When Gali Raz, CEO of the Association of Tourism in Western Galilee, starts talking about this northern region of Israel his excitement is catchy. And now, with the Yam Shel Galil Festival underway, Raz is positively ecstatic.
There is no English translation for the name of the festival but it is a play on words relating to the Mediterranean Sea – many of the activities take part along the coast – and “yam shel,” which means a lot of something.
“The Western Galilee has the most sought-after views, beaches, sites and attractions,” Raz tells ISRAEL21c. “The water in the Mediterranean Sea at our beaches is clear, we have greenery all year round, we have breathtaking places like Hanita and Cabri forests for biking. There’s so much to do here and everything is in close proximity.”
In May, locals and foreigners alike head up to Israel’s North to take part in a gaggle of sporting events, cultural activities and outings in nature that all come under the auspices of the sixth Yam Shel Galil Festival.
“Amazing sports experiences in the most beautiful location in Israel,” says Achziv Triathlon event producer Arik Peri. “People come from all parts of the country – from Eilat and Beersheva to the Golan Heights – to take part.”
Events for the family, dance workshops, concerts, treasure hunts through the Western Galilee communities, navigation contests and a watersports regatta are all on the bill. And many of them take place at some of the best-known landmarks in the area including at Achziv National Park, Rosh Hanikra and Akko (Acre).
“What’s so great about this festival is that there really is something for everyone,” says Raz. “So, if one person in the family wants to take part in a watersport but the others don’t, they can go on a hike in one of the forests nearby.”
The biggest of the upcoming events is the huge water regatta set for May 26. Kayakers and stand-up paddle (SUP) boarders will oar from Achziv Beach to the grottoes of Rosh Hanikra.
“The water regatta is a unique experience. Hundreds of paddlers will take part,” says Raz.
“The kayaking and SUP paddling into the beautiful grottoes is one of the most amazing treasures the Galilee, and Israel overall, has to offer. It is an amazing paddling experience,” Eldad Gavriel, CEO of Trek-Yam, tells ISRAEL21c.
Trek-Yam is partnering with the organizers of the Yam Shel Galil Festival to take hundreds of paddlers – in groups of 15 at a time – along the water route. Gavriel regularly takes groups on stand-up paddle surfing and kayaking tours of this section of the Mediterranean Sea.
“We hope it will become a tradition,” says Gavriel.
Israeli singer Dikla will perform at the Rosh Hanikra grottoes (concert ticket includes cable car ride up-and-down at the site, tonight May 11, 8:30pm); singer-songwriter Yuval Dayan will perform at the same venue on May 18 at 8:30pm; and rock band Hayehudim will rumble the grottoes on June 1 at 8:30pm.
Moshav Liman is hosting a night of jazz and blues on May 26 from 8pm to the wee hours of the morning.
BodyWays Move Festival dance weekend with the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company will take place at Kibbutz Gaaton from May 11-13, offering dance performances and live music.
The Sheketak Group, which combines contemporary dance, lively music, video and theater elements, is performing on May 16 at 5:30pm at Kibbutz Cabri.
A massive spinning marathon is set for May 25 and May 26 at Rosh Hanikra. Organizers expect 600 people to take part in the massive workout.
There are also half a dozen different walking tours in Galilee communities (May 13, 20, 27; reserve ahead).
The many events are both free of charge and at a cost, so it is best to check the festival site for more information.
“Other festivals in Israel last one or two days,” says Raz. “The Yam Shel Galil Festival takes place over an entire month and every Thursday-Friday-Saturday new events are taking place. Rosh Hanikra’s grottoes will also be converted into a concert venue for the month of May and there’s no other concert venue like this anywhere in Israel. The grottoes, the sea — it really is unique and magical.”