We spent the better part of the day in Ramat Hanadiv, a nature preserve/gardens at the southern end of the Carmel, between Zichron Yaakov and Binyamina. (It is a 2 minute drive from the Tishbi winery.) We thought it would be just a short visit and we would then venture onto Zichron Yaakov for lunch and a visit to the Nili museum (a museum to the resistance against the British). But, we were pleasantly surprised with how much there was to do at Ramat Hanadiv (we tried to go there the last time we went to Zichron and Tishbi, but arrived when it was closing). The highlight (for most visitors) are the beautiful gardens surrounding the burial place of Baran Edmond de Rothschild and his wife, the Baroness Adelaide. True, the terraced gardens, the rose gardens and the other botanical beauties were amazing. But, we were there to hike in the nature preserve. There are three marked trails - the helpful woman at the information center suggested we take the blue-marked Spring trail, which is recommended for families and the map (that cost us 2 shekels) says should take an hour to cover the 2.5 Km. We decided to take the red-marked Manor trail instead. It is 4 Km long an is supposed to take 2 hours. Well, being us we would have finished the trail in an hour or so, but we took a bit of a detour and our path was more like 6+ Kms. Why? Well, we would like to think that we planned it that way all along but the answer is much simpler, and one word. Cows. Lots and lots of cows. But, more on that later. So we started out on a dirt path, realized we were on a service road and not the trail and double backed. On the hike(s) (more on that later too), we only saw 2 other hikers, and extremely little litter. We were very happy to only have to dodge the cowpies that marked the trail (that should have given us a clue, but we are a bit clueless sometimes). We came to the first signpost (marked with a #1) and dutifully looked at our map for an explanation. But, the map we bought didn't tell us anything (we found out later that the Hebrew map includes explanations - sheesh, talk about discrimination). That was when we came across the first hiker - a woman who was documenting the number and types of butterflies she saw. She told us that we were standing by a ancient quarry and we headed on down the path. The boys were trailblazing ahead, Sima and Naomi were in the middle and Mike was trailing back with Ilana who seemed to be in her own little (happy) world most of the morning. That was when Noah and Eitan sprinted back to Sima yelling "turn around, turn around!!" Naomi asked in a panic "Why, wild pigs?" as were told at the information center that pigs do live in the park but hide during the day and come out at night. The boys screamed, "No worse, cows and horses!" Recall, ever since the unfortunate horse bite incident Eitan is terrified of horses. So, Mike took the lead, Sima took charge of the girls and Noah was charged with throwing himself between any wild, vicious horses and his brother. As we moved forward in our defensive positions we came across the first of the wild horses - with engorged utters and looking an awful lot like a cow. (Noah said later that he was the boy that cried "Horse".) Then another cow, and another, and a few more. They were just chomping away at the grass and showed little interest in us, but the path was blocked, and not only by cows but by a yellow rope that seemed to be directing us off the path. So, we dutifully followed the rope naively thinking it would take us back to the red path. But, alas, we found ourselves off the path and on some unmarked dirt roads. We aimed ourselves for the cliff overlooking the coastal plain (the red path eventually turned at the cliff and has several amazing overlooks) so we figured the worst thing we would do would cut to the north or south of the path and rejoin it. Well, we ended up going further south than we thought and found ourselves in a Tumuli field. What is a tumulus - good question. A tumulus is a Caananite grave site, marked by a pile of rocks,and quite cool. We were several Kms south of were we should have been but we found ourselves on the Israel National Trail and took that north until it met up with the red trail, at a very cool excavation of a Byzantine farm house. The house was 2 stories tall, and the foundation is well preserved. That farm was built on the same spot where there was a Second Temple Era agricultural site. We saw wine presses from both eras, a mikveh and an olive press. The red path took us down into a wadi (valley created by a stream) and then back up to the trailhead. A very cool hike that we (meaning Sima and Mike) would definitely do again. But not cool in the sense that we were drenched with sweat and thirsty as much of the water in our camelbacks was still frozen.
