Tour Israel: History & nature at Ramat Rahel

Kibbutz Ramat Rahel, which is located on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem, was established in 1926 and is more than just a green lung within Israel’s crowded capital. The kibbutz’s special location has set the tone for the 95 years of its existence and has changed the history of the city nestled in the Judean Hills.

The public is invited to participate in a tour of the kibbutz and learn about Ramat Rahel’s fascinating history, which includes numerous upheavals and bloody battles.

Although the kibbutz’s founders and early residents fled sniper fire from Arab soldiers, when it became possible, a portion of them returned to resurrect the kibbutz.

Over the years since that time, Kibbutz Ramat Rahel has grown and blossomed, and still functions to this day as a cooperative entity.

About 10 years ago, Ramat Rahel members decided to take advantage of the kibbutz’s greatest asset: its location. It is common knowledge that real estate prices are one of the hottest topics in public discourse in Israel, and Ramat Rahel members have been more than happy to leverage its proximity to the capital, making the land upon which the kibbutz resides quite valuable. And so, after many hours of heated discussion, the members decided to sell off part of the kibbutz’s land for a hefty sum, which they then invested in the creation of a thriving tourist industry. For example, they turned the kibbutz’s swimming pool into an upscale country club and overhauled the hotel.

During the lockdowns, when most parts of Israel’s tourist industry lay dormant, Ramat Rahel got busy renovating 85 of its 165 guest rooms, at a cost of NIS 20 million. The focus of the renovation was to improve the hotel’s functionality, while keeping to the original design and ambience.

For example, because the kibbutz is a big believer in staying closely connected to nature, only natural products and biodegradable packaging are used in guest rooms. In addition, all of them are now smart, energy-efficient rooms, and all rooms feature an espresso machine.

Guests will also notice that the newly renovated rooms are much more modern and beautifully designed, and generate a relaxing, airy feeling.

What activities are available at Kibbutz Ramat Rahel?

1. Country club

As we are now at the peak of the heat of summer, many of us try to spend as many hours as possible inside a swimming pool. If you happen to be staying at the kibbutz’s hotel, you’ll be happy to know that hotel guests receive free entrance to the country club, which has an outdoor pool surrounded by green grass, an indoor pool, and a kiddie pool with slides and lots of fun water accessories.

In addition, there is an indoor gymboree inside the hotel. There is also plenty of open space on the kibbutz grounds, so you’ll feel like you’re out in nature as you wander around the kibbutz.

And, of course, once the sun begins to set, guests will fully enjoy the cool, dry Jerusalem air, and can join guided tours of the kibbutz.

 Virtual reality at the archaeological park (photographer: GIDEON LEVIN, MEITAL SHARABI) Virtual reality at the archaeological park (photographer: GIDEON LEVIN, MEITAL SHARABI)

2. VR at the archaeological park

Another benefit of staying at the Ramat Rahel Hotel is its proximity to the prominent archaeological park, located just five minutes away by foot.

Because visiting outdoor archaeological sites – especially in the heat of summer – does not always sound so attractive, the kibbutz decided to invest in fancy VR equipment. Guests are now invited to don VR glasses, sit back and enjoy a 3D audiovisual experience, as they watch how the site was excavated, and what life there 3,000 years ago must have looked like.

The archaeology tour begins in the courtyard of the magnificent royal palace, which was built in the seventh century BCE, when the region was ruled by the Assyrian Empire. During excavations of the site, archaeologists uncovered seal impressions on handles of storage jars with the word “lamelech” (Hebrew for “to the king”) that were apparently used by tax collectors, showing the site’s importance as an administrative center.

In the video, visitors will get to see how large and impressive the palace must have looked at the height of its grandeur, as well as watch a typical day all those years ago.

Price: NIS 40. Preregistration available on Ramat Rahel website.

3. Hydroponic greenhouse

Although Ramat Rahel is located in a city, it still functions 100% as a typical agricultural communal operative. The public is invited to take a closer look at one of the kibbutz’s successful agricultural industries by joining a tour led by Isi, the kibbutz’s beekeeper. Participants will also learn about the especially juicy cherries that are grown locally on the kibbutz. One of the highlights of the tour will most likely be the visit to the greenhouse where vegetables and herbs are grown using hydroponics, meaning that everything is grown without using soil. Visitors will learn about the benefits and downsides of this type of growing, as well as why bees are an integral part of our survival on this planet since they make a large percentage of pollinating insects, and as a result are the worlds’ most important pollinator of food crops in the world. At the end of the tour, participants will be invited to make their own candles out of beeswax and taste a few types of lettuce and honey.

Price: NIS 30 (over age 3). Preregistration available on Ramat Rahel website.

4. Ona Winery

The kibbutz members are extremely proud to promote their very own Ona Winery, which also produces a quality line of liqueurs.

The winery was founded by Itzik Ben Ram, who began making liqueurs as a hobby while working in his first career. Ben Ram makes high-quality and fruity liqueurs with relatively high alcohol content, from cherries, strawberries, passion fruit, apricots and lychees.

The winery visitor center, which is located next to the vegetable fields and greenhouses, has a gorgeous view of the Judean Hills.

Visitors are invited to join a guided tour, which includes a short video explaining how liqueur is produced, starting with planting the crops and ending with the bottling process. The tour will lead you through the processing plant and end with a tasting of a variety of liqueurs (and fruit juice for the children).

Price: NIS 30. Preregistration available on Ramat Rahel website or by phone: 052-883-5979.

Eyal's Farm on Kibbutz Ramat Rahel (photographer: GIDEON LEVIN, MEITAL SHARABI)Eyal’s Farm on Kibbutz Ramat Rahel (photographer: GIDEON LEVIN, MEITAL SHARABI)

5. Eyal’s Farm

Whereas at most kibbutzim you’ll see (or at least smell) cows or other animals, at Ramat Rahel you’ll find Eyal’s Farm, an ecological and treatment center that teaches visitors about viability, environmental protection and respect for animals.

The farm was established in memory of kibbutz member Eyal Yoel, who was killed in 2002 during Operation Defensive Shield. It boasts an ecological pool with ducks, an open space for sheep and rabbits, an herb garden and a grove full of fruit trees. This is not a petting zoo; it is a haven for animals where visitors can feed them and learn about sustainability.

The farm is open on Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., with tours on the hour.

Price: NIS 15 (from age 2). Free for hotel guests. Preregistration required: (02) 670-2930.

Price of overnight stay at hotel: Starting at NIS 890, including breakfast.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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