Darom Adom: Southern Israel is in bloom

Don't miss out on the red flowers and all the south has to offer.

KALANIYOT WALK (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The rainy weather we’ve been having these last few weeks has put a damper on many people’s plans to go hiking all over the country. We mustn’t forget, however, that this is the time of year when Jews pray for rain in the Land of Israel, and that all this water is doing great things for the country. Unfortunately, some activities at the Darom Adom (“Red South”) Festival had to be canceled, and so the organizers extended the festival for another week, through March 7.
As a result, this weekend and next will be your last opportunity to enjoy the plethora of activities offered during the festival. And because of the ample rainfall we’ve had this winter, the blossoming anemones are covering the ground throughout the region.
If Shoshana Damari’s rendition of the song “Kalaniyot” is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of these gorgeous red flowers, you are not alone. This year will be the 14th anniversary of the iconic singer’s death. Even though the kalayniyot in the song refer to the code word used during the British Mandate to alert Stern Group and Irgun fighters to the presence of British soldiers, who donned red berets, festival organizers were so adamant about using this song that they didn’t let this historical fact dissuade them. The traditional kalaniyot walk, which passes between hills and across the fields of the Bitronot Ruhama Reserve that’s blanketed with red flowers, is divided into three tracks: 2.5 km., 5.5 km. and 7.5 km. Actors and jugglers will entertain participants as they pass by.
Free parking is available at Sapir College, with free shuttles to and from the festival.
Date: Saturday, February 29, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Price: NIS 45 (under three free). Reduced family price: NIS 40.
Details: habsor.co.il.
While he sits in the Moroccan tent set up in his garden in Moshav Netiv Ha’asara, Micha Biton regales the story of his parents’ tumultuous aliyah to Israel from Morocco and the years they spent living in a ma’abara (transit camp for new immigrants). Guests are enchanted as Biton talks with longing about his childhood in Sderot and the cultural differences he experienced throughout his life and his quest for self-identity. He sings songs that are full of pain and optimism about these experiences.
Biton is the protagonist of the To Myself book series written by author Galila Ron-Feder Amit, whose family served as Biton’s foster family. In his performance of “Between Sderot and Jerusalem”, Biton recounts his life as an artist and father of four living in a community near the Gaza Strip, including all of the related complex security issues. Nonetheless, Biton has remained an optimistic peace-loving person.
Dates: Fridays, February 28 and March 6.
Location: Moroccan tent set up in Micha Biton’s garden in Moshav Netiv Ha’asara.
Price: Adults NIS 50; First child NIS 30, each additional child NIS 10.
Details: 077-729-5861
Colorful tapestries and the intoxicating aroma of fresh coffee await guests in the Bedouin tent set up in the open-air market next to Rahat’s community center. There will be an assortment of handmade Bedouin jewelry and crafts made from natural desert materials, for sale. Visitors can taste traditional Bedouin dishes and locally produced olive oil, ride a camel or join a guided tour of Rahat, during which they will learn about Bedouin culture.
Date: Saturday, February 29, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Open-air market next to Rahat’s community center.
Price: All activities are free of charge.
Details: 054-748-7005
The northern Negev is brimming with exciting battle sites and stories of heroic skirmishes. One such place is the Black Arrow Memorial, a site where IDF paratroopers fought between 1953 and 1956. Retired soldiers from Unit 101 who took part in the Mivtza Kadesh battle, and in 11 out of the 70 operations that took place in the area, will be on site to recount their first-hand experiences.
On the next two Saturdays, visitors are invited to attend a craft fair and purchase locally grown fruits, vegetables and olives, as well as ceramics, jewelry, toys and housewares. There will also be stands with freshly made delicacies such as kanafeh, baklava and home-roasted sunflower seeds, alongside fun workshops for kids.
Another heritage site is Sayeret Shaked Park, featuring an impressive iron bridge over the Ofakim River that was built by the Ottomans. The elite Shaked Unit used to carry out training exercises on this site, and a number of reservists from the unit planted trees, erected monuments and installed picnic tables there in memory of their comrades in arms who lost their lives protecting our country. There will be guided tours during which participants will hear stories about the combat soldiers and commanders who fought valiantly in this unit.
Dates: Fridays and Saturdays, February 28 and 29, March 6 and 7. Fridays: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Location: Sayeret Shaked Park, near Ofakim.
Price: All activities are free.
Details: 052-437-1780
On the edge of the Besor River, you’ll find the fabulous Besor Park, which is known for its extensive meadows, playgrounds, picnic tables, walking and bike trails, and the thousands of trees that offer shade to visitors year round.
During the Darom Adom Festival, there will be exciting circus performances, juggling and breathtaking acrobatics, with a spectacular fire show in the evening. During the day, visitors can take part in juggling, stilts and tightrope-walking workshops.

Israel Nature and Parks Authority guides will lead tours to the spring, Givat Hamitzpor, the Egyptian Governor’s House, the outlook with a view of the Besor River, and the train bridge. Free tours will begin at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. There will also be a farmer’s market with food stalls, alongside workshops for kids.
Dates: Saturdays, February 29 and March 7, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Price: Adults NIS 22, children NIS 9 (under 5 free). All activities are included in the entrance fee.
Details: *3639, 077-729-5880, habsor.co.il

Translated by Hannah Hochner.