But at the visitors center, like an oasis beckoning to us, was a lovely little cafe (called Kerem Zayit - vineyard of olives?). We must say, that it is now our favorite restaurant. The views are amazing, the food was delicious, and we adore the little tiny cheese graters for the parmesean. Even the boys, who are huge meat lovers, agree that our three favorite restaurants are all dairy restaurants - Aresto in Caesaria, the Tishbi Winery restaurant and now the restaurant at Ramat Hanadiv. The boys split penne and a pizza, the adults each had salads (Nicoise and a salad with fried goat cheese), Naomi had lasagna and Ilana had here favorite, ravioli (this time spinach with tomato sauce). The highlights were the focaccia served with the salads (that all enjoyed), the ice mint that Sima and Noah had (think ice cafe with lemonade and mint - crushed ice infused with mint and lemon), and the individual serving of parmesean cheese with a mini grater for the pasta - Mike used up every bit of Ilana's on her ravioli.
After the wonderful lunch, we did the Spring trail, which was supposed to take an hour. The kids all made guesses, and everyone overshot - it took us less than 30 minutes. But the short trail took us be a Roman tunnel and aquaduct (a little one) that feeds a pool/bathouse. A sign said that this was the best preserved aquaduct in Israel and the only one that continuously fed water from its source to its destination since ancient time. We then saw other ruins, but don't know what they were (darn helpless map). Since there was no complaining on that short hike, the girls got ice cream and the boys chose sodas. After the hike, back at the information center, we found out the cows are in the park to graze the greenery and get rid of the vegetation that could feed a fire. Though we only saw their poops, the park also has a herd of goats that serve the same function. As we turned away from the attendant at the visitor center and looked back over at our kids, who were waiting outside, we saw them surrounded by a group of 20 or so Nigerian men taking turns posing with them and taking photos. We went to investigate and found that this group is visiting Israel for 3 months and learning about agricultural techniques. Apparently one of the guys had approached the kids and asked them where they were from, they said St. Louis, in America, and that was the hook. Each of them wanted a photo with the kids, which they obliged until it just got too tedious and we had to move on.
We then watched a short movie (thank you air conditioning) about Ramat Hanadiv ant the Baron de Rothschild. Unsurprisingly, the movie did not share any of the negative perspectives on Rothschild or his overseers that we heard at the First Aliyah Museum. But, we learned that his father was from Frankurt and was renowned for his honest business dealings. The father asked his 5 sons to spread out across Europe and deal with each other honestly - they did, to London, Paris, Vienna, Florence and .... 1 other city. The youngest, Edmond, went to Paris. It was there that he joined the French, Jewish aristocracy and became interested in the fledgling Jewish communities in Palestine. He was a patron of towns from Rosh Pina to Gedera, including Zichron Yaakov. He died in 1934 and his will asked that he be buried in Israel, but did not indicate where. His wife died the next year, and in 1954 their bodies were brought from France aboard an Israeli naval frigate and they were reinterred at Ramat Hanadiv. (Rothschild was known as Hanadiv Hayadua - the Known Benefecator - because of the humble way that he gave of his fortune.) We then walked the gardens and visited the Rothschild crypt.
Afterwards, we returned to Netanya, the girls and Eitan swam a little and we all got cleaned up to go to Modiin, to have dinner with Nava and her family. Although we were afraid of getting horribly lost in Modiin, we only made one wrong turn and found the Brief's house easily enough. We had a wonderful home cooked BBQ with Nava, her parents and siblings, a cousin (and her friend) who just finished a Birthright trip and, of course, Yehoshua. The conversation was lively and interesting, and the Brief children were wonderful hosts to our kids; we even had the opportunity to watch all of the kids gang up on Nava and try to wrestle away her bat mitzvah album. Any of the Brief kids (or Yehoshua) who post pictures from Nava's bat mitzvah up on Facebook will get special prize from St. Louis. We then sadly said our goodbyes as Nava is leaving for camp up north and we will not be seeing her again this trip, and made our way back to Netanya. The kids are, again, exhausted. They already complained about getting up early tomorrow, but tomorrow is a big day - we head up north to the Golan and to the Teperbergs!