A lovely visit to Arad

One of the most amazing aspects of living and working in Arad is the special connection residents have with nature.

A BREATHTAKING view of the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert can be seen while guided jeep tour with Te’ima Mehamidbar (photo credit: EYAL TAMIR)
A BREATHTAKING view of the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert can be seen while guided jeep tour with Te’ima Mehamidbar
(photo credit: EYAL TAMIR)
Recently, Israelis have discovered that the city of Arad is a gem. A number of new attractions have opened up there, as well as a few great restaurants that are perfect for stopping off for a meal when you’re traveling in the region.
Arad Racing Track
One of my favorite places in the city is the Arad Racing Track. It is the country’s first full-size auto racing track and is 1.6 kilometers long. Manager Itai Alon has been racing since he was 17 and was even the Israel champion in 2016. Guests can drive with their own private cars on the track, or they can opt for a more authentic experience and rent one of the race cars, don a professional auto racing suit and go for an exciting sportive drive. Check the track’s active Facebook page for details.
Price: From NIS 100 to NIS 1,000.
Details: 052-836-9695.
Yonat Hamidbar
One of the most amazing aspects of living and working in Arad is the special connection residents have with nature. This is especially true with respect to Yonat Hamidbar, which manufactures natural soaps and other health products. It was established by Yonat Mordoch, who studied for a master’s degree in biology in Jerusalem before deciding to move down south to the desert. While traveling in Tibet, she was helped by a local doctor, who helped heal her in just three weeks from a medical problem she’d had for over a decade. Mordoch immediately bought a copy of his book and began studying herbal medicine.
Mordoch then returned to Israel and began studying in Sde Boker. Later on, she studied ethnobotany (the relationship between human societies and plants) and even learned from Bedouin how to use herbs in our everyday lives. Nowadays, Mordoch makes soaps, offers workshops, and gives two-hour educational tours to learn about desert herbs.
Price of tour: NIS 200 to NIS 220.
Details: 052-530-7616.
Shamayim Bamayim
The next stop on the itinerary is an absolute must if you’re visiting the area during the hot summer months. Shamayim Bamayim, which was founded by Sivan Cohen Avitan, is a hydrotherapy center at Sha’ar Hanegev that offers Watsu therapy for children with communication problems and autism. Cohen Avitan, who built a pool in her backyard, welcomes visitors to her home with snacks and wine from the local Midbar Winery.
In her 45-minute therapy sessions, she helps her clients float in the heated pool, while relaxing music plays in the background. Cohen Avitan moves clients’ limbs around gently, while she massages and rotates their bodies. This is a great way to find relief from stress and disengage from the pressures of daily life for a few precious moments.
Price: NIS 280 per person or NIS 500 per couple.
Details: 054-492-7261.
Tai chi
Rachel Yanai, an artist and therapist, holds tai chi workshops in her home, and immediately afterward hosts participants for vegetarian meals she’s made from scratch. Yanai is also active in social tourism. She participates in People Love People, a home hosting social enterprise that enables people to be hosted in people’s homes and to discuss leisure activities, art, health, technology and trips. Yanai talks about herself, describes Arad, and encourages guests to share about themselves, too.
Among the many workshops Yanai offers are: yoga, laughter, tai chi, and meditation. The workshops last for one hour.
Price of meals: NIS 75-120. Workshops cost NIS 120 per person or for a group of up to three people.
Medurat Hashevet
One of the most amazing culinary experiences I’ve ever had was at Medurat Hashevet in the Bar Sadeh residence. This isn’t a regular restaurant but an entire socio-culinary experience. Operating out of Dganit and Eli Bar Sade’s home, these meals take place on weekends. Guests sit around a huge table in the backyard and are introduced to one another. The common denominator is that everyone present is really into eating good food.
Throughout the meal, Eli regales guests with fascinating stories, as guests are offered more and more tastes of scrumptious meat that was prepared in the Bar Sade smoker, which sits in their backyard. There are also tons of salads as well as breads that are hot out of the oven. The meal lasts for three to four hours, and by the time dessert is served, all who are seated around the table have become really good friends. At this point, Eli usually takes out his guitar, and the atmosphere gets even happier.
Price: NIS 250 per person.
Preregistration is required: 050-422-4777.
Te’ima Mehamidbar
A different way to connect with the desert is to go on a jeep tour. One option is to take a guided tour with Te’ima Mehamidbar, which operates tours in the Judean Desert, Bik’at Hakana’im, Masada and other locations from which you will have incredible views of the Dead Sea. This is a great way to get to know the area, especially when it’s too hot outside to go hiking. These trips are great for the whole family, and guides offer lots of interesting explanations.
Price: NIS 400-600 (depending on number of participants)
Preregistration required: 050-246-7600.
Koreh Bamidbar
In addition to the boutique hotels in Arad, a number of bed-and-breakfasts have also popped up in recent years in Arad.  One of my favorites is Koreh Bamidbar, which overlooks the great expanse of natural desert landscape.
The guest rooms, located in the outskirts of the city, include two spacious units that are tastefully decorated. One is suitable for a couple, and the other for a family of up to four.
There are comfortable chairs out front, where you can relax as you enjoy the beauty of the desert and the intoxicating aroma of the herbs planted in the garden. The bed-and-breakfast has all the amenities you’d want in a vacation rental, such as a kitchenette outfitted with an electric tea kettle and Nespresso machine, a large bed, a TV, free Wi-Fi and even a large Jacuzzi – in short, everything you need to relax and enjoy your vacation to the fullest extent. Guests can order a full breakfast and massages as well.
Prices: Weekday: NIS 700 for a couple (NIS 150 extra for additional guests); weekends: NIS 800 per couple (NIS 200 extra for additional guests).
Details: 054-240-5900.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.