Exploring and reliving ancient Israel

By Wayne Wirtanen
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(Second of two parts)

Reliving a day in the life of ancient Israelis

Many cities around the world have touristy “old towns.” They usually have costumed “players” demonstrating traditional crafts and acting out the details of daily life from a previous era. The ones that I have visited in the U.S. attempt to recreate time capsules from one or two hundred years in the past.

In Galilee, I visited a recreated first-century village and a working farm called Kfar-Kedem (“To Touch the Past”), founded just six years ago. The visit made me feel like a time traveler going back to biblical days, some 2,000 years ago.

The premises and programs are organized to immerse guests into the daily routines of early Jews in Galilee, pretty much as described in the Bible. Tourists themselves actually end up as the “costumed players” here.

The garb

Our group of some 30 “time travelers” received their clothing for the afternoon visit. A simple lightweight cotton smock was supplied to each of us to wear over our street clothes.

My smock was a small rectangular sheet with a hole in the middle for my head to pass through. It covered me front and back to down below my knees and tied around the middle with a coarse rope for a belt. There were no armholes; my arms just hung out through the open sides of the smock. (Unlike a hospital gown, it covered both front and back effectively.)

A running commentary by Menachem Goldberg, the farm’s managing director, explained the origins and practicality of this simple outer garment. Next came a long white scarf with instructions and a demonstration for wrapping and tying it around the head to form a turban.

A midday meal

Ingredients for making a midday meal had been laid out and semiprepared for cooking. Goldberg (dressed as we were) took a quantity of wheat from a bag and poured it onto a flat black disc made of what looked like volcanic rock. He then placed a matching disc (about 18 inches in diameter and about three inches thick) on top of the wheat, and by rotating the top disc by hand he demonstrated a simple mill for grinding wheat into flour.

We each were given a small ball of moistened flour a little smaller than a fist. With varying amounts of skill, we formed thin, flat, circular “patties” similar to pizza crusts. A fire beneath a domed metal hemisphere that looked like a large upside-down car hubcap provided a hot cooking surface.

Using tongs, we cooked our creations a few seconds on each side and — shazam! — we were eating unleavened pita bread that was a staple in biblical times. Some of us dipped the bread into a red “sauce” made from olive oil and crushed berries from plants growing nearby. (I found that flavor much too strong.)

This unleavened bread along with clear, cold springwater represented the meal that sustained Jews here for centuries.

Meat and eggs from farm animals obviously were available in those days but usually were consumed in modest quantities and on special occasions.

Our group stayed on the farm for only a couple of hours, but there are organized programs of from one to several days (for groups of 20 minimum) and even a 2-week journey to Jerusalem.

Following are descriptions of some of the activities from Kfar-Kedem’s literature (available according to season):

“Olives are pressed before your eyes in a recreated ancient olive oil factory. Guests may receive individual labeled bottles of famous Galilee olive oil. Nighttime is milking time at our sheep pens. Guests are invited to have a ‘hands on’ experience.

“Galilean grapes, hand-picked from local vineyards, are gathered in an ancient stone carved winepress. Guests are urged to remove their footwear and join in the crushing of the grapes in the time-honored fashion.

“Join a one-hour caravan on a scenic route through the ancient hills of Galilee — our donkeys are made for riding. The only way to travel the ways of Kfar-Kedem is on the back of one of our fleet of user-friendly donkeys.

“At the height of the evening, a great feast will be served of local delicacies. While reclining on cushions in the oriental fashion, singers, dancers and the rest of our staff will provide entertainment and storytelling beneath the Galilee stars that will last well into the night.”

Accommodations

On several-day programs at Kfar-Kedem that include easy hiking and/or donkey riding, there is a choice of sleeping in shepherds’ tents (with modern mattresses and sleeping bags) or in local hotels and guest houses.

For more information and costs, check with your travel agent or directly contact Kfar-Kedem, Hosha’aya Nazareth 17915, Israel; tel. 972-6-6565511, fax 972-6-6570378, e-mail info@kfar-kedem.co.il or visit www.kfar-kedem.co.il.

For more information regarding travel to Israel, contact the Israel Ministry of Tourism, 800 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017; phone 212/499-5650, fax 212/499- 5655, e-mail igtonewyork@imot.org or visit www.tourism.gov.il.

Shalom and happy trails.

