Family creates ‘bee-autiful’ life in Israel’s north

Tourists and locals alike experience what it takes to be a beekeeper during Rosh Hashanah celebrations in Israel's Galilee.

Bees by the thousands are unperturbed and busy at work. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.
Bees by the thousands are unperturbed and busy at work. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.

Looking out onto the rolling green hills of Israel’s Galilee, local winemaker and honey farmer, Zvika Ofir, doesn’t miss a beat when asked about his goals.

“Make a peaceful life, make an honest living from agriculture and surround ourselves in nature doing something we love,” he philosophically responds.

Zvika Ofir teaches the art of honey-making. Credit: JNF-USA.

Ofir’s words seem as pure and genuine as the honey his family produces. No talk of KPIs, data points or forward projections. Just a deep sense of purpose and commitment to developing his farm and Israel’s north.

Ofir and his family’s life is perhaps the envy of anyone yearning to escape a big metropolis. Driving through the lush green scenery pocked with volcanic rock, the hustle and bustle of Israel’s central cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem seem a world away.

The Ofir family has been making honey for four generations, and over the past 20 years, they have welcomed visitors from near and far to take part in honey-making in the lead-up to Rosh Hashanah.

Known as the “Ofir Farm,” they are located in the rural town of Alon HaGalil, about a 45-minute drive east of Haifa or two hours north of Tel Aviv.

Every year around Rosh Hashanah, we host a honey festival,” said Ofir “This is our opportunity to teach Israelis about honey production and the lifecycle of bees. We also educate them about the challenges bee populations face in Israel and around the world.”

The festival takes place over two weekends, where guests learn about the life of honeybees, how nectar is collected and what it takes to turn the honeycomb into honey.

“Visitors learn about the honey-making process while also hearing from my father and brother about their work as beekeepers,” added Ofir. “After that, participants try their hand at honey production. We also have a food truck and great activities for kids of all ages.”

Visitors of all ages get to try their hand and honey-making. Credit: JNF-USA.

Helping to promote and support Ofir’s business is the Western Galilee Now Small Business Consortium. A project of Jewish National Fund-USA, the association supports local businesses in an effort to boost the local economy through tourism, business networking, and promotional endeavors.  

Western Galilee Now also plays a critical role in driving Jewish National Fund-USA’s goal of attracting 300,000 new residents to the Galilee through its Go North Strategy.

“People like Zvika and his family are the backbone of our community,” explained Western Galilee Now Managing Director, Michal Shiloah Galnoor. “They are truly modern-day pioneers who are helping the land of Israel flourish. Together with them and many other small businesses, we are working to attract more people—both tourists and new residents—to the Galilee as we lay the foundations for our next generation to prosper.”

Wax from the honey-making process can be turned into beeswax candles. Credit: JNF-USA.

While Ofir and his family are proud of everything they have achieved, he doesn’t shy away from the stark reality facing bee populations around the world.

“Bees all over the world are in big danger,” lamented Ofir. “There are only a few places that we can put bees in our surrounding fields. Every year, we see bee populations decline. A lot of it has to do with the spread of pathogens and vandalism. These are challenges that we continue to face, however, we are committed to safeguarding and protecting our bee population so they can make honey for all to enjoy.”

Visitors to Jewish National Fund-USA’s Western Galilee Now’s Tourist Information Center in Akko can find out about all of the amazing events taking place in Israel’s north. Credit: JNF-USA.

Given the critical role bees play in pollinating many types of crops, the Jewish National Fund continues to plant trees and vegetation that support local honeybees and wild bee populations.

A variety of honey products are available for local purchase from the Ofir Farm Apiary via Western Galilee Now’s online shop.

For more information on how Jewish National Fund-USA is supporting population growth in Israel’s north, click here.

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Jewish National Fund-USA builds a strong, vibrant future for the land and people of Israel through bold initiatives and Zionist education. As a leading philanthropic movement, the organization supports critical environmental and nation-building activities in Israel’s north and south as it develops new communities in the Negev and Galilee, connects the next generation to Israel, and creates infrastructure and programs that support ecology, people with disabilities, and heritage site preservation, all while running a fully accredited study abroad experience through its Alexander Muss High School in Israel.
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