Beit Guvrin Festival

Yoav Regional Council picked up the gauntlet and is once again holding the Beit Guvrin Festival from August 18 to 27.

The Akoya Spa Club in Hamei Yoav ‘has become the in place for younger crowds who want to be indulged.’ (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The Akoya Spa Club in Hamei Yoav ‘has become the in place for younger crowds who want to be indulged.’
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
August is the ideal time to attend a festival in Israel. It’s too hot to go for a daytime hike, and so most families search for activities that won’t break the bank.
To that end, the Yoav Regional Council picked up the gauntlet and is once again holding the Beit Guvrin Festival from August 18 to 27. For the 14th consecutive year, the public is invited to partake in a plethora of activities, hikes, tours, navigation exercises, bird-watching, and culinary delights. All the sessions are suitable for adults and children, many are free, and some require advance registration.
Idan Ofan at Kibbutz Revadim
The first thing I always recommend to friends who are traveling in the Yehuda region is making a stop at Idan Ofan at Kibbutz Revadim near Masmiya junction. Idan Ofan is a center that brings together many professional bike riders, and also offers a bike shop where even a beginner can get set up with all the necessary equipment to enjoy a pleasant ride. Around the kibbutz, there are dozens of lovely riding trails, so everyone can find a suitable one. The most popular trail among families is a 12-kilometer stretch that is well marked. And if you’re feeling particularly lazy, there are golf carts for rent that can fit up to six people.
During the festival, guided night tours begin every afternoon. During the ride, which lasts about two hours, participants ride through the kibbutz’s cotton fields and take a dip in a refreshing cold pool. The tour also passes through the ancient Philistine city of Ekron, from which olive oil was exported to Egypt during the First Temple period. The Babylonians destroyed the city, and in modern times, excavations show that Ekron was a thriving community with its own olive presses.
At the end of the tour, the group stops at Tel Ekron, from which there is an amazing panoramic view of the entire area.
Bike rentals: NIS 50 per person for two hours.
Golf carts: NIS 200 for four people.
Prices have been set especially for the festival.
Details: 050-748-1238.
Navigation exercise for the whole family
If your family gets excited by navigation games, you’ll really enjoy the activities at Dalia Power Station. On Tuesday, August 23, at 4:30 p.m., a navigation exercise that’s suitable for the whole family will take place at the power station. The activity will begin with a tour of the visitor center and an explanation about the basics of navigating and how to read a map, and then continue with a real navigation exercise out in the Haruvit Forest.
Dalia is the largest private power station in Israel that produces electricity from natural gas. This type of production is considered to be more environmentally friendly. Participants will learn through hands-on games and quizzes how the power plant aims to produce electricity in a way so as to harm the environment, people and animals as little as possible. The two-hour tour is appropriate for all ages and is 1.5 to 2 kilometers long.
Meeting point: Dalia Power Station parking area.
The activity is free, but preregistration is required: (08) 683-4106.
Museum of art and sculpture
And if you’re already out in nature, I recommend visiting the Moshe Shek Art Museum in Kibbutz Beit Nir.
Shek, who was a founder of the kibbutz, is one of Israel’s best-known sculptors, and most of his works were inspired by his surroundings.
The museum is spread out on three floors. In the basement is a collection of his statues, which are for sale. Visitors can also watch a 20-minute video about his life and art. The Shek Permanent Collection is situated on the first floor, and on the top floor lies another collection of statues, and there are also chairs there on which guests can sit and relax as they look out at the beautiful view.
Free guided tours of the museum will take place on August 22 and 23. Preregistration is necessary. On other days, the tour costs NIS 20.
For details, contact Shula Shek: (08) 687-4368.
‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’
If you’re traveling with children (or you just happen to be the inquisitive type), another great option is the tour “Journey to the Center of the Earth” with geologist Dr. Arie Itamar. A retired geologist, Itamar has been collecting stones from around the world all his life. In his backyard, he created a number of stations which describe how the earth was formed.
The Journey to the Center of the Earth tour is an official Yehuda Region Tourist Site that is free of charge and is available by appointment. Itamar explains where every rock came from in simple terms that are understandable to everyone.
Guided tours will take place on August 22 and 23 every hour starting at 5 p.m. Preregistration is required: 052-632-1318.
Where to eat
At Kibbutz Gat there is a unique culinary treasure called La Terra Promessa, which is both a winery and a restaurant. The winery produces 7,000 bottles a year (Italian wines such as Primitivo and Sangiovese). Most are blends, but some are pure varietal wines. The owners, Irit and Sandro Pellegrini, serve traditional dishes, both from Kerala state in southern India, which is where Irit’s family hails from, as well as Italian recipes that have been in Sandro’s family for generations.
During the festival, La Terra Promessa is offering free double desserts and wine to anyone who orders a meal over NIS 200.
To make a reservation: 050-568-4775.
Akoya Club Spa
If, after all this activity, you’re ready for some pampering, I recommend relaxing at the Akoya Club Spa in Hamei Yoav, a spa with hot springs and thermo-mineral baths. Although the pools at Hamei Yoav usually attract an older crowd, the Akoya Club has become the in place for younger people who want to be indulged.
The complex is situated in the center of a green garden with lots of little private niches, thermal mineral pools, an open bar and a restaurant that offers buffet style breakfast and brunch.
Akoya is open all week long – including weekends – for massage treatments or just to go in the pools.
Details: (08) 670-5607.
Ecological botanical garden
One last important landmark that I really encourage you to visit is Givat Tom V’Tomer, an ecological botanical garden that was created in memory of the 73 Israeli soldiers who died in the 1997 helicopter disaster. Two of the deceased, Tom Kita’in and Tomer Keidar, both from Kibbutz Negba, were friends who’d gone to school together at Tzafit Regional High School. Along the length of the path, visitors will find verses from Scripture, along with short riddles.
Directions: Drive south on Route 3. At Negba junction, turn south (left) and, before you reach Kibbutz Negba, turn left toward the hill.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.