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Jewish Journal

Israeli spas may be just the thing for what ails you

by Lisa Alcalay Klug

June 28, 2007 | 8:00 pm

The bank of the Dead Sea where salt exfoliation can make your skin glow. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

The bank of the Dead Sea where salt exfoliation can make your skin glow. Photo by Dan Kacvinski

Miracles in the Holy Land aren't only of a spiritual nature. Israel also boasts a long list of spas with amazing healing properties. Here's a look at some appealing and pampering clinics. They all offer mineral-rich mud packs and other treatments to ease sore muscles, arthritis pain, asthma, psoriasis, eczema and other conditions. Of course, they also remedy ailments of the spirit.

Carmel Forest Spa Resort

Hidden among pine trees at the peak of Haifa -- a northern city stretching from the Mediterranean to a mountain top -- Carmel Forest Spa is a former sanitarium for Holocaust survivors. Renovated in recent years, it is now the definition of luxury.

Carmel Forest Spa is only accessible by private car or cab, but once you arrive, there is little reason to leave due to the lectures, concerts and various kinds of exercise options that include fitness walks, tai chi, yoga, meditation, aerobics and even swimming lessons. Rooms all have a view of the sea or the forest and are stocked with plush robes that cam be worn everywhere. Meals include options for low-fat and low-sodium dishes and dining on a verandah overlooking the Mediterranean.

Nearly every imaginable treatment, such as mud wraps, cranio-sacral balance and body peeling with water jets, are available. But the pinnacle is a 75-minute, four-handed ayurvedic massage ($115), an Indian treatment intended to calm the mind and eliminate toxins from the body.

The spa also boasts a beautiful mosaic on the floor of an Olympic-size swimming pool and an adjacent Jacuzzi. In the coed marble Turkish bath, visitors -- clad in bathing suits -- scrub down with complimentary disposable loofas or enjoy a massage.

In the afternoons, guests munch on complimentary cakes and blend their own herbal infusions in the lounge upstairs. The evenings feature lectures and concerts, or you can enjoy dinner on the veranda and then relax in the lounge.
For more information, call (011) 972-4-8307888 or visit http://www.isrotel.co.il.

Mizpe Hayamim

Guests can create their own herbal drinks at Mizpe Hayamim located in Rosh Pina, an ancient biblical city in the Galilee. Whereas Carmel Forest Spa caters to high-end clientele, Mizpe Hayamim is folksier. (Also, Mizpe Hayamim is more difficult to navigate with a wheelchair.)

Resident artists create beautiful jewelry, guitarists strum folk music in the evenings on the lawn and a vegetarian menu (which includes fish) easily satisfies. Breakfasts include whole-grain breads hot from the oven, fresh salads, goat cheese made on the premises and freshly pressed pear juice. Rooms are large, comfortable and clean, and include a fragrant pine-scented shower gel.

The spa treatment rooms and the gym are older than the equivalents at Carmel Forest Spa. But the treatment options are equally extensive and the exercise equipment works fine. Personal instruction, various fitness classes and medical attention are also available.

For more information, call (011) 972-4-6994555 or visit http://www.mizpe-hayamim.com.

Dead Sea

The shores of the lowest place on earth are stocked with spas. And the Dead Sea, at 1,378 feet below sea level, fills the spas' pools with unique, mineral-rich waters that are calming and curative for skin disorders, arthritis and respiratory ailments. You can also give yourself a do-it-yourself spa treatment by spending a few hours at the separate beaches for men and women south of the hotel strip.

At the women's beach, for example, the "sand" inside the seawater is actually consistently clean salt. While standing in low water, you can relax as if sitting in a recliner. Because of the incredibly high salt content, guests float with great ease. Tiny cuts in your skin sting, but if you can, try to remain in the water for at least 20 minutes to soothe achy muscles and joints.

If you're up for it, scoop up the salt sand in your hands and rub it over your skin for a "salt glow." This is the same kind of exfoliating treatment offered at local spas.

If you'd like to try the classic mud of the Dead Sea, stop at any of the local shops, where you can pick up a package of smooth and creamy mud for a few dollars. Place it in the sun while you soak to warm it up.

After you emerge from your first dunk, rinse off in freshwate
r at a beachside shower, then smooth on the mud. After it dries completely, return to the sea to rinse off, rubbing your skin clean with a second round of exfoliation. Rinse once more in the freshwater and your skin will be remarkably soft. Wrap yourself up in towels and relax in the sun.

Because the Dead Sea is at the lowest point on earth, you can stay much longer in the sun without burning than at any other place on the planet.

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