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At the South of the Carmel Mountain Range lies Zichron Ya’akov, a picturesque town of cobblestone, bougainvillea and cool mountain air. With a serene view overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Zichron is rich with history, art, food, and wine, waiting to be explored.
Zichron was founded as an agricultural colony in 1882, when the first wave of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe arrived in the country. The town was first settled by 100 pioneers from Romania, but difficulty working the rocky soil of the region and an outbreak of malaria led many of the settlers to leave within a year’s time. In 1883, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, a French banker and Jewish philanthropist, became the patron of Zichron and saved the community from its demise.
After renaming the town after his father, James Ya’akov Mayer de Rothschild, the baron’s first order of business was to bring in French experts to teach the residents modern farming methods. He also designed housing lots along the main road for the use of farmers. Each lot included a house facing the street, an interior courtyard and a storage building for agricultural tools. This main street, HaMeyasdim (‘The Founders’), remains the center of Zichron to this day.
HaMeyasdim, also known as the midrachov, is a pedestrian street closed off from vehicles. Though the original buildings have been restored, the French-inspired architecture, featuring tiled roofs and painted wooden windows, remains intact today. Scattered along the midrachov are numerous coffee shops, restaurants, secondhand stores, boutiques, and galleries featuring local artwork. One such gallery is Tut Neyar, a paper mill exhibiting hand-made paper of different colors, textures and sizes. The gallery also displays various hand-made paper products including lampshades and stationary sets. You can even participate in one of the galleries paper-making workshops.
Tut Neyar, 39 HaMeyasdim, Zichron Ya’akov, Israel +972 046397631
Near the end of the midrachov is a pink fenced building that was the home of Sarah and Aaron Aharonson about 100 years ago. During the First World War, the siblings founded NILI, an undercover intelligence group that spied on Turks and reported their positions to the British government. In September of 1917, the group was discovered, and Sarah shot herself in her bathroom rather than revealing information to the Turks. Today, the building is known as the Aharonson House, or NILI Museum. The museum recreates the history of the time period and is open to the public.
Beit Aharonson, 40 HaMeyasdim, Zichron Ya’akov, Israel +972 46390120
In addition to planning the infrastructure of Zichron, another of de Rothschild’s contributions to the town was the introduction of the wine industry. After multiple economic failures, the baron imported vines and wine experts to help the settlers learn the trade. These efforts eventually evolved into the Carmel Winery, one of the first wineries in the country. The winery is still thriving, and produces a significant amount of Israel’s wine today. Visitors are welcome to take a tour of the winery and learn about its impressive history. You can also enjoy a wine tasting, dine in the restaurant, and shop in their extensive wine shop.
Carmel Winery, Winery St, Zichron Ya’acov, Israel, +972 46390997
In addition to the Carmel Winery, Zichron boasts high quality restaurants serving wine from the numerous wineries in the Carmel Mountain range. The Tishbi Restaurant offers over 20 wines produced in the Binyamina Winery just ten minutes away. The menu also features the inspired dishes of young chef Ido Segev. Some of his specialities include wood-fired pizzas, beetroot radiatore with goat cheese, beer bread with Camembert and wine jelly, and daily fresh fish specials. Enjoy any of these delicacies with a bottle of wine or a carafe of house red for just 18 shekels.
Another local favorite is Manuella, an authentic Italian restaurant with six different pasta shapes, ravioli, pizza and desserts, all handmade on location by the Italian owners.
Manuella, 49 HaMeyasdim, Zichron Ya’akov 04-873-5761
Zichron today is a popular location for tourists, both foreign and local, and has expanded tremendously over the last few decades. What was once an agricultural colony of 100 is today a town of approximately 20,000. Recently, Zichron has seen the opening of the Elma, a luxury hotel and arts complex featuring art exhibits and classical concerts in two different auditoriums — this beautiful work of architecture is attracting more than a few new faces to the area. Despite continuous growth, the main road built over 130 years ago remains the same Midrachov: quaint, calm, beautiful, and thoroughly enjoyed with a good glass of wine.
By Eden Dotan
Eden Dotan is a 23-year-old Skidmore College graduate currently completing her service in the IDF. Eden is passionate about today’s rich and evolving Israeli culture, and finds that writing about it is the best way to both engage others and discover it herself.