I discovered the charming town of Metulla by chance when I planned a ski trip but the road to the Mt. Hermon ski resort was blocked due to snow. Trying to find something to occupy my time, I traveled by car around northern Israel sightseeing. Metulla is the northernmost town in Israel, literally sharing a fence with Lebanon. I walked on the pleasant main street one wintry morning past 100-year-old stone houses, when I ran into Miriam Hod, a local farmer's wife, who showed me two guest rooms her husband had just constructed on their holding which is located in the middle of the main street. Her friendly enthusiasm and the sheer beauty and peacefulness of the place induced me to decide at that moment that Metulla would become my weekend getaway place, and that Miriam's guest rooms would become my home away from home.
Metulla is magical. I have been visiting there regularly for over 17 years, loath to leave each time the weekend comes to a draw. The mountain air is bracing and the views are stunning from everywhere you find yourself in the small village. In the summer when Tel Aviv is sweltering and humid you need a light sweater in Metulla.
Orchards and Beauty
In Metulla itself and all around are orchards filled with fruit trees that bloom in pinks and whites in the spring. Metulla is a place to relax and breath deeply and there is no better place to do it then at Miriam's guesthouse, called Beit Shalom, which has evolved over the years into a stunning boutique hotel.
Since the time I first began to visit, Miriam and her husband, Haim, managed to expand by building eight more rooms to add to the original two and then by buying the house and farm next door, tearing down the fence that separated the two properties and creating a beautiful garden overrun with flowers and several stately weeping willows. They converted the original 100-year-old stone farmhouse into a restaurant and built three luxurious apartment suites decorated with meticulous attention to detail. The rooms are adorned with Miriam's artistic embroidery, and Haim has built the furniture. He also prepares the cheeses, yogurts and creams that are served in a generous farm-fresh breakfast, and the fig jam made from the fruit of the 100-year-old tree his grandfather had planted. Although the hotel has grown, Haim is still a farmer and guests will find in their rooms a generous basket of fresh fruits from his orchards, apples, nectarines, peaches, plums and cherries.
Rothchild founds Metulla
Baron Edmond de Rothschild founded Metulla in 1896 by purchasing the land from its wealthy Lebanese owner and settling on it young immigrants who fled anti-Jewish riots in Russia. The Baron's agent provided the young settlers with a basic stone house, farming tools and expert advice. One of the first families that settled in Metulla is Haim's grandfather who before his death commanded the family to never sell the land.
Haim loves to tell visitors about Metulla's history and to take them on a tour through the orchards to stunning views from various vantage points. In the Dado lookout on the west side of the town one can see the snow-capped Mt. Hermon and the Golan Heights right in front, the entire Hula valley to the right and to the left, Lebanon as far as the eye can see. Below are the red tile roofs of Metulla's houses. You can drive on a road by the fence that forms the border between Israel and Lebanon and see Lebanese cars driving on parallel roads just a stone's throw away. It is so peaceful that it is difficult to imagine that two wars were waged here recently and that Metulla was a staging area for the Israeli army. Metulla has been lucky over the years since the barrage of rockets that has flown from Lebanon into Israel always seems to fly right over it.
I love the view from the Dado lookout so much that I got married there. Haim was one of the witnesses and his mother gave us a glass from her kitchen for my husband to break with his foot, a traditional part of the Jewish wedding ceremony.
A great base for exploration
Metulla makes a great base to explore the Upper Galilee and many attractions are within an easy drive. There are also several things to do right in town. East of Metulla there are four waterfalls. The Ayun stream has carved out a small, vegetated canyon on the East side of the village as it flows down from Lebanon on its way to the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee. I like to walk in the nature reserve of the Ayun canyon walking past blooming flowers, the remains of an ancient windmill and waterfalls. The walk takes about two hours.
Metulla also has a large sports complex, called the Canada Center, which boasts Israel's only Olympic-size skating rink, several swimming pools, a shooting range, squash courts, fitness rooms and a professional health and massage center. Metulla has attracted Olympic-caliber ice skaters from the former Soviet Union and you can watch them practice. Ice skate rentals are included in the price of admission to the Canada Center.
Metulla is one of those places that is wonderful to visit any time of year. It is never too hot or too cold--and always beautiful and peaceful. You too will find that you are loath to leave.