5 authentic and sustainable adventures to have in Israel

Establishing farm-to-fork livelihoods over 100 years ago, Israel embraced sustainability before it was cool. Its eco-friendly initiatives have only blossomed since. Here’s how to experience them…

Team Wanderlust
01 August 2022
Promoted by
Israel Travel

1. Get hands on at an organic farm

Israel has become a world leader in fresh produce exports and cutting-edge farming techniques. But it shouldn’t be. With two thirds of its land deemed arid or semi-arid, Israel’s agricultural prowess is a bit of a head-scratcher. Much of its rise is owed to humble beginnings over 100 years ago, when a handful of hardy locals set up a rural community in Degania with the aim of living off the land. It was called a kibbutz; today there are around 250 of them. Kibbutzim were clearly ahead of the sustainable curve with their principles and now throw open their doors to welcome visitors inquisitive enough to learn about the wholesome work they do. The desolate desert valley of the Arava is the last place you’d expect successful farming communities but it’s home to two of Israel’s most innovative kibbutzim. Kibbutz Lotan is renowned for its fresh approach to sustainable living and regular tours will have you pedalling a bicycle-powered washing machine, watching houses being built from mud-covered hay bales and getting hands-on with permaculture farming. Nearby, Kibbutz Neot Semadar boasts a winery, goat dairy and a gallery well stocked with artisanal jewellery, ceramics and metalwork. Here, self-guided tours will keep you well-watered with its wine and organic juice tastings.

2. Embrace nature

With the electric pace of modern life, adopting a more stripped-back version has never been so tempting. Deep in the bubblewrap hills of Western Galilee, this way of living still rules supreme in the village of Clil. Disconnected from the rest of Israel, Clil is a back-to-basics idyll with its sustainable produce and tight-knit community. It’s not even linked up to the national grid. The locals here took their lead from an ancient settlement that once thrived here, whose crumbling waterholes, tombs and olive press can still be spied. It’s not an outpost totally cut off, however, as visitors are encouraged to get stuck in. You can forage for wild herbs, head out on a guided ecological walk or visit the botanical garden that lies at the village’s heart, which grows Galilean vegetation. Clil prides itself on its artisanal way of life and there are plenty of workshops to try, too, like basket weaving, ceramics or a seasonal cooking lesson.

3. Take a stroll around the Ariel Sharon Park

The popular proverb says one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but nowhere epitomises that better than Ariel Sharon Park, a 2,000-acre chunk of land that has undergone a remarkable makeover on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Up to 25 years ago, it was Israel’s largest landfill site where heaps of rubbish were dumped on top of Mount Hiriya. After it closed in 1998, work to transform the rubbish dump into the largest urban park built within the last 100 years began – to put that into perspective, it’s three times the size of New York City’s Central Park. Where litter once carpeted the landscape now stand thousands of trees as part of a green lung webbed with hiking and cycling trails, while a large lake is now a magnet for birdwatchers spying waterfowl like little bitterns, squacco herons and white-throated kingfishers. Guided tours are your ticket to see the good work its 150-acre recycling station does, where nearly 3,000 tonnes of household waste are given a new lease of life in the same place they were once left to rot.

4. Sample fine wines

The grapes dangling from the sun-dappled vineyards lining the hillsides on Kfar Tikva (‘Village of Hope’) end up as full-bodied wines. The winery which produces them has the same full-bodied, wholesome philosophy. In 2003, Tulip Winery was founded by the Itzhaki family as the first social winery in the world, where they twin their love for wine with a love for people. This is a business with a conscience, as Tulip employs 40 locals with special needs from kibbutz-style village Kfar Tikva. This unique opportunity helps them develop skills and integrate into society in a way they likely wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. The winery’s Visitors’ Centre is your opportunity to sample its good life and learn more about Kfar Tikva itself, explore the vineyards, meet the local staff and try the wine itself. It’s safe to say, this is a winery tour with a difference.

5. Meet the locals

The community at Kfar Tikva aren’t the only locals you should meet in Israel. For a pocket-sized country like Israel it punches well above its weight for cultural diversity. Tel Aviv is the best place to witness the country’s patchwork of heritage, whose residents include Armenian Christians, Arab Muslims and Jews, the latter of which hail from as far as Russia, Ethiopia and Spain. Wander Jaffa’s ancient flea market and harbour (the oldest part of the city) to see Arab local life in action, or visit the city at the end of November and you’ll spy a sea of vibrant umbrellas carried by Ethiopian Jews celebrating Sigd. Away from the city, distinct cultural heritage is only magnified. Standing atop Mount Carmel, the Druze villages of Isfiya and Daliat el-Carmel offer colourful splashes of Arab life with their buzzing bazaars and bustling ethnic markets (the baklava is divine). A nudge north on Israel’s west coast is Haifa, where the Baha’i gold-domed temple and elegant gardens are two of the city’s highlights, while there’s even the chance to bed down with Israel’s nomadic Bedouin tribes in the Negev Desert.

Feeling inspired?

Head over to the official Israel website now to start planning your dream visit.

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