Wayne Wirtanen was a guest of the Israel Ministry of Tourism and attended the Third Prime Minister’s Conference for Tourism to Israel with about 600 other delegates from around the world. To demonstrate Israel’s commitment to tourism development, the attendees were honored with speeches on the topic by Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

(Second of two parts)

Reliving a day in the life of ancient Israelis

Many cities around the world have touristy “old towns.” They usually have costumed “players” demonstrating traditional crafts and acting out the details of daily life from a previous era. The ones that I have visited in the U.S. attempt to recreate time capsules from one or two hundred years in the past.

In Galilee, I visited a recreated first-century village and a working farm called Kfar-Kedem (“To Touch the Past”), founded just six years ago. The visit made me feel like a time traveler going back to biblical days, some 2,000 years ago.

The premises and programs are organized to immerse guests into the daily routines of early Jews in Galilee, pretty much as described in the Bible. Tourists themselves actually end up as the “costumed players” here.

The garb

Our group of some 30 “time travelers” received their clothing for the afternoon visit. A simple lightweight cotton smock was supplied to each of us to wear over our street clothes.

My smock was a small rectangular sheet with a hole in the middle for my head to pass through. It covered me front and back to down below my knees and tied around the middle with a coarse rope for a belt. There were no armholes; my arms just hung out through the open sides of the smock. (Unlike a hospital gown, it covered both front and back effectively.)

A running commentary by Menachem Goldberg, the farm’s managing director, explained the origins and practicality of this simple outer garment. Next came a long white scarf with instructions and a demonstration for wrapping and tying it around the head to form a turban.

A midday meal

Ingredients for making a midday meal had been laid out and semiprepared for cooking. Goldberg (dressed as we were) took a quantity of wheat from a bag and poured it onto a flat black disc made of what looked like volcanic rock. He then placed a matching disc (about 18 inches in diameter and about three inches thick) on top of the wheat, and by rotating the top disc by hand he demonstrated a simple mill for grinding wheat into flour.

We each were given a small ball of moistened flour a little smaller than a fist. With varying amounts of skill, we formed thin, flat, circular “patties” similar to pizza crusts. A fire beneath a domed metal hemisphere that looked like a large upside-down car hubcap provided a hot cooking surface.

Using tongs, we cooked our creations a few seconds on each side and — shazam! — we were eating unleavened pita bread that was a staple in biblical times. Some of us dipped the bread into a red “sauce” made from olive oil and crushed berries from plants growing nearby. (I found that flavor much too strong.)

This unleavened bread along with clear, cold springwater represented the meal that sustained Jews here for centuries.

Meat and eggs from farm animals obviously were available in those days but usually were consumed in modest quantities and on special occasions.

Our group stayed on the farm for only a couple of hours, but there are organized programs of from one to several days (for groups of 20 minimum) and even a 2-week journey to Jerusalem.

Following are descriptions of some of the activities from Kfar-Kedem’s literature (available according to season):

“Olives are pressed before your eyes in a recreated ancient olive oil factory. Guests may receive individual labeled bottles of famous Galilee olive oil. Nighttime is milking time at our sheep pens. Guests are invited to have a ‘hands on’ experience.

“Galilean grapes, hand-picked from local vineyards, are gathered in an ancient stone carved winepress. Guests are urged to remove their footwear and join in the crushing of the grapes in the time-honored fashion.

“Join a one-hour caravan on a scenic route through the ancient hills of Galilee — our donkeys are made for riding. The only way to travel the ways of Kfar-Kedem is on the back of one of our fleet of user-friendly donkeys.

“At the height of the evening, a great feast will be served of local delicacies. While reclining on cushions in the oriental fashion, singers, dancers and the rest of our staff will provide entertainment and storytelling beneath the Galilee stars that will last well into the night.”

Accommodations

On several-day programs at Kfar-Kedem that include easy hiking and/or donkey riding, there is a choice of sleeping in shepherds’ tents (with modern mattresses and sleeping bags) or in local hotels and guest houses.

For more information and costs, check with your travel agent or directly contact Kfar-Kedem, Hosha’aya Nazareth 17915, Israel; tel. 972-6-6565511, fax 972-6-6570378, e-mail info@kfar-kedem.co.il or visit www.kfar-kedem.co.il.

For more information regarding travel to Israel, contact the Israel Ministry of Tourism, 800 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017; phone 212/499-5650, fax 212/499- 5655, e-mail igtonewyork@imot.org or visit www.tourism.gov.il.

Shalom and happy trails.

Wayne Wirtanen was a guest of the Israel Ministry of Tourism and attended the Third Prime Minister’s Conference for Tourism to Israel with about 600 other delegates from around the world. To demonstrate Israel’s commitment to tourism development, the attendees were honored with speeches on the topic by Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.