Cherries in the Negev: If You Will it, It is No Dream.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Attracted thousands of people who found the combination of nature, excursions, activities for children and the opportunity to pick sweet and tasty fruit just too tempting to resist.
Those who believe that cherries grow only among the cool hills of the Golan Heights will most certainly be surprised to learn that in the Negev desert, too, there are cherry -growing farmers.
Nahshon Afik, a KKL-JNF tour guide who was one of the initiators of this festival that takes place under the auspices of the Yatir Tourism Division, told us: “We came up with the idea for the cherry festival because of our love for Yatir Forest
. We wanted to attract people to this wonderful site, and thousands of visitors have indeed shown up – many more than we expected. If it’s possible to plant a forest
on the fringes of the desert and grow cherries in it, then why shouldn’t we be able to organize a magnificent festival here, too?”
Yatir Forest, which is situated on the southern slopes of Mount Hebron, to the north-east of Beersheba, is the largest planted woodland in the Middle East. KKL-JNF began planting it in the 1960s, and today it extends over an area of 30,000 dunam (approx 7,500 acres) and comprises over four million trees, including conifers, broad-leaved trees, vineyards and cherry orchards. The forest also boasts historical sites, including an ancient Roman road and the remains of the Biblical Levite city of Yatir, which gives the forest its name.
On Cherry Festival Day children’s activity stations were set up all over the forest to offer a wide range of recreational pastimes: art work using natural materials, pony rides, making cherry jam, creating medallions in the shape of cherries, baking pitta bread and a whole host of other enjoyable activities.
“This is a delightful spot and a wonderful experience for both the children and us, their parents,” declared Shahar Sharik of Beersheba, who was attending the festival together with her husband and their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Ariel.
Encouraged by the events success, the organizers now hope to turn the Yatir Forest Cherry Festival into an annual event that will attract large numbers of visitors to enjoy the scenery and fruit this unique forest in the Negev has to offer.
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KKL-JNF – Information and Internet Department