Bury your head in the sand

Every guest gets personal attention from Dalia, who provides the warmth of home hospitality.

yehelim 224.88 (photo credit: Ehud Zion Waldoks)
yehelim 224.88
(photo credit: Ehud Zion Waldoks)
It takes but a moment to begin to feel the peace and quiet emanating from the desert around the Yehelim boutique hotel in Arad. It takes but a moment more to appreciate how Dalia Yahel has designed the hotel to play upon and enhance that sense of a space apart. Situated on the edge of where Arad meets the open desert and overlooking the Dead Sea, the hotel of just 10 rooms blends into the landscape and while subtly accenting its elegance and luxury. Yehelim is the Yahel family business (hence its name). Doron, a contractor, built the hotel and Dalia designed it. Their three oldest children serve as wait staff in the restaurant. Every guest gets personal attention from Dalia, who provides the warmth of home hospitality. Originally from Moshav Nir Banim near Kiryat Gat, Dalia and Doron chose Arad part as a Zionist mission and part as a business opportunity. "When people think of the South, they think of Eilat and the Dead Sea and think there's nothing in between," Doron told The Jerusalem Post, sitting on a veranda that serves as an outdoor dining room with a view of the surrounding hills. "Why go all the way to Sinai when you can have the desert here?" The Yahels bought the land in 1999 when there was talk of a wave of immigration and development which would revive the sleepy town near the southern tip of the Dead Sea. Instead of a revival, they got the second intifada, and it wasn't until last year that they finally realized their dream. Yehelim's 10 rooms are both spacious and elegant. They are spotless, with a minimalist Middle Eastern style that fits well with the desert. A muted color scheme treats the eyes gently and provides a soothing atmosphere to wake up slowly to. There are no pictures on the walls because, as Dalia explains, "who needs that kind of clutter when every time you open a window there's a picture right there?" Almost every room looks out onto the desert landscape, and they all have a TV with cable, air conditioning, a "coffee corner" and a Jacuzzi bathtub. Every guest has access to either a patio or garden with a small table and two chairs for that late night drink while the moon comes up over the sand dunes or for an early morning coffee and book. The hotel also doubles as a vegetarian restaurant - the food is prepared by Dalia - with a variety of pastas, salads, soups, wraps and quiches. The food is both delicious and healthy. The lentil mangold soup, stir-fried vegetables and pastas were all quite tasty. Breakfast is included and lunch and dinner can be arranged from a set menu for a reasonable price. While the kitchen is totally vegetarian and only buys kosher produce and supplies, there is no kosher certificate and it's open on Shabbat. Since Arad is two hours from Jerusalem by car and a half-hour from the Dead Sea, one could argue that it is a bit off the beaten path. However, according to Dalia, that is exactly the point. "This is a place to relax in, to disengage from the day-to-day. While I believe there are energies everywhere, they are stronger in the desert - and I am not someone who instinctively loves the desert," she said. To enhance that sense of peace, Yehelim does not host children under the age of 13. "This is a place for people to relax, read, enjoy the desert - not for a lot of noise. Also, there's nothing here to entertain the kids," Dalia noted. But there's a lot to entertain a couple or a small group of adults. Upstairs, there's a Chinese medicine clinic where different types of massages are available for NIS 200 each. The hotel will happily organize a hiking, biking or jeep trip in the desert, and there is a hot air balloon nearby for those who want an aerial view. Yehelim is currently planning a garage for bikes, and there is a place in town to rent them. At the moment there is no pool, but the hotel has a deal with a country club a short walk away for guests to use the pool and sauna there. There is also a breathtaking observation point overlooking the desert and the sea at the end of the road. In addition, Yehelim has created a tradition of live music on the veranda every weekend night during the summer season. For those with an artistic bent, Dalia also offers a workshop on making bead jewelry. Above and beyond the activities, Yehelim provides a place to unwind from daily life with an infectious peace and quiet.n One night in a regular room midweek is NIS 590 per couple and NIS 720 on the weekends. An upgraded room for one night is NIS 720 midweek and NIS 860 on the weekend per couple. Two nights in a regular room midweek runs NIS 990 per couple and on the weekend is NIS 1,300. For an upgraded room for two nights, the price is NIS 1,300 midweek and NIS 1,600 on the weekend per couple. Tourists can get a 15.5% VAT discount by presenting a photocopy of their passport. Contact Dalia at 052-652-2718 or 077-202-8120/6. E-mail: [email protected] The writer was a guest of Yehelim.