Heading South Out of Tel Aviv
Using Tel Aviv as our base, we can drive south along the coast and a few kilom eters inland making a large loop. The day will bring us to the pre-state of Israel Ayalon Institute where, under the noses of the British authorities young Kibbutz members descended underground each day to secretly produce two million bullets which would be used in defense of the Jewish communities before and during the War of Independence. The tour here takes us down spiral staircases underground into the factory itself.
From modern Zionist history we head for the lovely rolling hill country of Bet Guvrin to experience elaborate, large caves which ancient communities utilized for residences, defense and commercial activities from the time of the first Jewish Temple, through Greek times and into the Roman perioid of rule over the Land of Israel
After a stop for lunch we are ready to reengage in modern Zionist history at Kibbutz Yad Mordehai where desperate farmers accompanied by 20 Haganah defenders engaged in a desperate holding action to stop a much larger Egyptian force from destroying the Kibbutz and then continuing up the coast to capture Tel Aviv.
We are now ready to drive the short distance from Yad Mordechai to the town of Sderot, where the point is brought home that the struggle of the residents of Yad Mordechai in 1948 to prevail upon forces determined to promote Israel’s destruction is now fought by the residents of Sderot against implacable forces from the Gaza Strip.
Heading North Out of Tel Aviv
Driving north out of busy Tel Aviv we notice that the morning rush is in full swing in the opposite direction. Within 20 minutes rural scenes intermingle amongst the heavily populated coastal settlements and by the time we reach Cesarea green is the norm. An hour out of Tel Aviv and we reach our first stop, the Atlit Detention Center where the British imprisoned illegal Jewish immigrants from Europe who had survived the holocaust and now wanted to start a new life in the Land of Israel.
Leaving Atlit, Haifa is visible, only ten kilometers away and soon we are climbing the Carmel mountain and entering Haifa’s residential neighborhoods set amidst a profusion of trees and views in every direction. Near the Carmel Center with its hotels, shops and restaurants we come to the beautiful Bahai Gardens overlook. The overlook view is a revelation: Haifa’s German Colony, it’s busy downtown and expanding port in the foreground. In the middle distance dozens of container ships sit, anchored in the bay awaiting to import and export goods. And in the distance, the hills of Galilee sloping down to the Mediterranean Sea at Rosh Hanikra, the border with Lebanon. The gardens below you are a marvel as well, 18 levels of lavish manicured grass, plants, trees and flowers.
Leaviing the Gardens above us, we descend through the city of Haifa and pick up a new highway which carries us up to the Lebanese border in 45 minutes where we will spend about an hour enjoying the sea and grottos at Rosh Hanikra.
It’s time for some lunch, and then a drive back south towards Tel Aviv. We’ll save some time cutting through the Carmel mountain tunnel from the north to the south side of Haifa and a quarter of an hour later we arrive at En Hod Artists Village which was established by artists after the creation of the state of Israel. The village contains galleries, museums and restaurants with a calming view towards the Mediterranean Sea.
Our last stop before returning to Tel Aviv tonight will be in the sleepy village of Zichron Yaacov, home to Israeli’s first Winery, the Carmel Winery. Zichron was among the first new farming communities to be established by early Zionist pioneers in the 1880’s and it has a pedestrian street lined with shops and eateries. It also has two recommended museums, the Museum of the First Aliyah dedicated to understanding the first pioneers who settled here, and the Aaronson House museum, dedicated to the history of the Aaronson family and their importance to the new yishuv (community) of Jewsh settling the Land of Israel in the 19th century.