As the Carmel Mountains arise from the coastal plain, just 35 kilometers south of Haifa, you will find the picturesque little town, or ‘Moshava ‘ known as Zichron Ya’akov. This quaint little, hillside village was founded in 1882 by the Baron de Rothschild who named it in honor of his father who was called Ya’akov. Today, the town’s name has been abbreviated to just “Zichron”, and the population has grown from just a few hundred to some 20,000.
Tourists in search of an off-beat destination, replete with unique sights and activities, are attracted to this town’s charming layout and ambiance. Major restoration projects have created a compelling historic city center whose renovated main street serves as a promenade known as the ‘Path of the Wine’, where visitors can enjoy a vast array of bars, restaurants, and cafes interspersed with small shops selling handcrafted jewelry, antiques, and gifts. This pedestrian mall is the main draw for this destination.
In 1885, Rothschild helped to establish the first winery in Israel, and the original Carmel-Mizrahi Winery continues to make wine in Zichron Ya’akov. It has a recently reconstructed sightseers’ center with free guided tours, and visitors can tour the factory, taste the numerous varietals and enjoy a gourmet repast at the adjoining cafe. Several other wineries, from the large to the two-grape variety, are available for visits and tastings as well.
Beside the culinary and shopping delights, tourists will also enjoy an interesting selection of museums and historical landmark sites. This rich history is poignantly rendered in beautiful detail at the town’s FirstAliyahMuseum, located on HaNadiv Street. Other interesting landmarks include the old synagogue and the administration building, as well as an old courtyard with a display of antique agricultural implements.
The most intriguing museum in Zichron would undoubtedly be the Aharonson residence. This museum tells the heroic story of Nili, the first underground Jewish resistance group that operated in Palestine during WWI. They spied on Ottoman positions and reported their findings to British agents offshore. Eventually, the Ottomans caught one of the group’s carrier pigeons and cracked the Nili code. The NiliMuseum recreates the history of this period and relates this stunning story filled with suspense, tragedy, and dramatic twists.
All this and more make Zichron a vibrant and colorful destination offering a taste of history coupled with the exclusive culinary pleasures featuring fine wines.
By Brent J. Mitchell