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Most of the year, the Negev is too hot for outdoor fun. But February is the perfect month to enjoy the country's largest undeveloped region, and the locals have come through with a number of events expected to draw thousands of weekenders into the winter-blooming desert.
The Saturday night following Tu Bishvat (Feb. 17), a lightshow, "nature-singing" and a painting workshop will be held in Eshed Lot (artists' quarter) in Arad. The multimedia activity is hosted by local artist Alon Ahari. All galleries as well as the beautiful glass museum will be open on the day of the event. For further information check www.desertvision.org or call Alon: (054) 439-6824.
The journey is the reward for runners and spectators at the 24th International Dead Sea Half-Marathon, scheduled for February 18. The route extends from Ein-Gedi Spa to the foothills of Masada and back. Organizers expect some 800 competitors and over a thousand spectators. Besides the half-marathon, this year's competitive options include a handbike half-marathon, a 10km race and a 10km walking race. Luckily, you do not have to be an endurance runner to compete in the event. There will be a 2km race for children under 14 and a 3km family race along the Dead Sea shore which has enjoyed great popularity over the last years.
Participants can register until Feb. 10 for a fee of $30. For information and registration call (08) 668-8822 or check www.shvoong.co.il.
Cinema fans can head out to the documentary film festival taking place February 23rd-25th in Mitzpe Ramon. In this unique location, on the rim of the crater, top creators of documentary film, photographers and cameramen will participate and contribute to the seminar, sponsored by Channel 2. For information and accommodation contact the Tourist Center of Mitzpe Ramon, (08) 659-5577.
Radio controlled model airplanes and helicopters ride the skies at the sixth annual Arava Radio Control Airshow. Located at the Ein Yahav landing strip, this thrill for the technically inclined draws enthusiasts of all ages. Starting Sunday, February 19, a variety of remarkably large model planes will be exhibited on the ground. The "aerobatic" skills of both planes and pilots will be challenged in keen competition on Friday, February 24. The contest - which includes categories such as "rhythmical helicopter flying" - will be followed by a sound and light show and fireworks. At 9 p.m. spectators can see night-flying of model airplanes presented by Israel's best pilots.
The next day, Saturday, offers the exciting spectacle of dozens of colorful helicopters buzzing through the desert sky. In the airplane division, international acrobatic teams will be flying particularly snazzy models - of the Concorde, of the Airbus, of historical planes used in the two world wars and even of Phantoms. For Sabbath observers (both individuals and groups), the most impressive model planes will be culled from the Saturday main show and flown on the previous Wednesday (Feb. 22) in a two-hour show by teams from Israel, Switzerland and Germany. (Reservation requested; seats can be reserved in advance at NIS 45 per person.)
The airshow will also feature a ground event, the Monster Radio Control Model Car-Racing Contest, over a specially designed obstacle course. The airshow is hosting this model-car racing competition for the second time, and all are welcome, whether as competitors or spectators.
For the children, a playground with jumping castles will be provided free of charge; food and drink booths will be on hand.
Other family-oriented February weekend activities in the Arava region include paintball war games, desert safaris, and camel or donkey rides along the ancient spice route. Exhausted weekenders are invited to relax in a Bedouin tent with a glass of tea. For details and reservations contact the Lev Ha'arava tourism department at 1-800-225-007, 08-6582007 or click on www.arava-airshow.co.il
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