(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Every winter, Israel’s Darom Adom (“Scarlet South”) Festival in the northern Negev attracts tens of thousands of visitors from all over the country, and every winter, despite numerous competing attractions, it is the anemones that steal the show: at this time of year they cover the green expanses of the Negev with magnificent carpets of the brightest red.
This is the seventh Scarlet South festival, which KKL-JNF organizes annually in conjunction with Shaar HaNegev Regional Council, the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport, and the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee. Events begin in early February and continue until the beginning of March, and include a variety of leisure, touring and sporting activities for all the family held at sites that KKL-JNF has fostered and developed with the help of its Friends throughout the world.
Visitors are invited to participate in a tour of the flowering areas with KKL-JNF guides in the forests of Be’eri and Ruhama. Apart from enjoying the flowers, they will also have an opportunity to learn about local historical sites from the Byzantine period until the founding of the State.
Agricultural tours are provided by local communities: a visit to Netiv HaAssara’s greenhouses, for example, or a chance to observe exotic fruit trees at Kfar Maimon and a tour of the kibbutz fields of Kissufim and Gevulot to see where the vegetables in our salad come from.
Enchanted corners of the region host activities for children, with the participation of fairytale characters such as Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Robin Hood, who tell the youngsters all about nature and the flowers. Ben Gurion, too, talks to the guests about the importance of settling the Negev.
The Negev has not escaped the bicycle fever that has gripped the entire country, and the festival program includes a number of cycling events: a mountain bike marathon along the Be’eri Forest cycling trail created by KKL-JNF, an extreme biking show hosted by Moshav Kelahim and a running and cycling event at Kibbutz Nir Am. Musical events, plays, exhibitions, markets and colorful fairs are held throughout the entire month of the festival.
Visitors’ impressions of the various activities are aired on the festival’s Facebook site. “I find the space and the silence enchanting when combined with unusual farms, walking tours, and, of course, the carpets of anemones,” writes Tal Ron of Binyamina.
“The northern Negev has an abundance of breathtaking landscapes together with views, things to do, trips, things to enjoy – just come along and experience them,” suggests Mali Wolpowitz from Rishon LeZion.
Rosanna Seligman of Kibbutz Bror Hayil adds, “Every time I visit the area, I rediscover how beautiful it is. The “color red” warning system aside, the color red is here to be enjoyed when it belongs to beautiful anemones.”
One of the annual highlights of the Festival is, without doubt, KKL-JNF’s Anemone March, whose theme this year was the 100th anniversary of settlement in the Negev. The marchers took two different routes through the green expanses of the Ruhama badlands – one short (2.5 kilometers), one of medium length (5.5 kilometers) and one long (12.5 kilometers – for very energetic hikers only).
Although the festival is named after the anemones that are the undisputed stars of the show, these red flowers do not have exclusive rights to the visitors’ attention. At this time of year the region is carpeted with a wide variety of flowers and bushes, including rockroses, bee orchids, wild chrysanthemums, Persian buttercups (Ranunculus), and irises.
The magnificent badlands landscape provided a wonderful backdrop to the march. Rainwater has scored deep channels in the loess topsoil that covers layers of clay, red Mediterranean soil (hamra) and sand.
KKL-JNF instructors were on hand to provide additional stimulus for parents and children at guidance and activity stations along the route: they organized games designed to teach participants a little more about the countryside, the Negev, Israeli history and KKL-JNF projects. The stations also hosted a variety of artistic events, and the march concluded festively with an artists’ market and a food fair.
Eight-year-old Liron Mankita from Beersheba told us that this was the first time she had taken part in the Anemone March: “It’s fun to go out into nature and see lots of lovely flowers,” she said.
Noga Shaniv (3) from Rehovot took part in the march together with her grandmother, Frieda Evroni: “It’s a real dream to go out on a trip with the grandchildren on a beautiful day like today,” said Frieda. “What could be better than a family nature walk?”
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