When Guy Rilov lights his Hanukkah menorah, he will literally be carrying a torch for tradition.
The trees from which he harvests olives for their oil are more than a millennium old and, he believes, powered the menorahs of generations past. “There isn’t another crop in Israel where the same trees are being harvested today as 1,000 years ago,” he said recently, standing among his trees.
Rilov runs the Makura Farm, just south of Haifa, where he cold presses 13,000 gallons of oil from his crop each year — and he welcomes visitors. He used to be an intensive farmer before “repenting” 25 years ago and going organic. Today he is as close to self-sufficient as a viable business can be: An underground spring provides much of the water for the olive trees, and in an experimental area of the farm, he is utilizing a wetlands system that uses plants and reeds to purify dirty water and even sewage. Helpful flies, not pesticides, keep away destructive insects.
And any electricity that is needed is generated by his solar panels.
“I feel a connection with history all the time,” Rilov said. “Within a five-minute walk of my farm there are ancient olive presses where people were doing the same as I am today. That’s remarkable.”
Here in the Carmel region, foodies are developing a unique culture that emphasizes this tradition, along with a strong connection to the land. Tourists who want to taste Israel are flocking here in growing numbers to see where some of the finest items on their plates and in their glasses are coming from, and to learn about new trends in Israeli food.
Rilov’s Makura Farm is one of dozens of stops you can make in this region if you want to throw together a foodie trail during a day trip or extended vacation. “People are tired of the same old trips around Israel; they like to do something different, and there are always exciting finds to be enjoyed going after food and wine here,” said wine writer Adam Montefiore, senior manager at the Carmel Winery.
For wine lovers, the Carmel region offers the history of Israeli wine and a glimpse of its bright future. Montefiore’s winery is thriving, as are the Binyamina and Tishbi wineries. The three were established in the 1880s, 1950s and 1980s, respectively. Montefiore likes to say that the region offers the chance to see the whole history of Israeli wine in a day. The wineries map the re-establishment of the wine industry after two millennia; the boom after Israeli statehood, in 1948, and the start of the so-called Israeli wine revolution of the 1980s, when wines radically increased in quality.