If Eran Doron had his way, the Negev would be full of visitors from other parts
of the country throughout the year. And, naturally, he aims to convince the rest
of us who live elsewhere in Israel that it is perfectly OK – nay, sane – to head
for the desert in the summer.
“Most people see the desert as a hot place
which should be avoided at this time of the year,” says Doron. “But the truth of
the matter is that the weather in lots of places in the Negev is pretty
“Mitzpe Ramon, for example, is high up and the air there is
fantastic. And there are places like Har Hanegev and Sde Boker that are really
good places to visit in the summer. The evenings there are cool, and the desert
sky at night is a wonder to behold.
“The weather is certainly a lot more
comfortable in the Negev than, for example, in Tel Aviv in the
Doron has been putting his money where his mouth is for the last
three years by producing the Moon Nights in the Desert rock festival at
Beduin-style Sfinat Hamidbar venue near Park Golda, 20 kilometers out of
The musical content is patently tailor-made to bring in the
crowds, with both Mashina and Shalom Hanoch in the lineup of the
takes place on July 29 and 30.
While Ben-Gurion was probably not a keen
rock music fan, one presumes that he would have approved of Doron’s
festival producer sees the Moon Nights in the Desert event as part of a
three-pronged plan to entice Israelis to the region – something that was
First, there is the aforementioned tourism drive – simply to
get people to dip their feet in the area rather than rejecting checking
desert, especially at the hottest time of the year, as a bad move. Then
the cultural side.
“We want people to come to see Israeli musicians and
bands perform here,” says Doron. “We go for mainstream entertainment,
just the stars like Hanoch and Mashina. We are also using the festival
younger artists a chance to show the public what they can do.”
ONE OF the
latter, who has received a considerable amount of public exposure of
29-year-old Jerusalemite singer-violinist-guitarist Michael Greilsammer,
mixes reggae with soft rock, and is the warm-up act for Mashina on July
On the morrow, Hanoch will take the Sfinat Hamidbar stage after a
commensurately rousing opener courtesy of 31-year-old rock-blues
guitarist-vocalist Geva Alon, who sings in English.
This, it must be
said, is a pretty powerful lineup, to which rock fans from the center of
country would presumably flock were it on offer at a Tel Aviv or
venue. It remains to be seen just how many will make the trek
In addition to the front-liner Sfinat Hamidbar program, there
will be a host of lesser-known acts performing at smaller venues dotted
the vicinity, such as at the sumptuously appointed Naveh Hamidbar spa
With Shalom Hanoch front and center at Moon Nights in the Desert,
it seems only natural to have Arik Einstein along, too. Unfortunately,
unsurprisingly, the icon himself won’t be putting in an appearance, but
young Hashablulim band, which focuses entirely on songs recorded and
by Einstein, is on the festival roster and should provide the audience
plenty of fun entertainment, while evoking not a little nostalgia.
fans should also dig the show by one of Mitzpe Ramon’s finest, the
jazz combo, which frequently plies its trade at the Mitzpe Ramon jazz
by Gadi Lybrock. Much of the musical and other artistic activity in the
supported by Mirage Foundations Israel, which encourages creative work
community building in the region.
The Moon Nights in the Desert gathering
is not just about having a fun evening or two out under the myriad
is a strong ecological message to be had, and Doron and his fellow
organizers have covered numerous green bases while making the event as
user-friendly as possible, too.
For starters, despite the perceived
remoteness of the festival venue, free transport will be laid on from
cities across the country, including Beersheba, Ra’anana and Tel
“It’s not just a matter of people getting a bit wiser about how to
take care of the environment while they are in the Negev,” explains
is also about keeping the festival’s carbon footprint down to a minimum,
people food for thought about how to travel in a more
The free bus trip also comes with a discount on concert
“Five hundred people got to last year’s festival on our free
buses, and I’m hoping there’ll be even more this time,” says Doron. “We
we have to cut down on pollution, and this is a good way of conveying
and helping people come to the festival too.”
The event’s carbon
footprint is also being minimized by obtaining goods for the festival
close to home as possible.
“We want to give local suppliers work – like
food producers and people who produce wine,” continues Doron. “It makes
sense in environmental terms, and also helps to boost the local economy.
it’s a clear win-win situation.”
The festival program also features
hands-on and informative green activities, such as talks about
taking place in this seemingly arid landscape. These include free visits
Ramat Negev Desert AgroResearch Center (RNDARC), where the public will
enlightened about farming in the south, much of which is based on
taken from an enormous subterranean reservoir in the Negev.
percent of agriculture here uses this water source,” says Doron. “There
around 70 billion cubic meters of water there, which have remained
billions of years. We use the water to grow things like pomegranates,
peppers and tomatoes.
We get good yields, with very sweet tomatoes and
olives with a high oil content.
“Research is also taking place into
developing vineyards using brackish water. In Byzantine times, there
vineyards in the Negev, but the climate was different – wetter – back
JUST TO put things into perspective, the Negev reservoir dwarfs
the Kinneret by some way. Even when our precious sweetwater northern
full, it contains only around 4 billion cubic meters of water.
also be trips to the Nitzana Rural Educational Community, which runs a
active solar park, and to the Ayalim student village at Ashalim, where
buildings are made exclusively of mud bricks.
Elsewhere on the festival’s
green front, there will be special recycling facilities, with separate
repositories for glass, plastic and paper. Food will be sold on
plates, information about ecological house construction will be
there will be bike trips along 200 kilometers of trails, including parts
legendary Spice Route used by the Nabateans over 2,000 years ago.
trails avoid the region’s nature reserves,” Doron explains, “so cyclists
enjoy the wonderful landscape here without disturbing nature.”
looking to stay the whole weekend, a wide variety of accommodation is on
tailored to suit all pockets and comfort zones – from free camping in
Park, through paid camping facilities at Sfinat Hamidbar and inexpensive
facilities at various B&Bs and field schools, to hotel accommodation
With a wide range of musical entertainment laid on,
including DJs, and green-oriented informational and down-and-dirty
slots, Moon Nights in the Desert offers plenty reasons for getting on
the Negev for the weekend – summer or no.For more information: