Darom Adom Festival

Participants can touch, handle, and even pick and eat the many fruits and vegetables they encounter during the tour.

A homemade cheese plate from Be’eri Dairy. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
A homemade cheese plate from Be’eri Dairy.
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
It would be a crime to breeze through the month of February without stopping to notice the beautiful red anemones blooming throughout the country and to participate in the Darom Adom (Red South) Festival, which will soon be celebrating its 10th anniversary.
The festival, which runs through February 21, offers a variety of outdoor attractions in open areas between Nahal Habesor and Nahal Shikma. This year, the festival’s title will be “Fairies and Heroes among the Flowers,” and as visitors wander through fields covered with anemones, they will encounter familiar characters and celebrities who will be putting on free shows out in nature.
In addition, during the weekends of the festival, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund will be holding free tours of areas covered with flowers. Here is a short list of tours I recommend.
The Salad Trail
Agronomist and tour guide Uri Alon founded the Salad Trail with his wife Shuli 12 years ago to attract local and foreign tourists to the Negev, and to encourage them to experience the incredible agriculture in the Besor region. During the dynamic tour of their farm, they explain how Israeli agriculturalists have taken advantage of Jewish brain power to turn the arid desert into an oasis.
Participants can touch, handle, and even pick and eat the many fruits and vegetables they encounter during the tour.
Even though we’re in the middle of winter and this is a shmita (sabbatical) year – when Jewish law mandates that the land lie fallow, and therefore produce is not grown for resale – the farm will be celebrating the festival as usual. In order to comply with the shmita rules, some of the plants are grown partially detached from the soil or in greenhouses, or were planted before Rosh Hashana.
Right at the beginning of the tour, participants will get to see the dark red strawberries planted the former way, hanging between heaven and earth. Because they are not planted in the ground, but instead grow inside bags made partially from coconut husks, the strawberries do not need to be sprayed with pesticides and as a result are healthier.
After the strawberries, visitors can take a tour of the greenhouses and learn a little about how fruits and vegetables are grown, about the various stages of growth and about biological pesticides. During the tour, participants will also hear explanations about the roles bees play in farming and the pollination process inside greenhouses.
The Salad Trail tour usually lasts about two-and-a-half hours, but due to the increased number of visitors during the festival, tours will be a bit shorter to accommodate everyone.
Full tour: NIS 45
Shortened tour: NIS 37
Pre-registration necessary.
Contact Uri: 052-853-5442.
Yamit Bloc Museum
Since you’re already in the area, I recommend popping over to the Yamit Bloc Museum on Moshav Dekel. Many people who lived in and were evicted from Yamit – which Israel left in 1982 along with 15 other Sinai settlements as a result of the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt – resettled on Moshav Dekel.
The small museum tells the story of the young settlers who dreamed of resettling the Negev on this small piece of paradise they’d been allocated. The museum describes how Yamit was founded in 1971, what it was like living near the Beduin, and the construction of the first municipal center there.
There is also an exhibition that shows how the residents struggled to keep their community intact, and how at first they refused to believe that they would have to give up their homes in Yamit. Then the day of the withdrawal arrived, and they were all forcibly removed.
The museum is appropriate for all ages and is only open with advance registration.
Price: NIS 15
For details: 077-729-5776
Bicycle rental and food market
At the entrance to Kibbutz Be’eri is a bicycle store called La Medavesh (“for the pedaler”), where you can buy or rent bicycles for all levels. There’s also an outdoor market where you can buy food and snacks and get a map showing bike trails that the KKL-JNF built.
There are three paths appropriate for families, as well as a few more challenging ones that are great for more adventurous visitors. But even if you don’t want to bike around, you can buy a map for NIS 10 and walk along the marked trails. On weekends during the February festival, there will be a “Good Life Market” on the kibbutz, selling local products such as chocolate, Isis boutique beer and cheeses.
Price: Half-day bike rental costs NIS 75, including helmet and map.
Pre-registration recommended.
Details at www.la-medavesh.co.il.
Be’eri Dairy
If you’ve come to Kibbutz Be’eri for a bike ride or to walk around, you must not leave before tasting the cheeses from Be’eri Dairy. It is run by Dagan Peleg, a kibbutz member who has been making incredible cheese for more than 15 years now. The cheeses are handmade and are aged on location. There are six hard cheeses to choose from, all of them made with milk from the kibbutz’s cows. Peleg also organizes dairy meals out in nature for groups, with the fare including quiche, cheese, bread, pastas, antipasti and wine.
Price: Starting from NIS 85 per person (minimum 20 people) For details: 054-791-8812 Shosh’s Gallery in Kfar Aza If you’re traveling with children, I highly recommend stopping at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, where you’ll find Shosh’s Gallery. The owner, Shosh, will be holding papier-mâché workshops during the festival. This is a fantastic opportunity for children and adults to get their hands messy and put their creative energies into making something amazing.
Painting and drawing workshops last 90 minutes.
Price: NIS 35-NIS 95, depending on materials
By appointment only: 050-649-2864 or 050-533-2270
Siboni Lookout at Nir’am
In the open space between Kibbutz Mefalsim and Kibbutz Nir’am lies the Siboni Lookout – a memorial site for Asaf Siboni, who was one of the 73 soldiers killed in 1997’s IDF helicopter disaster. You can reach the lookout by car by following signs from the entrance of Kibbutz Nir’am (Waze will also direct you).
At the lookout, there is a wind chime made out of wood and metal that makes music as it moves around in the wind, creating a serene atmosphere.
You’ll have a 360-degree view of the area from here, including of the pool nearby, where many birds gather; there are sandpipers, cormorants, aquatic birds, little egrets, great egrets and mallards, making this a bird-lover’s paradise.
Mides Restaurant
The Besor region is rich in tourist attractions, but unfortunately it is not so strong in the culinary arena.
Some of the restaurants are open only certain days a week, and others are closed on Shabbat, so I was excited to find the Brazilian restaurant Mides, which is nestled away in Kibbutz Bror Hayil. Kibbutz member Natan Galkowicz opened the restaurant in memory of his daughter, who was killed by a mortar shell in 2005 in Netiv Ha’asara. Galkowicz cooks and plays samba music at the restaurant, where the menu includes a variety of Brazilian dishes – in other words, plenty of beef and seafood – as well as vegetarian dishes, pasta, quiche and salads.
He also sells his own beer, which he makes from pitanga berries.
Kibbutz Bror Hayil is located off Route 232.
For information and reservations: 054-674-4197
Translated by Hannah Hochner.