The first week into our arrival in Israel, the last in October, felt unbelievably as a prolonged hot summer with a sunny beach weather.
That, soon changed, the following week, in which we were booked to an Adult Education
Seminar weekend by "Katedra" which promised a delightful program
"France- Not only to Franco-philes " . at hotel Cramim.
This safer substitute, was the closest, yet only partially satisfying, instead of the "real thing"- an actual visit to Paris- still an high risk, during this pandemic's second year.
Still, it wasn't that appealing to David, who declined to join the "Geriatric Club" as he referrers to Katedra's crowd, while feeling exempt off, this same Golden age group...
So instead dragging a reluctant husband,,. I had the pleasure of inviting my dear friend Nurit to accompany me on this "French Chansons" outing weekend, at the enchanting
Cramim Spa and Wine Hotel , situated in the hilly outskirts of Jerusalem.
A day prior to enjoying the magic of Chansons' nostalgic French music, unfortunately, an excruciating "stars twinkling" explosion, but not those of up in the sky.. was fated me...
"Black Friday" (Oct 29/20021)
At the trinkets "Max Store" (on king George St.) a thoughtless idiot parked his rented electric scooter, right inside the entrance to the store, by the exit cashiers, where the traffic of entering/existing shoppers into the store was a constant busy flow.
While paying the cashier, the heavy metal scooter tipped over by the passing-by flow crushing straight into my thigh, imprinting large black & blue mark and an agonizing pain.
The shriek I emitted, triggered by the excruciating pain, and the visual psychedelic "stars" blast, had not alarm the indifferent cashiers staff, who failed to sense any urgency as to intervene, or compassionately address my hurt. Nor the store's workers felt the need to ostracize the violator, who parked the scooter inside their store, and who made sure to fast disappear, once exposed to my wailing and firing of juicy curses, inferring to his audacity and idiocy.
Only after dishing out a ear-full of my protest and adamant insistence at the manager presence, that the store is responsible to the safety of all its shoppers, and that the manager cannot wash-out his hands off his culpability, the guy apologized for the apathy and agreed to post directives, at the store's front entrance, forbidding such recklessness.
Furthermore, as to add more insult to the earlier injury, later that Friday's afternoon my own electric bike, which I only bought on my previous visit to Israel, and hardly had the chance to enjoy it, got stolen, with the help of a disc-chainsaw, during the bright day light, despite being firmly chained locked, at our building's entrance.- bike park
What an aggravating chain of events..
Thankfully, family dinner, that Friday's eve, at our favorite Romanian restaurant, Mamaia with the grand-kids (children of my youngest daughter) and the sassy dog
(of my oldest) was the best antidote consolation, to the bitter aftertaste of the day's earlier catastrophic misfortunes, as was the anticipation to the weekend's
Katedra's Seminar plan - "France- Not only to Franco-philes "
The 2.5 days program, which started on Saturday afternoon till midday Monday, covered lectures on the iconic French singer-songwriter and poet George Brassense as presented by Israeli radio/TV anchor and lecturer Kobi Meidan, and another one on Roman Gary - born Roman Kacew ,also known by the pen name Émile Ajar, who was a fascinating French novelist, diplomat, film director, and World War II aviator.
The few other talks were not worth mentioning as they were quite disappointing.
The musical pieces and performances included video clips of famous hits, sung by the greatest French Chansoners, as presented by the musical director/editor Koby Ben-Atar
(Tel: 050-5207173 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org)
Also live Chanson performance was given by a dynamic international singer:
Orly Salomon (www.orly–solomon.com email@example.com Tel: o58 4407480 )
The musical highlights for the finale were Opera soprano singer Keren Hadar accompanied by the acclaimed Israeli classical music flamboyant maestro composer, conductor, pianist, and lecturer Gil Shoht who earned an international fame.
We heard the shorter Carmen sample and without the orchestra
A taste of more...
The Spa & Wine Cramim Hotel which opened in 2013 on the land of Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim (Grapevine Town) in midst of hilly Jerusalem surrounding, was most appropriate venue for all this elaborate Frances program to take place at.
The enchanting Hotel's landscape is enclosed with sprawling vineyards, boutique wineries, pine-tree groves, springs, monasteries, secret trails. and other historical landmark, in between the red roof villages.
The hotel belongs to the Kibbutz, but is operated by the professional Isrotel Hotel Group
There are 155 suites and luxury rooms at the hotel, of which over 100 were reserved for Katedra's seminar with over 200 participating members.
