Israel’s hot spot for winter sports

Throughout the years, the delights of winter sports have long been a tourist attraction with snowy Mt. Hermon as a selling point.

You would think that, much like the Jamaican bobsled team, Israel with its hot weather would not have much to contribute to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games at Sochi. But in fact, five Israeli athletes are competing in the games this month.

Winter sports training in Israel is conducted mainly in the North where the village of Metula has become the country’s center point for figure skating and ice hockey, while the ski slopes at Mt. Hermon have been operational since 1971.

However, the delights of winter sports in Israel have long been a tourist attraction, according to researcher Dr. Rafi Mann of Ariel University and media journal The Seventh Eye who, in an essay published by Walla about pre-State tourism in Lebanon, notes that “during the British Mandate, it [Lebanon] was a magical tourist spot. Hotels and pensions in Lebanon advertised in newspapers in [pre-State] Israel, and there were those who preferred to go to Lebanon on skiing holidays.”

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“It appears that these were German immigrants who arrived in the Land of Israel after Hitler came to power and sought entertainment of this kind as they had the money to finance such holidays. Here [in Israel] there was one hotel the village of Metula that tried to compete. Small wonder that it was named ‘Snows of Lebanon.’”

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The snow-capped Hermon was captured by English photographer Francis Frith in 1857. According to the Victoria & Albert Museum, “Notable for his ambitious expeditions in Egypt, Frith brought back the images as postcard and stereograph for a wider audience to experience the scene, ‘as if they were there’. Detail in the rock in the foreground is at eye level, a conscious decision for the production of a stereo card.”

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In the 1930s, the Kfar Giladi “rest house” – today upgraded to 3-star hotel status — used the Hermon as a selling point.

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The opening of the ski slope ushered in a new era of postcard kitsch and winter sports training.

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Today, Internet photo-sharing via sites like Flickr, Picasa and social networks like Facebook and Instagram mean there’s end to the images of people frolicking on the slopes. Occasionally, there’s an image that should be shared like this one is by photographer Yanai Shifron via home schooling site Be’Ofen Tivi. Click here to see it in all its high-definition glory.

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About Rachel Neiman

A veteran media professional who has lived in Israel since 1984, Rachel has been part of the ISRAEL21c organization since 2008. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of Globes Online, the English-language edition of Israel’s leading business daily, and before that, at The Jerusalem Post, as a business reporter, feature writer, and consumer columnist. Rachel began writing about Israeli technology companies at LINK Israel’s Business and Technology Magazine and is a professional Hebrew to English translator. In her spare time, she is an active member of the Havurat Tel Aviv congregation, and the Holyland Hash House Harriers, part of an international running and drinking disorganization.