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Saturday, 28 April 2012

Hitch-hikers’ Guide To The Galilee

One thing’s clear. If you want to avoid Israeli honey pots at Passover, you stay at home and grumble that you’ve missed one helluva party!

So it’s worthwhile making a large packed lunch loaded with your favourite seasonal delicacies and then hitting the road early before everyone you know has woken up!

Last year, we queued for hours at the famous Rosh Hanikra grottoes. This time we strayed barely east from Karmiel to the Jordan River Valley Park  where the week-long festivities were in full swing for hundreds of Jews and Arabs, along with foreign Christian pilgrims, enjoying the day together under a springtime sun.

Who wouldn’t want to play at a resort on the shores of a stretch of water renowned since biblical times but which now boasts  campsites, picnic and barbecue areas, idyllic walks and a chance to  kayak down the scary bits?

Then there’s  respite for the Christian devout, as a mere few hundred yards from the main park lies the tranquil archaeological site of Bethsaida with its stunning view of Lake Kinneret – ‘The Sea of Galilee’.

Modern research reveals that Bethsaida  - ‘House of the Fisherman’ - was probably s fortified city known as ‘Zer’, mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, but also where Christians believe that Jesus performed some of his most important miracles. No wonder that during our amble around the site, we were accompanied for a time by a party of nuns from a Far Eastern order, demure in dove-grey habits and mysteriously-shaped headgear, large enough to be upturned and recycled as fruit baskets!

But our day had started at Korazim, a town occupied at intervals until the 20th century and whose  restored remains include the ruins of an ancient synagogue with a facade strikingly familiar to anyone who has visited a similar building in Europe.

We found the site  sublimely quiet and after our tour, we sat under the generous shade of large tree to enjoy an enormous picnic before heading to the park.

However our delightful tiyul (trip) ended on a curiously personal note: We were leaving Bethsaida with a view to breaking our homeward journey at Capernaum (Kfar Nahum) when a couple of boys in their early teens knocked on the car window.

Somehow we understood that they needed a lift to Tiberius - a favourite place of mine. So we exchanged covert glances – who could resist two such sweet faced yeshiva (Talmudic) students? – and invited them to jump in.

Kfar Nahum could wait for the next holiday. After  a short journey, we dropped our new friends in town to walk their final few steps back home. Meanwhile we joined more jostling throngs – this time on the shore-front - for the best cuppa tea in town!

* Many  readers know observant Jews eat matza (unleavened crackers) at the ritual Passover seder meal. We had a wonderful evening this year with a friend, who like us, has emigrated to Israel from England.

But what about the rest of the week? Below I share a popular recipe for savoury rolls made from matza meal which are great served warm for a mid-week breakfast after being popped in the microwave oven for a minute. But they are even better when  split and served with a favourite filling as part of an outdoor lunch. I republish this with acknowledgements  to Cooks.com – but there are many other versions available on the web.

PASSOVER BAGELS

2 cups matza meal
1 tbsp. sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs

Combine matza meal with sugar. Bring oil and water to a boil. Add to matza meal and mix well. Beat in eggs thoroughly, one at a time. With moistened hands, shape into rolls or bagels and place on well greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes. Makes 12 rolls or bagels.

B’tei avon!

Mark.UlyseasThis is an updated version of an article which has just been published in the online international magazine, Live Encounters. Editor, Mark Ulyseas is an Indian travel writer who supports Israel and all matters Jewish. It is a privilege to work with him. See more at: http://liveencounters.net

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