People - mature mainly - walk about in white: white towel gowns, white slippers. At first sight I was reminded of a hospital for the sectioned. But this association had to do with my father who suffered dementia towards the end and spent his last months in white robes. The inmates at the Carmel Forest Spa Hotel are only too sane. They have arrived in material comfort, at least. Rational causation is working for them and this place is one reward.
White prompted other, happier, thoughts: when, at 10 this morning, the treatment workers emerged from a short corridor walled in white transparent lace, in their white uniforms, to collect their towelled "patients", I thought of Hollywood's idea of heaven and angels (no wings). The addition of oozy-woozy New Age music, and of a rose undertoned unguent scent that fills the air - and pervades all the public areas in fact via the air-con - only added to the illusion of other-worldliness.
This hotel is said to be the only health and spa resort in all Israel. For years Israelis mainly came to relax in this 5* arcadia, to unwind. Now the spa is changing direction. It wants more foreigners, it is abandoning its policy of charging non-Israelis a higher rate (there was a 20%+ mark-up): it is even constructing a British-style "pub". There is no alcohol bar at the moment, except mini-bars in any of the 126 luxury rooms and suites. The restaurant is licensed, however. The idea is to get healthier, remember. To convalesce from the illness of modern life.
It offers nearly 100 different treatments - I had a facial today. The masseuse played Death In Venice Mahler as she painted on the mask. An ironic joke perhaps. Death In Venice, after all, features a dying man with a painted face - I was amused by the image association. Tomorrow I'll have an Abianga - an oil libation of warm sesame oil over my entire body. The spa receptionist looked at me oddly when I said I didn't mind the sex of the massage worker. My body will be unclothed, and my scalp massaged. What's gender got to do with a pair of warm, oily hands?
Today I walked a few kilometres along tracks in the pine forests encircling the hotel: the resort covers 18.5 acres and the spa complex itself 2,500 square metres. We were accompanied by an armed guard - two guns on his belt. I'm not sure why: the top predator, apart from Man, is the jackel. Wild pigs roam but are rarely seen. I chatted with the guard. He was born in Moscow, emigrated to Israel in his late teens and was conscripted into the Israeli army, and now is employed by the hotel to help oversee the national park in which it is set. The occasional tourist gets lost. No one's been eaten or kidnapped. But you're advised not to sleep with your door open. The fruit bowl could prove alluring to the furries, and here it's finders keepers.
Best of all - and if you read my first report from Israel, you'll know why - the best thing of all is that no kids under 16 are allowed here. No screaming brats. No ghastly parenting. No excuse for anyone to behave like an animal. Bliss. Good King Herod's writ runs through this place.
My only complaint: swimming pool etiquette. Alas, most men do not know how to swim properly. They thrash and roll about about creating a commotion like a sperm whale in the last stages of Parkinson's. Women swimmers cling fearfully to the sides of pools, like little boats moored in the safety of the harbour, as the tsunami of pointless machismo bears down on them - women fearful that the splashing will upset their ... hairdos. Segregation is the only answer.
So, now to dinner ....