In case you hadn’t noticed spring appears to be in the air. Tu Bishvat is behind us, the almond trees in the Jerusalem Hills are beginning to blossom and there is a flurry of yellow flowers, of various shades, all over the show. Meanwhile, down south, the Negev is starting to turn red, as anemones begin to unfurl their marvelous hues.
That is perfectly opportune because the ninth annual Darom Adom (Red South) Festival kicks off on February 6 and will run until March 1. The event has burgeoned over the years and the man behind the venture, Northern Negev Tourism Association director Amit Levkov, is suitably enthused about the forthcoming edition of the annual event. “Each year we do our best to offer a wider range of activities and services, and to improve what we offer the general public,” he notes.
Judging by the bare statistics the public at large appear to like what Levkov and his cohorts in the Negev have to offer. Last year, 350,000 people visited the Negev during the course of the Darom Adom month. That’s a pretty impressive stat.
Part of this year’s Negev fun will be based on the stuff of legends, on the theme of Fairies and Heroes among the Flowers. On each of the four weekends visitors to various Darom Adom sites will be met by all manner of popular characters, from such perennial favorites as Peter Pan and the Flower Fairy, who will perform 20-minute slots for the patrons between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The sites in question include Ibim, near Sderot Forest, Nachabir (Old Be’eri), the suspension bridge on Habsor route and the Columbia Surplus site at Moshav Kelahim.
People heading south under their own steam can pick up more information about the festival from information stations at Yad Mordechai Junction and Bet Kama Junction. The stations will be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you’re looking for top class entertainment in the Negev then Thursday is your day. On February 6 the Eshkol Auditorium at Kibbutz Magen will host internationally acclaimed Israel a cappella group The Voca People (tickets and information: 077-319-1149 and www.eshkol.myticket.co.il) while over at Kibbutz Keramim (08) 866-3330, *8949 and www.ticket4u.co.il) rockers Peter Rott and Maor Cohen will perform some of the best known hits as well as new material. The Be’er Pub at Kibbutz Tze’elim also has some top notch entertainment lined up, in the shape of veteran wordsmith Yankeleh Rotblitt and the instrumentalists-vocalists from his recently released CD Hehatzer Ha’ahorit (The Backyard) – pianist Gadi Ronen, guitarist, bass player and percussionist Itamar Zigler, and drummer-percussionist Tomer Yosef. Other Thursday evening entertainment throughout the month includes Ehud Banai, Rami Fortiss, Evyatar Banai and Malox. Staying overnight after a performance or activity is highly recommended since the locals are well known for their warm hospitality. There is an abundance of B&B and hotel accommodation on offer to suit all pockets and lifestyles.
Visitors who stay overnight will also benefit from reductions on tickets for shows.
Check out option on www.gonegev.co.il.
But, of course, Darom Adom is first and foremost about getting out there for an eyeful and lungful of the local flora and landscapes. On Saturday February 15 there will be several organized walks, of various distances, for people of all ages and levels of fitness. The event goes by the name of The Shoshana Damari Keren Kayemet-JNF Anemones Walk, in memory of the great diva, and starts from Kibbutz Ruhama.
The routes range between 2.5 km. to 12.5 km. and take in lush open areas, with activity and information stations located along the way, including jugglers, JNF guides, mini golf courses and activities with environmental themes. To register go to: www.habsor.co.il.
The Negev has becoming a magnet for mountain biking enthusiasts from all over the country and, on February 15, there will be a guided Bicycles between the Anemones ride which starts at Kibbutz Be’eri at 9 a.m.
Participants will also be entertained by a stunt cyclist show. To register call (08) 994- 9374 or go to www.zinok.co.il.
Naturally, all that earnest activity is going to make visitors peckish and there are a multitude of eateries around the region with cuisines tailored to all palates and pockets. As Valentine’s Day falls right in the middle of the festival, the Netanel Restaurant in Lahav Forest will infuse its décor with some romantic aesthetics while the Sababa Vehakol family band entertains diners with a selection of Israeli love songs. Reservations – 052- 440-4020. There is more of the food-andmusic mix on offer at El Hayaen Restaurant in Eshkol Park (052-690-1660 and 052-331- 1496), while the FAWA – Acoustigroov duo will keep patrons at the Sines restaurant next to Sapir College happy with a program of covers that takes in 1960s numbers by Nancy Sinatra to hits by Amy Winehouse.
Reservations: (08) 689-0452.
And if you want to get to the Negev but don’t fancy the drive, not to mention the cost of fuel and the pollution, every Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. a special Anemones Train will travel between Hod Hasharon, through Tel Aviv to Sderot, with a shuttle service laid on to take visitors from Sderot to various Darom Adom sites. For more information: www.rail.co.il.
The Negev has gained a reputation for the fine goat’s cheeses and wines produced at kibbutzim and farms around the region, and there will plenty of them on sale during the month, and thereafter. The Dutch Farm at Moshav Sde Zvi in the Northern Negev will set out all its Dutch gastronomic finery for the occasion, with the eats including cheeses, fries and waffles, and all served by staff in full traditional Dutch attire.
In fact, there is absolutely no need to schlep food from home. Dairies from all over the Negev are putting together picnic hampers, for couples or whole families, with organic vegetables, cheeses, bread rolls, various spreads and mineral water.
Hampers can be ordered in advance by calling 054-5488872, 054-4231050 and 052-8478935, or at www.habsor.co.il.
Health and fitness are also on the Darom Adom agenda, with the Running with Shamayim Bamayim event also designed to raise environmental awareness and to generate support for the Shamayim Bamayim hydrotherapy center at Sha’ar Hanegev for children with communication problems and autism. The run will kick off at Sapir College at 8 a.m. on February 7, with runs of 2 km. and 8 km., and a special run with Shamayim Bamayim children.
There is plenty to see, smell, hear, taste and enjoy all over the Negev not just during the festival, but all year round. And it’s worthwhile to make a weekend – or more – out of it. So get on down there!
For more information: www.gonegev.co.il and www.habsor.co.il
The article was made possible with the help of the israel Ministry of Tourism www.goisrael.gov.il