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Zichron Yaacov
photo by Rhonda Spivak

View of the coast from Zichron Yaacov
photo by Rhonda Spivak

A trip to Zichron Ya’akov-Israel’s Tuscany

by Rhonda Spivak


I recently spent a sunny morning meandering along the cobblestone paths at the centre of the quaint Israeli city  of Zichron Ya’akov, with its red tiled roofs, pre-state stone buildings,  enticing cafes, artisan, craft and jewelry shops. I have always been attracted to Zichron’s rustic charm, fresh air , picturesque mountain views across the coastal plain to the Mediterranean and wineries. What I noticed this trip was that  since COVID  there are fewer artisan shops than there were before, with more chain restaurants. One jewelry maker tells me that with the downturn in tourism as a result of COVID, fewer artisans were able to make a living, such that a number had to close their shops for good.


One of the aspects that I have loved most about Zichron Ya’akov, which is located south of Haifa,  is that it is not over-developed, and I hope that a planned Wine Park will not change this, although I fear it might. What is clear to me is that the face of Zichron Ya’akov is changing.


Recently, planners  have given the  green light for over 250 new hotel rooms to be part of a  new  Zichron Yaakov large tourist complex that the city hopes will  cement its place as  the winne-making capital of Israel.


Authorities from the Israel Lands Authority  have approved plans for at least  265 rooms in two separate parts of the planned 150-acre project. The rooms will be part of the city’s Wine Park, which will  include about 200 homes, restaurants, cafes, parkland, shops, craft shops,  galleries,  a performance space, vineyards  and industrial buildings related to winemaking.


The Wine Park complex is designed to ensconce Zichron’s  image as Israel’s Tuscany,  and it is expected to attract wine producers, olive oil manufacturers,  and those involved in boutique food production.  Zichron has long been at the forefront of Israel’s rapidly growing wine industry, and archaeologists maintain that wine has been produced in Israel for thousands of years.


‘Israeli  wine has rightly made a name for itself worldwide,” Tourism Minister Haim Katz said in a statement on January 18 as reported by the Times of Israel.  “Winemaking activities put about a billion shekels into state coffers annually and contribute to local job creation in outlying areas. Improving the wine tourist’s experience will bolster Israel’s position as a leading culinary destination.”


Apparently, plans for  the  Wine Park project have been discussed for the last two decades, and  were first approved in 2007, although  construction on the residential homes has just begun.  The Wine  Park will  mean that Zichron Yaakov  will expand southwards , almost  to the doorstep of  a winery in the adjacent town of Binyamina.


Zichron Ya’akov was founded in 1882  by Jewish pioneers from Romania who tried to farm the rocky soil but many of who left within a year after finding it difficult to do so, and  after facing an outbreak of  malaria. However, in 1882 French Jewish philanthropist Baron Edmond James de Rothschild on visiting the Holyland  discovered that the slopes of Mount Carmel  and its climate were very suitable for winemaking and determined to establish the yishuv as a winemaking town, naming it in memory of his father Ya’akov. 


Baron de Rothschild founded the Carmel Winery, using French rootstock,  and the Carmel Winery today is one of Israel’s largest wineries , making  up for approximately half of Israel’s wine exports.



Israel, which has more than 300 wineries, produces more than 65 million bottles of  wine yearly.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.