In my book, the group was oversized, and the sense of a special intimate affair was lost, although the program was run smoothly, and effectively by most dedicated Katedra' staff
The rooms come with balconies facing westward, from which the beautiful views of the Jerusalem forested rolling Hills unfold .
The vineyards around the hotel grow aromatic Gewürztraminer and Cabernet grapes, and, during harvest season, hotel guests if wish to double their fitness training efforts, can participate in the harvesting...
Heated indoor pool, and 2 outdoors pools, Turkish bath, sauna, and fitness room which offers also Yoga and Pilattis classes, throughout the day, and which I enjoyed, all assist with shading the calories gained due to consumption, of the good food served plenty at the hotel's excellently run buffet.
Furthermore, the hotel's Spa, that offers a variety of body and beauty treatments also includes anti-aging vinotherapy -a beauty therapy process where the residue of wine making (the pips and pulp) are rubbed into the skin for exfoliating qualities and to help reduce the signs of ageing, but which. I have not yet risked trying.
But most, the hotel operates, all across, most friendly and efficient service oriented staff, which made the stay at the hotel, a true treat.
* The only comment/suggestion I would make is, that since the hotel positions itself as a "Wine hotel" it would have been nice to be served a glass of wine at dinner, especially as the grapes are grown at the hotel. Or at least gift each booked room with a welcoming bottle of wine sample.
The hotel also run a Wine Workshop to which we signed in advance, and got to taste 3 wines made of the hotel's own grown grapes, by different wineries like Taperberg,, Barkan and Ella valley Wineries.
The 3 tasting glasses definitely made me quite tipsy, sleepy and out of commission for the rest of the afternoon.. and despite the sugar plentifully supplied by Katedra to maintain the crowd awake and in focus...
Morning Herritage Trail Hike
Along with additional approximately 30 Katedra's brave early risers, I was also lured to join a morning hike of a nearby nature trail.
The track, trough the hilly pine trees groves and vineyards, which originally should have covered 6 km was shorten to only 3km, after a vocal protest of the concerned members.
The hike was guided by Efrat - a tenacious seasoned 80 years old volunteer from the Kiryat Anavim Kibbutz, who run the "Golden age fit-walkers", with a disciplinary "iron fist" .
Still, half of the members vanished (returning to the hotel) in the first kilometer of the walk, when random raindrops turned into a persistent trickle, and the climb-up the rocky hill, became a steep challenge. posing a true hazard to bad falls and brittle bones.
The 3 historical observation points , bullets perforated structures, encountered on the walk, were decorated by rusty rod-iron Deer statues, situated on the structure's rooftop
The trail passes right by the Kiryat Anavim Kibbutz, and its historical cemetery were pioneering Kibbutz members and the Palmach Harel Brigade are berried and memorialized by
a stone lion image monument, designed by the famous Israeli artist Menachem Shemi who also lost a son who served in the brigade.
Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim
This first kibbutz (of about 150 members) established by immigrants from the Ukraine in 1920, on Judea Hills' land, which was purchased from the neighboring Arab village of
The name Kiryat Anavim is a hebraization of the Arabic Qaryat al-'Inab the older name of Abu Ghosh, which in turn is identified with the biblical town of Kiriath-Jearim
In the early days, the kibbutz pioneers operated a dairy and a poultry farm.
In 1968, the kibbutz produced cherries, peaches, grapes, plums; cotton fields and orange groves, .as well as had operated a guest house.
Anavid Insulation Products, plant founded in 1981 and operated for 40 years (closed 2020) was wholly owned by the Kibbutz and produced thermal insulation and sealing materials., but was sold to the Chinese.
The plant building transformed into a shopping center and office space
Kiryat Anavim served as a base for the Haganah and the Palmach (Harel Brigade),
The Kibbutz, as many others in Israel was privatized in 2007. Members still make their living off the hotel operation and of growing vineyards so beautifully decorating the surrounding landscape.
For all those Golden aged walkers who survived the invigorating hike.
an uplifting panoramic view was unfolded of several places worth a visit .
The ultra Orthodox town of Qiryat Yearim (over 6000 with 7% growth rate) bordering on one side by the Arab village of Abu Ghosh, and on the other side by the secular community of Neve Ilan, as well as Moshav Beit Nekofa and the 160 rooms Yearim Hotel a- top of the Judean highest hill, which is operated by the Ma'aleh Hahamisha Kibbutz,
all could be detected.
Like all good things, this very enjoyable French aroma weekend in the hub of Israeli wine country, came to end too soon... next time ... hopefully the "Real Thing".....