Last week my friend and I decided it was a great day to “make a tiyuul,” as we say here in Israel. In America it would translate to “go on a field trip.” I had been wanting to go to the Marzipan factory/store/museum in Kfar Tavor for three years, so…. we planned an entire trip with activities in that area.
Kfar Tavor is a small, but growing (what isn’t here??) village about an hour southeast of us at the foot of Har Tavor (hahr tahVOOR) or as it’s pronounced in English, Mount Tabor. The area is steeped in history. For the Jewish people, Har Tavor in the book of Judges (Mishpatim), is the mountaintop where Deborah and Barak planned the victory over the Canaanite general, Sisera. It was in the times before the Davidic kingdom was established, and this mother in Israel bravely led and advised General Barak. She was a prophet and a judge. Great role model too!
For Christians, in the Gospel accounts, Mount Tabor was the site of the transfiguration of Jesus in front of his disciples into a glorious form. It was during the feast of Sukkot (tabernacles), so his followers wanted to build Sukkot for him, Moses, and Elijah who also appeared with Jesus in a glorious cloud. Today there is a Roman Catholic (Franciscan) Church and a Greek Orthodox Church atop the mountain. It is a pilgrimage site for all faiths with sweeping vistas for miles in all directions- a beautiful and tranquil spot.
But today, we were staying at the foot of Tavor. As one more interesting historical note, the Rothschild family were great philanthropists, funding much of the modern Palestine pioneer movement. Dorothy Rothschild sent money and aid to Kfar Tavor in the early 1900s for agricultural advancement…..her Hebrew name was ….. wait for it….. Devorah! And!!! In Hebrew devorah means “bee.”
Which in a circuitous way, brings us to our first stop of the day. A most unexpectedly wonderful surprise!!!
Dvorat HaTavor Honey Farm/Bee Farm
My friend, Hadassah, and I arrived unannounced, but were greeted by our most gracious Israeli host, Yigal ben Ze’ev. What an amazing, hospitable and entertaining man!!! Yigal first gave us a tour of the farm/farm animals and petting zoo. They have not only typical farm animals but poultry from around the world.
We next went to one of the indoor educational areas, where Ze’ev explained the life cycle of the honeybee; how honey is processed; and the different products obtained from bees and their practical applications – from food to pollen to beeswax. It is a great place for all ages. Little kids are given bee costumes to wear and keep; honey and carob are mixed to create a delicious fudge; and each person gets a wick and fresh sheet of beeswax to make a candle. For me, a former homeschooler, it was paradise! I learned that propolis is used for its antibiotic properties and royal jelly in hormone therapy as well as cosmetics. Bees are widely used in natural pollination here with Biobee, a leader in organic insect technology around the globe, located just a few kilometers to the South.
After our lesson, we were escorted to the next station, where Mr. ben Ze’ev demonstrated how smoke in a canister was used to put the bees into a more dormant phase in order to extract the honey from the hives. He suited up in his beekeeper suit and led us into a caged in area from where we could watch him collect the honey in the apiary. Supposedly, in the time of Abraham, donkey dung was mixed with acacia wood chips to put the bees to sleep. Who knew???
We also learned the history of beekeeping from ancient to modern times, seeing different hives from logs to ceramic bee jars to skeps and modern plastic stackable hives.
The next stop on our journey was the silkworm farm. Actually, worms is a misnomer. They are actually a caterpillar, and their use in silk production has a rich history. Israel was a major stop on the silk route, as mulberry trees grow here. The caterpillars feed exclusively on the mulberry leaves. (By the way, the delicious mulberries were ripe for picking in the courtyard. Here in Israel they are called toot etz, or tree strawberries).
In another large indoor educational center, Hadassah and I learned about the lifecycle of the silk caterpillar and the history of the silk industry. There was a short film, great displays on cocoons, silk extraction ( the cocoon left behind by the newly emerged moth is collected, boiled, and silk threads extracted), weaving, fashion, and more hands-on arts and crafts activities. At each station we received lovely handouts in both Hebrew and English.
At Dvorat HaTavor, there is ample shaded area with lots of picnic tables. Great for families, classrooms, birthday and Bar Mitzvah parties. Bring your own food. Clean, well-appointed restrooms were a plus. Tractor rides around the farm are available with advance reservations for minimum ten people.
In the gift shop, we met The delightful Malka Ben Ze’ev, Yigal’s wife. She is the Queen Bee here ( in Hebrew Malka translates into queen). The store was small but well stocked. I bought a bottle of mead (honey wine) for my son…made on the premises), honey lip balm and two jars of bee pollen, which I might add is really helping me combat my allergies!!! There were all kinds of cosmetics, candles, honey, books, toys, and cookbooks.
Hadassah and I spent about 2 1/2 hours there, but could have easily stayed longer! The place has been in operation for over 25 years. It is a family run industry. Their son, Boaz does Skyped lessons in English for classrooms around the world… book well in advance!
This was by far one of the best activities to date I’ve done here. Our hosts were super gracious and had great stories. The farm, located on Moshav Shadmot Dvora, on the outskirts of town, is open from 9-3 year round. Tours in Hebrew, English & Arabic. Reservations required.
http://firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel. +972-4-6767459. They are on Facebook & Youtube
The rest of the day paled in comparison. In the immediate area are the Marzipan Museum ( just a room with modeled Marzipan storybook characters) and rather expensive gift shop with no service.
Har Tavor Winery is also across the way, and a pioneer museum on the main road. There is a lovely new shopping center right off the main road with several Kosher restaurants.
But don’t dare miss Dvorat HaTavor!!! Welcome to the Land of Silk and Honey!!