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Relaxing in Israel? You Gottta Problem With That?

July 19, 2007 By:
Ben G. Frank, JE Feature
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As the road wound up the side of the mountain and into a deep forest that blinded us from seeing so-called civilization, we realized that even in that small country Israel, one can find the ideal spa for badly needed R&R.

For to visit Israel as tourist, traveler, vacationer, businessperson or official is to constantly be in a perpetual state of on-the-go.

By now, even U.S. senators know where to go in Israel to unwind after a long flight, and a lot of touring, meetings and speeches.

Take Sen. Joseph Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, who recently visited the Carmel Forest Spa Resort.

"We're on vacation," said Hadassah as the couple moved about this luxurious spa, with its two swimming pools, authentic Turkish bath, wet and dry saunas, a sophisticated fitness room and tennis courts.

Yes, the health and fitness craze of the 1990s has emerged into the spa trend of the 21st century -- and in Israel, too.

Still, while 12,000 spas thrive in the United States, only a limited number dot the map of the Jewish state. But recently, the highly respected travel book 100 Best Spas of the World, included the Carmel Forest Spa Resort and described it as "Israel's top destination spa. The hotel rooms and spa's facilities are top-notch."

They couldn't have been more correct in describing the 126-elegantly furnished guest rooms and suites nestled in an island of peace and tranquility in the Carmel forest near Haifa.

What makes this spa unique is that one is surrounded by a beautiful forest; it is indeed a place to "chill out."

"The idea here," said Liora Dotan, public-relations manager, is that adults have the right "to put their life away, on the side, so to speak, and have some time for themselves."

That's why the spa does not permit children under 16 to stop here. Even cell phones are not allowed in many areas of this vast facility. "We want people to clear their minds," she said.

Israelis, as readers know, live under a great deal of tension, and it's harder for them to get off from work for more than a week. And if they do have more time, they go abroad. So, unlike many such institutions, Carmel Forest Spa offers two-day stays, instead of a week. For Americans, this gives them a chance to unwind after that hectic tour, and take advantage of the more than 90 health and beauty treatments offered.

Body and Soul
The spa's motto is "a vacation for mind, body and soul. Relaxing, pampering and rejuvenating."

Stress the word, "pampering." Replete with everything from body-building equipment to nutritional philosophy, the spa has gathered trained practitioners who will massage aching muscles and revive tired heels by providing treatments designed to nourish, tone and relax the skin. Treatment packages are available.

Those interested in quiet can take meditation, yoga, tai chi. Those who want activity can hike on trails in the forest, or participate in dance classes.

Evening entertainment includes talks and lectures, and even a sing-along of Hebrew tunes. A piano player belts out American, Israeli and European melodies.

Sometimes, guests with fine voices sit down at the piano in the lounge, as did a Long Island attorney one night this past winter. His dream was to be a professional singer, he said. He showed us his talent as we sang along, warmed and calmed by a fire in an attractive fireplace and enjoying a hot mug of tea.

Some of the treatments include aromatic oils, hydrotherapy, various types of professional massages and cosmetic treatments. Facials are popular. Decleor and Maria Galland-Paris products are used during treatments.

And yet, there's no pressure to take the treatments. Some husbands accompanied their wives, the latter taking treatments while the husbands read a book or snooze by the indoor or outdoor pool.

This spa offers full board. Time is of the essence -- even at a spa -- and people should not have to drive around for a restaurant, according to resort manager Sylvie Cohen.

Healthy gourmet cuisine is the order of the day at Carmel Forest Spa. From 7:30 a. m. to 3 p.m., the attractive dining room with magnificent views serves a varying selection of dairy breakfast, brunch and lunch meals. Lunch is always dairy at this strictly kosher facility. Fish is very popular at the mid-day meal; succulent meat dishes are a hit at dinner time.

Menus include culinary creations from the great cuisines of Europe. Strict adherence to rules of healthy eating is the philosophy. But you don't have to diet here, although a specialist clinical dietician is available for consultation. Guests can receive a customized low-calorie menu.

Built on the side of the mountain, the lobby is on the first floor; three elevators and stairs help one get around easily. Rounding out the facilities is a beautiful auditorium, reading room, game room with billiards, cards, a hair-stylist, resort shop and meeting rooms.

On our first day, we could have participated in an advanced fitness walk, attended a class for swimming improvement, had a stretching lesson, joined in body shaping, aquaerobics in the indoor swimming pool and, yes, watched a workshop on belly-dancing.

On day two, we could have signed up for beginning yoga, participated in back-pain-prevention exercises, attended a lecture on nutrition and health, and tried to understand tai chi, chi kong and meditation. At night, we could have visited a lecture on a peek into the world of card-reading. Needless to say, we made our own schedule; you can make yours.

And all this is just 50 minutes from Tel Aviv and 20 minutes from Haifa.

For more information, contact the Carmel Forest Spa Resort, P.O. Box 9000, Haifa, Israel, 31900; or e-mail: cfreservation@isrotel.co.il.

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