A lovely day in Arad

AN ARAD highlight is the Midbar Winery. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
AN ARAD highlight is the Midbar Winery.
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Back in the 1990s, when I was an excited young girl, I dreamed about going to Arad.
I didn’t necessarily want to move there, but I was certainly thrilled about attending the annual Arad music festival, which took place every summer.
Since then, the city has experienced hard times – its last big music festival took place in 1995 – and the negative population growth has unfortunately turned the city into a ghost town. Even the Artists’ Colony, which used to attract many art and culture aficionados, began drawing fewer tourists.
The main culprit for these changes, in my opinion, is the local political leadership, which never really understood the city’s artistic and cultural potential, and the Artists’ Colony, which used to be full of life and activity, was neglected and underfunded.
Arad has the fortune, however, of being geographically situated in an amazing location. In recent years, Israelis have become more and more enamored of desert trips – on bicycles, jeeps, Tomcars, and ATVs – you name it. As a result, Arad has naturally become a popular starting and ending point for these nature outings.
Another reason Arad has become more popular is you can find decent bed-and-breakfasts there for a fraction of the cost of staying in the Dead Sea area.
In addition, although so many young Aradians have left to go live in the fast lane in Tel Aviv, a new trend is emerging in which former Aradians are deciding to come back to Arad and dedicate their time and energy to improving their hometown. These ideological young people refuse to sit by and let Arad disintegrate, so they’re trying to find alternative solutions to problems and restore hope to the city.
Kaprochka restaurant
One example that clearly shows how much faith these young Aradians have in their city is a restaurant called Kaprochka, a cute little hole in the wall in the Hatzavim neighborhood.
Kaprochka was opened about 18 months ago in a former shopping center that has seen better days by Uriah Aharoni and Leza Talmazeski, both of whom grew up in Arad.
Guests are warmly invited to enjoy the incredible smells of fresh-baked bread and pizza outside in the quaint courtyard. They use only natural raw ingredients, most of which are imported from Italy, and you can taste the high quality in every bite.
Address: 19 Ahva Road, Arad. Open Sunday- Thursday, noon to 10:30 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
KAPROCHKA RESTAURANT is a cute little hole in the wall.
Artists’ Colony
The amazing Arad revival is not limited to the culinary field, though. Recently, the sleepy Artists’ Colony has also been making great efforts to come back to life. The street, which years back used to be a type of pilgrimage site, has received a colorful face-lift.
Now, on weekends, it is jumping and full of life and interesting people, such as Heli, a charming artist who holds workshops for adults and children interested in creating mosaic and glass artwork.
Just down the street you’ll find Na’ama, who makes the most incredible creations from sugar fondant, and across the street is a studio where you can learn to design jewelry.
THE JUDAICA studio is run by IDF pensioner Rami Zamir.
Then there’s the Judaica studio run by Rami Zamir, an IDF pensioner, who creates masterpieces from recycled items made of copper, glass, clay and wood. Next door you’ll find Casa Panitz, a gallery where you can see an array of artwork and furniture made from wood, which also functions as a café on weekends. It was founded by Eran and Nora, who left central Israel in search of a more meaningful life in the desert, and now offer three-hour workshops for groups and families (NIS 300).
Glass museum, puppet museum
Of course, we must not forget the veteran Glass Art Museum and the commedia dell’arte Fine Art and Doll Museum. The Glass Museum comprises four halls with artworks from over 30 artists, and at the Fine Art & Doll Museum you’ll find life-sized puppets sculpted from a variety of materials and styles.
Glass Art Museum, open Sunday- Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Details: (08) 995-3388.
Fine Art and Doll Museum, 14 Sadan Street. Details: 052-239- 8918.
THE SLEEPY Artists’ Colony is undergoing a revival.
Midbar Winery
Despite my love of art, the highlight of my day in Arad was Midbar Winery, located right at the edge of the Artist Colony.
Midbar, which changed ownership in 2012 and become kosher in 2014, produces over 40,000 bottles of wine every year. The current owner, Itzik Wolf, became a vintner after working for years in the hotel industry.
Midbar’s vineyards are located in Mitzpe Ramon, which partially accounts for why it makes such high-quality wines. There is not much rain in this area, so Wolf controls with drip irrigation exactly how much water the vines receive. This has a direct effect on the quality and flavor of the grapes, and Midbar is known especially for its white wine, which has an extremely high concentration of fruit and a rich mineral flavor.
Midbar offers tours and tastings for NIS 50 per person. Address: 10 Sadan Street. For reservations: (08) 866- 2100.
Throughout the lovely day I spent in Arad, I found that all the artists at the galleries and museums I visited were happy to talk with guests about what inspired their art work and their vision for the future of the city they love. 
Translated by Hannah Hochner.