Mahjong And More In Zichron Yaakov

29 Jun

mahjong tiles
I learned how to play mahjong while living in England. And now, more than five years later I’ve found a group of women who play mahjong here in Israel. This group meets in Zichron Yaakov, about a 45-minute drive north from Herzliya. The group plays by different rules than I learned in England. There’ll be a period of adjustment for me as I get used to these new rules, demonstrated resoundingly by my very first hand. The tiles in my opening hand were perfect for a game in England, but here they amounted to zilch.

Benjamin's Pool

Benjamin's Pool, built in 1891, to pipe water into the town so residents didn't have to carry water from the springs.

After a couple of rounds of mahjong we went into the Zichron Yaakov town center for lunch. I was thoroughly charmed by Zichron Yaakov. It sits perched on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. The town was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild and named in honor of his father, James (Jacob) Mayer de Rothschild. (Zichron Yaakov means Jacob’s memorial in Hebrew.) The Baron helped the settlers succeed in their agricultural endeavors. Two of Israel’s best wineries, Carmel and Tishbi, were founded in Zichron. These days the town center has a bohemian atmosphere, boasting boutiques selling crafts and jewelry, coffeehouses and restaurants all in a picturesque setting.

Wall bedecked with flower pots

Wall bedecked with flower pots


We had lunch at one of the Tishbi winery restaurants. The menu is vegetarian and kosher. (I had a yummy couscous salad.) It was a lovely day and we sat outside enjoying our food but feeling sorry for the scrawny cats that wandered between the tables hoping for scraps of food to fall their way. One of my dining companions made sure some did. Inside the restaurant a wide array of Tishbi wines are for sale and I learned that if I brought an empty wine bottle I could get it filled with the house wine and corked for just 19 shekels ($5.50). Such a deal!

Ceramics embedded into wall

Clever decorations embedded into a wall


We wandered through the town center for a bit after lunch and popped into a few of the stores. I was most impressed by Tutneyar, a shop selling handmade paper. A wide selection of beautiful handmade papers were on display and many had been fashioned into clever lampshades, booklets and other uses. They conduct papermaking demonstrations and I just may go back to participate in one.

Indeed, there are many reasons to return to Zichron Yaakov.

Zichron Yaakov water tower

The Baron himself looms large on the Zichron Yaakov watertower.

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2 Responses to “Mahjong And More In Zichron Yaakov”

  1. Alan June 30, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    It’s amazing Lenora — even I had always though of Israel as a largely charmless tourist destination. You’ve given the lie to that!

    • Lenora Genovese July 1, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

      That is the benefit of living in a foreign land — you have the time to seek out those out-of-the-way, off-the-beaten-path places that tourists don’t usually have time to go to.

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