Summertime, when the kids are off from school, is always a challenging time to keep everyone cool and happy. Thankfully, there are lots of creative activities and adventures taking place in Israel, and depending on kids’ ages and their preferences, you can piece together a fantastic vacation without breaking your wallet.
The Negev region has two settings: hot during the day and cold at night. When Har Hanegev Tourism joined forces with the Merage Foundation and Israel’s National Parks, the resulting collaboration was the Cool Summer Nights Festival. During the festival, every weekend of July and August, activities will take place in the evening, at night and also in the very early morning hours. The wide variety of activities are subsidized, so what are you waiting for? It’s time to pack a bag and join the fun.
The Cool Summer Nights Festival will take place every weekend through the end of August.
1. Avdat National Park
The Perseids, a prolific meteor shower associated with the comet Swift–Tuttle, always peaks around August 11, 12 and 13. But this year, light from the full moon will interfere with our view of the meteors and stars, as the moon drifts overhead throughout the night. All is not lost, though, as the meteor shower serendipitously overlaps with the celebration of Tu B’av, the Jewish holiday of love.
At Avdat National Park, visitors will enjoy a weekend full of moonlight, gorgeous sunsets, love and all that’s nice. Among the activities that will be taking place on site are arts and craft workshops, mental and spiritual wellbeing sessions, an opportunity to view the moon through a giant telescope, and camel and alpaca rides.
On Thursday, August 11, in honor of Tu B’av, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority will be holding musical performances and talks on the subject of love in the Bible, which will be free of charge and held in three locations. Every Thursday and Friday evening at 5 p.m. during the month-long festival, there will be guided tours of the ancient Nabatean city of Avdat, which is perched on a cliff overlooking Nahal Zin.
As you tour around the national park, you will encounter the remains of ancient temples, residential structures, agricultural devices and even burial caves. Just as the sun begins to set and the sky colors with pastel oranges and pinks, you can take your time exploring Avdat National Park. Entrance to the park and the tour, which is geared toward the whole family, are free of charge.
Dates: August 11-13Details: fe.sales.parks.org.il/product-page/979.
2. Art workshops
Many Israeli artists have fallen in love with the Negev desert and as a result, there are always plenty of arts and crafts workshops to join while you’re visiting southern Israel. One such artist is Sarit Fano from Yeroham, who specializes in natural apothecary and the body’s chakras, using herbs that she collects in the desert of southern Israel. In the workshop she runs, Fano helps participants create their own natural products, such as perfume, cream, serum, lip balm and toothpaste. You will receive a copy of the recipe in case you want to make more of these products at home.
Dates: All week, by appointment.Details: 050-913-1087.
3. Desert Wineries
In the agricultural calendar, summer is the harvest season, and if you were wondering if there are vineyards that prosper in the desert, then you’ll be happy to know that the Negev is truly a fitting climate for growing grapes. Southern Israel actually has the perfect terroir (the combination of factors including soil, climate and sunlight that gives wine grapes their distinctive character) for growing grapes. Wines made from grapes grown in the Negev have even gained international recognition.
The Merage Foundation, which founded the Negev Winery Club, has helped tremendously with the promotion of the wine industry in southern Israel. As part of the Cool Summer Nights Festival, every weekend in the evening there will be wine tastings and tours, during which you’ll learn what goes into the cultivation of grapevines in the desert climate.
There are quite a few wineries in Israel’s southern region, including Pinto Winery in Yeroham, and Derech Eretz Winery and Nana Winery, both of which are located in Mitzpeh Ramon, to name a few. Each wine has its own unique aroma, flavor and smoothness. There’s nothing like sipping a glass of excellent wine and nibbling on little cubes of cheese to make you feel like you’ve been temporarily transported to Tuscany or Provence. When you drive by a vineyard in the middle of the desert and you see the deep green color of the grapevines, it sometimes seems like you’re seeing a mirage.
Dates: August 18-20.Details: www.negevtour.co.il/en/.
4. Star gazing
If you are an astronomy aficionado, then you’re in luck. The best way to see the stars in Israel is to go to the Negev far away from the light of the cities, where the air is clear and free of air pollution. Whether you’re in Yeroham, Pitchat Nitzana, Sde Boker or Mitzpeh Ramon, just raise your eyes and gaze up into the night sky.
As part of the Cool Summer Nights Festival, there will be guides to help you spot constellations and the Milky Way, as well as to tell you about the mythologies that were conceived millennia ago. The guides will explain the differences between stargazing with flashlights, lasers and advanced telescopes.
One of the best locations for stargazing in Israel is the Ramon Crater. In fact, the International Dark Sky association has officially recognized the pristine dark night sky of the Ramon Crater and named it the first International Dark Sky Park in the Mideast. This is one of the few locations in Israel where you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye. The Ramon Crater has become a magnet for visitors and researchers alike and in an effort to preserve dark night skies, the city of Mitzpeh Ramon has set out to reduce local light pollution.
In recent years, there’s been a culinary revolution in Israel. The newest alternative culinary trend is food trucks, which have added lots of spice (and herbs) to the Israeli culinary scene. The phenomenon of food trucks, which can be found on main roads, at intersections and popular spots, originated in the US, and is now a welcome trend in Israel.
One such gem is Fat & Juicy, which was created by Yotam Damari and Yuval Yarkali, both of whom hail from Kibbutz Revivim. This kosher meat grill food truck, which is located at Mash’abei Sadeh Intersection, offers a bountiful selection of hamburgers, including “Mac & Cheese,” made with vegan cheese. The owners serve generous portions with a smile and there is plenty of parking next to the truck, as well as tables with sun shades.
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.Details: fat-juicy.com.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.