Day drive around the Carmel in Israel

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Middle East » Israel » Haifa District » Hadar HaCarmel
January 13th 2016
Published: January 14th 2016
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Carmel Forest Fire MemorialCarmel Forest Fire MemorialCarmel Forest Fire Memorial

Today we went on a Tour Guide led drive of the Carmel region near Haifa Israel. The tour included a trip to a Druze village. The last time I (Lesley) went to a Druze village was in 1976 - but I am jumping ahead.

Ten of us met with our tour guide Rina Yellin outside a school in Ra’anana. Rina did a bit of to-ing and fro-ing to ensure all 3 cars understood the directions she had prepared, and we finally set off just after 10am. Not bad considering that we were scheduled to start at 10am. However, me being me, we had barely got past Netanya (a mere 20 minutes away) when nature called and we had to make a comfort stop. As I was driving Rina in our car, I was quite pleased that she too took advantage of the situation. We stopped at a mall that neither of us had been to before and had it not been for the fact that we were on a tour which she was leading we could have spent a few minutes in looking at what was on offer.

Back on the road we caught up with the others at
We are enjoying a great Israeli day outingWe are enjoying a great Israeli day outingWe are enjoying a great Israeli day outing

but maybe a bit windswept on the Carmelite Monastery roof, with the Jezreel Valley as our backdrop.
our first stop the Carmel Forest Fire Memorial. On 2 December 2010 the deadliest fire in Israel occured. The fire broke out in the Carmel Forest just south of Haifa. 44 persons were killed including the newly appointed first female chief of Haifa’s police force. The remainder of the victims were mostly cadets who had come to evacuate the prison which is in the area. The fire took 82 hours to put out and killed millions of trees and destroyed many acres of forest land. At the top of Mount Carmel is the luxury Carmel Forest Spa (highly recommended) and by a miracle the fire stopped just short of the hotel although the spa suffered a lot of smoke damage. We remember this well as we had been booked to go to the spa two weeks after the fire started. The monument is just one ginormous metal arc. At the entrance to the memorial is a plaque bearing a list of the names of those who lost their lives. There is also a metal flame with a memorial plaque. The arc is very impressive and can be seen from the road going up the mount. Likewise the open space around
Jezreel ValleyJezreel ValleyJezreel Valley

a view from roof of Carmelite Monastery
the arc provides a broad view of the hilly area that burned.

On a personal note, Don & I pass the Carmel Forest area at least a couple of times each year, and we witnessed how nature regenerated after the fire. At first the lush deep green was replaced by black, and sparse charred trees were visible on the hillsides. Then we saw lots of colour emerge over the next couple of years, which we had never noticed before. These were wildflowers that had been hidden by the dense green forest. Finally the primary green has returned recently, again hiding the low-lying colours from view.

Then on to Isfiya – the Druze village. We met our Druze guide, Eyal. at the garage just outside the village. Another excuse for a comfort stop for a few of us. Our guide explained that the Druze live in the hills and keep to themselves. They have not had a happy and safe history since they broke away from the Shi’ite sect about 1000 years ago. Eyal took us to the outside of their house of worship which was firmly locked. He explained that the Druze are a sect of the Muslim religion but the truly religious members must study the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Koran and they revere Jethro, the father in law of Moses. Children up to the age of 15 are allowed into the house of worship and then they have to chose whether or not to be religious. If they become religious they have to observe a lot of moral values - it is a religion of values - which for children of the 21st century is very difficult. They have to forego sex and drugs and rock and roll. (Actually no alcohol nor drugs.) However, between the ages of 45 and 65 people who have lived more secularly may decide to become religious and devote themselves to study and strict practice of the religion. Many adults do so, as this is the only way that they can pass on the secrets of the religion to the next generation. You can tell religious women by the white headscarves they wear, and the religious men who shave their heads, grow a mustache and wear a white round hat. Anybody who marries out of the Druze religion is disowned by their families. They are no longer openly welcome in the village and if they want to visit their families they have to see them surreptitiously. Their children will not be Druze. So even George Clooney’s wife has been disowned!

We walked to a restaurant which is in the front room of a Druze house. The restaurant serves scheduled visiting groups and has a kitchen which is kosher certified for catering to Jews. There we discussed the Druze today. The Druze were farmers and worked the land. The first Druze killed in the Arab Israel conflict was in 1936. The Druze serve in the IDF and the girls do national service. Many Druze work outside of the village in Haifa and other big towns in industry and high tech. In their religion they believe in reincarnation. They believe that as soon as a person dies his/her soul is reincarnated into the body of a newborn male/female Druze baby. Man goes to man and woman to woman. This is why there are no tombstones in the cemetery except to those who have fallen by the hand of terrorists or in battle. This is to allow the village to participate in the ceremonies held on Remembrance Day. After a death they hold three days of mourning and that is that - no further mourning and no visits to the cemetery. At the end of a sumptuous lunch, Samir, the owner of the restaurant, told us his story of reincarnation. He explained that many people remember their former lives and have often been united with the family members of the person from whom they have been reincarnated. Samir claims that he is the reincarnation of a Druze pilot who was downed in the 1967 war.

Then back to the cars and a drive through the larger Druze village of Daliyat el Carmel to the site of the Deir Al-Mukraqa Carmelite Monastery. We were amused that the monastery is normally open for visitors but closed Christmas Day, Easter, January 1 and Yom Kippur! We stopped at the statue of Elijah the Prophet with the severed head of a prophet of Ba-al, as the Carmelite Monastery was built at the site of the biblical showdown between Elijah and his fight against the Prophets of Ba’al. Then we moved to the garden where we enacted a play written by Rina about the story of Elijah and his fight against the Prophets of
Coffee liqueurCoffee liqueurCoffee liqueur

our purchase from the Morad Winery in Yokne'am Illit
Ba’al and Queen Jezebel as found in the Book of 1 Kings Chapter 18. I played the role of Elijah and Don took the role of a person in the crowd. The men on the tour felt that this was apt as his words in response to Elijah were “yes I agree, yes I agree.” Then we climbed up onto the monastery roof to see the stunning views of the Jezreel Valley and to take photographs. Whilst we were up there a group from New Zealand came up. I struck up a conversation with them. They told me that they had come from Auckland. We exchanged stories and then wished them continued good touring in Israel.

Again back to the cars for the last stop on our tour. We went to the Morad Winery Visitor’s Center in Yokne'am Illit. This is a winery with a difference. We saw a film which showed their wine is made from everything but grapes. In Hebrew this is known as shichar and not yayin. Morad wines are made from pomegranates, passion fruit, plum, apricots, honey, etc etc. We were given tasters which were really good. My favourite was the coffee liqueur but I was not so keen on the chocolate liqueur. We decided to buy the coffee liqueur and we also bought a gift pack. We got a free bottle of honey wine as a present from the Morad shop.

At this point our day tour ended. We said our fond farewells and drove back to Ra’anana. We dropped Rina off at her house and came back to our home exhausted but exhilarated. A wonderful day out. Thanks Rina (



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