

    Sound like you had a great time. Next trip north you need to visit us again!

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