5 Reasons to Explore Golan, Israel

Golan Heights is located in the northern part of Israel, in a location that was at one time occupied by Syria. While Israeli control of the area is still hotly contested, today the region is known more for grapes and wine than guns and war.

Don’t be scared off because of the events of the past, as the region is very calm now and has been occupied by Israelis for decades. Many Israeli farms, vineyards, and communities exist throughout Golan Heights, and most openly welcome visitors into their businesses and homes.

Interested in seeing a different side of Israel, away from the busy bars and beaches of Tel Aviv, and separate from the religious wonders of Jerusalem? Golan Heights is a great choice!

While there are a million great reasons to visit Golan, a few of the most special are discussed below.

Jam

Israeli and Jewish grandmas around the world are known for their fabulous fruit jam recipes, passed down through the family for centuries.

Stephanie Kempker / Own Work

Stephanie Kempker / Own Work

The Jam House is a great example. Sara, the proprietor and namesake, makes her jam with all natural ingredients in the good old fashioned grandma-styled way. She offers hundreds upon hundreds of jam flavors, ranging from sweet fruit flavors to savory vegetable spreads perfect for toast or crackers. I especially liked the garlic influenced savory jams and got a few for myself and a few for gifts. How did I figure my favorite? Sara provides free tastings of unlimited number!

She also provides interesting information and commentary, including a stern instruction at the beginning of the introduction about using a new spoon every time you try a different jam. When I looked at her questioningly (who would stick their saliva-covered spoon into a communal jam?), she informed me that you’d think it’d be common sense but it isn’t for everyone, and I’d be surprised how many locals try to “double dip.”

Wine

Golan Heights is quickly becoming an internationally recognized wine region. The cooler temperatures from the rest of Israel and the fertile soil creates prime conditions for exceptional wine production, without the expense of property in places like France and Italy. Similar quality wine in Israel is literally available at a fraction of the price in the rest of the world. In fact, a $17 bottle ranks similarly to $150 wine from other regions.

Increasing numbers of wine connoisseurs are discovering Israeli wine, yet it remains cheap while not widely available worldwide. Trying Israeli wine is a must-do while in Israel, especially for boutique wine lovers, or any fan of a good vino.

The vineyards produce small batches with a focus on quality rather than quantity. Some vineyards even produce all-organic wine, and sulfite free.

Stephanie Kempker / Own Work

Stephanie Kempker / Own Work

One vineyard, Ein Nashut Winery, invites guests to make their own wine by picking grapes and smashing them by foot. The winery also produces its own special blend for sale, without added sulfites, and aged in a repurposed Syrian bunker.

Most of the wineries in the region are extremely open to visitors, and happy to take you on a tour of their facilities and educate you on their processes and what makes Golan Heights special.

Locally made food

Slow food, local food, and homestyle food are all extremely popular in the Golan Heights region. If you want to connect with a more natural, ancient style of food production, Golan Heights is for you.

Small family owned farms, ranches, and vineyards are numerous throughout the region, and commercialized, industrialized factory farms are nowhere to be found. The farmers of Golan take pride in caring for the land, and the connection to and love for nature is obvious in their attitudes, and conveyed through taste in their delicious products.

For just one example, Bellofri farm produces its own grapes to crush for wine and juice, goats to milk by hand for cheese, and even grain for bread – which is made by hand in an old-fashioned style outdoor oven. Interested visitors can take classes on any of those processes, and learn how to replicate it at home. Even if you don’t want to make your own, the Bellofri restaurant (made entirely from recycled materials) is open for reasonably priced and intimately set tastings of food and wine pairings, including the fabulous cheese made on site. It is a definite highlight to visit and support.

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