East (Mizrach) of Tel Aviv
By: Roye Salomon
To the east of Tel Aviv, past the Ben Gurion airport in the direction of Jerusalem (See Driving section) one can find many charming places. About 30 minutes from Tel Aviv the flat meadowlands of the Dan region give way to the foothills of the Judean Mountains. Take route 1 east till you reach the Latroun Exit. Here you can find three interesting sites. The first is on the south side of route 1, the abbey of Latroun. Here Trappist monks have settled since the 19th century and live a life of prayer work and contemplation. In Hebrew this beautiful abbey is named “Minzar Hashatkanim” (Monastery of the Silent) as the monks living there take a vow of silence. The monastery is splendid and can be visited with permission. The monks also produce wine by traditional French methods. The wine is quite good and very reasonably priced (try the Rose and Gewürztraminer). For those interested in the life of the monks see the documentary movie Latroun by Yehiel Ne’eman. Easter can be celebrated with the monks, inquire at the monastery.
Open 09:00-11:00 Store 07:30-18:00
Just two minutes away is the fort of Latroun. This British Taggart police outpost was the site of some of the bitterest and bloodiest battles of the 1948 war of independence. Some 100 Israeli soldiers died trying to take the fort from the Jordanian legions that were handed the fort by the British. Many of those killed were new immigrants fresh off the boat and with little military training. The fort stood unconquered until the 1967 war. Today the fort houses the IDF Armory museum. Over 200 tanks of different eras and wars are on display here, so if you are a tank enthusiast this is the place for you. As a child I used to go adventuring in the then abandoned fort. I was always puzzled by the idea that so many battles were fought over this fort and then it ends up abandoned. Makes you think.
On the northern side of route 1 across from the monastery is the beautiful park Canada. The park is named in honor of the Canadian community which donated the money for its renovation. The park includes 7000 dunam of pine, olive and orchid forest. There are many walking trails through the park as well as picnic areas. During the spring months the glades are packed full of flowers. A Roman period irrigation system can be seen as well as some ancient burial site. This is the perfect place for a days hiking and picnicking. There is no entrance fee, and it is a good place to open a bottle of Latroun wine.
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Nearby you can see all of Israel at the same time at Mini-Israel, a Madurodam
style exact model of most of Israel’s famous sites. A great place for the kids, and grown ups as well.