If you haven’t noticed, we are well into the 18th annual Darom Adom Festival.
Of course, the anemones (kalaniyot) are the main attraction for those who make the trip to the Negev each year to see these beautiful flowers after the rains have begun.
Once you’re there, it’s only natural to enjoy some of the events, activities and tours that are part of the famous festival. The Darom Adom activities, which will continue through February 28, are taking place in communities extending from Nahal Shikma to Nahal Habesor. In addition, the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund is leading guided tours (NIS 10) in the forests.
If you like taking desert hikes and have time during the week, then make your way to the northern Negev and avoid the crowds that go there on Fridays and Saturdays. You can pick fruit in an orchard; attend an arts and crafts workshop; and visit a farm and enjoy a home-cooked meal prepared by locals who host visitors in their homes. Another advantage to heading south in the middle of the week is that Bank Hapoalim is subsidizing 50% of entrance fees for all festival programs from Sundays through Wednesdays.
The Marva recreation area in the Shokeda Forest, where you can also take part in the Darom Adom activities, is one of the best spots to see large numbers of red kalaniyot. This forest area was originally developed by KKL-JNF in cooperation with the local community. There are a number of interesting archaeological sites in the area that are surrounded by bike trails and an abundance of kalaniyot.
In the northern section of the forest, you’ll find a memorial to Marva Babiyan, who grew up on Kibbutz Alumim and died of cancer while in high school. The memorial is located next to a spring, and the historic remains date back to the Byzantine period. The ground is covered with red, white and pink kalaniyot this time of year.
On Fridays during the festival, an active art installation in the form of giant kalaniyot is on display. In addition, every Tuesday during the festival, there is a walking tour in memory of Babiyan, during which participants are shown the prosperous agricultural achievements following the laying of a water irrigation line in the late 1940s.
1. Picnic near Marva’s Well
Picnicking in nature is a favorite pastime that Israelis enjoy when traveling around the country. This is especially true this time of year when the ground is covered with beautiful flowers. If you’re in the vicinity of Marva’s Well in the Shokeda Forest, you can purchase a tasty picnic lunch at Nira’s Kitchen. Nira, who has been in the catering business for more than two decades, has been creating picnic boxes full of fresh treats for the past three years.
Each picnic lunch comes in an aesthetic box for two people, but there is actually enough food to feed a small family. The box includes two fresh salads, shakshuka, mini quiches, bread, cheeses, spreads, olives and strawberries, as well as a sweet dessert. The box also includes water/soda, a tablecloth and disposable utensils. Kosher.
Price for a basket: NIS 250Pickup location: 45 Hatamar St., Kfar Maimon
Located in the Eshkol region, the innovative GrooveTech learning center is the only place in the country with a state-of-the-art after-school science education program, where children gain knowledge about subjects such as agriculture and outer space.
Each hall has a different theme. There is a gaming hall where children can play the newest games in the field. In the virtual reality hall, participants can “virtually” go wherever they want to go, such as on a roller-coaster ride or a voyage through outer space. The space hall has a planetarium and a telescope. In the agricultural hall, kids can do experiments with hydroponic cultivation. And the MasterChef hall is equipped with work stations, where participants can do some creative cooking.
3. Gidulay Rony, Moshav Ein Habesor
Nestled between the fields and greenhouses of Moshav Ein Habesor is Gidulay Rony, a small Thai restaurant that has the ambiance of an authentic eatery in Thailand. Created by Eitan and Noy, the restaurant is named for their daughter, Rony. Eitan, who grew up on the moshav, fell in love with Noy, who is from Thailand, the moment he first saw her at a local store.
From a young age, Noy had dreamt of growing her own vegetables. Two years ago, Eitan helped her set up a greenhouse, where she grows papaya, chili peppers, beans and Thai spinach. Word soon got out, and she began supplying produce for Eisan, an upscale Thai restaurant in Tel Aviv.
Soon after, Noy set up a small eatery, offering Thai soup, which immediately became a hit with the moshav’s Thai workers. The venture was so successful that the couple decided to open a Thai restaurant next to the greenhouses.
Reservations required. Not kosher.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.–7:30 p.m. (officially for takeaway, but no one minds if you sit down and eat your food there). Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m., with seating. Details: 054-666-8287
4. Karmazina, Talmei Yosef
Israelis have become more interested in beer in recent years, and a number of new boutique breweries have opened up around the country, such as Karmazina in Moshav Talmei Yosef. It’s the brainchild of Hadas Karmazin – perhaps the only female brewer in the country. Her brewery has been operating for a decade already.
Karmazina offers 10 types of unfiltered and unpasteurized beer. “Brewing beer is kind of like making soup,” Karmazin explains. She says she fell in love with beer the first time she tasted it. She convinced the local authority to open a local brewing school.
Karmazin offers workshops (NIS 150) in which she teaches about the brewing process, as well as how to properly pour and drink beer. Participants are given tastes of five types of beer. Brewing workshops are also available for NIS 450.
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m.– 4 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.–3 p.m.Details: 052-256-6118
Darom Adom Festival details: www.habsor.co.il
Translated by Hannah Hochner.