Darom Adom

There are plenty of other activities for the entire family other than gazing at the colorful flowers.

Red anemones at Darom Adom (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Red anemones at Darom Adom
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Just about everyone in Israel has heard of the Darom Adom (Red South)Festival, which takes place in southern Israel every winter. Now in its 11th year, the festival is once again here to remind us that southern Israel is one of the most beautiful places to visit, especially this time of year when the ground is covered with Israel’s national flower, blooming red anemones.
Of course, there are plenty of other activities for the entire family other than gazing at the colorful flowers. This year, the festival focuses on Israeli folk music and marks the 10th yahrzeit of Shoshana Damari, famous for the song “Kalaniyot” (“anemones”).
The Darom Adom festival is held in the Eshkol Region between Nahal Shikma and Nahal Habesor until February 20. Among the long list of activities planned for the festival (some of which require a fee) are guided tours, concerts out in the fields, shows such as Darom Adom Live every Thursday evening (with Danny Sanderson, Yehudit Ravitz and Gidi Gov and friends), and outdoor fruit and vegetable markets and fairs. Since the festival is so extensive, I’m going to focus here just on the Nahal Shikma region of the northern Negev, which offers a sample of just about everything that’s taking place during the festival.
Ruhama Badlands My top recommendation, suitable for every season of the year, is a hike through the Ruhama Badlands, an incredible experience. You will experience nature at its best while learning about some really interesting geological phenomena. It turns out that the hills are remnants of a sandstone ridge, and are the easternmost ridge of the western Negev.
The region is made up of soft loess soil, which absorbs water and then seals it in, which means that there is a highly increased chance for sinkholes. Along these badlands, you will find unique vegetation and fascinating fauna. And of course, at this time of year you’ll find lots of anemones.
Outdoor painting workshops
Every Saturday during the festival between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., there will be free outdoor painting workshops at Kibbutz Ruhama run by Sapir College. A similar activity will also take place at the Harari Parking area near Nahal Habesor (Route 241 at the Maon junction).
Historical tours
There will also be historical tours every Saturday of the festival, during which participants will be regaled with stories of early Zionist settlement in the region from 1912 to 1917. Guests will watch a film at the renovated site, view pictures of how the site used to be, and see a live show of how the well was used in those days.
Tours will take place between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Preregistration is required: 054-799-5149.
Price: NIS 10 per person. Free for children under five.
Hot-air ballooning
If looking at the anemones from ground level does not sound very exciting to you, and you’re interested in something a little more adventurous, you can try going up in an Over Israel hot air balloon.
The trip lasts about 60 minutes, during which you’ll get to see endless anemones from a number of different angles. It’s not cheap (NIS 690 per person) but it’s not every day you get to experience something this unique.
Details: 053-290-0007.
Miriam’s Maze
If you haven’t experienced Miriam’s Maze at Moshav Nir Moshe for yourself, then you are in for a real treat. Here you will find herbs and spices spread out along 1,600 meters, where you can let your senses go wild. During the festival, every hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., there will be a cooking workshop during which participants will learn about the secrets of herbs.
Afterwards, participants will be led on a guided tour of the maze, during which they are invited to pick leaves and flowers to fill small bags.
Price: NIS 35 per person (free for children under four). Preregistration recommended: 050-624-6427, 050-427-2004
Where to stay
If you really want to experience the Negev and enjoy the festival to its fullest, I recommend staying overnight in the area. There are a number of guest houses and kibbutz hotels, and my two favorites are Kibbutz Dorot and Kibbutz Ruhama.
Dorot offers 17 rooms, as well as a petting zoo, a restaurant, a dairy farm, agricultural tours and an archeological museum. Dorot also serves a fantastic Israeli breakfast on Saturday morning or a picnic basket full of goodies.
Price: NIS 450 to NIS 590 per night.
Details: 077-729-5746.
At Kibbutz Ruhama, you’ll find 27 rooms surrounded by a pastoral paradise. The breakfasts are bountiful and the kibbutz has large open grounds.
Price: NIS 490-550.
Details: 054-799-5095.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.