Hiking season in the desert

Roded took his knowledge of the region and combined it with his understanding of Beduin culture, to create Kfar Hanokdim.

Camping tents and bungalows are available at the village (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Camping tents and bungalows are available at the village
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
There are a number of places in Israel where it seems like time has ceased to exist, and this is especially true in the desert. While we spout slogans like Ben-Gurion’s “Make the desert bloom,” there are actually people out there who live this on a daily basis.
Because we are right in the midst of the desert hiking season, I decided to visit Kfar Hanokdim, which is situated in the gorgeous southern Judean Desert. Although when it’s raining there are occasional flood alerts, for the most part January is the perfect time of year to go hiking in the desert.
One of my favorite places to start my Negev trips is Arad, a sleepy town (which I’ll write about in more detail another time) from which it is easy to reach Bik’at Kana’im (Road 3199).
This road, which descends into the valley, has gorgeous views, and since there’s very little traffic here, you can slow down and really enjoy the ride and look out at the wide-open desert landscape.
The valley is named after the Kana’im, the Zealots who fought against the Romans millennia ago at Masada.
In recent years, the valley has primarily been known for Kfar Hanokdim, a green oasis on the road between Arad and Masada that is full of flowers. The village was founded in 1991 by Yehoram Roded, who dreamed of offering guests an authentic desert experience.
For years, Roded guided tour groups through the Sinai Peninsula, and when that became impossible for political and security reasons, he decided to take his knowledge of the region and combine it with his understanding of Beduin culture, to create Kfar Hanokdim.
When the site first opened, there were only two tents, whereas now there is an entire series of guest houses as well as a camping site.
Roded’s son, Danny, recently took over management of the site, and has added a number of attractions.
The name Nokdim (“shepherds”) was given to the place by Beduin who live nearby. It was extremely important to Roded that his holiday village offer an experience that was as authentic as possible, and that’s why he created an oasis that is so rich in greenery, and uses only locally made artwork and furniture. He wanted Kfar Hanokdim to be a place to which guests can come back at the end of the day and relax on handmade Beduin cushions and rugs, drink fresh-brewed spicy coffee, enjoy a full Beduin meal, smoke narghila water pipes and play backgammon, while Beduin hosts tell traditional desert stories.
What else is there to do at Kfar Hanokdim other than sleep? You can go out for a walk on your own, or you can join a guided tour. There are camel rides which children adore, bike rides, and three walking trails that you can follow using Kfar Hanokdim’s app.
In addition, there are usually a variety of workshops taking place there on the weekends for kids and families, such as yoga, drumming, weaving, and even an ecology session in which participants learn how to use solar energy to produce energy.
Danny decided that it was important for guests to have a proper biking trail, and so he built one himself.
The 7-km. circular trail, which starts and ends in the village, is suitable for beginner and professional riders, as well as for families with kids. And now that temperatures are comfortable, guests can go riding practically any time of the day, although I recommend not starting too late, so you don’t get stuck out in the desert after dark.
If you like hiking trails that include a bit of water, too, I recommend going to the Tzfira pool, which is actually part of Tze’elim Stream. This pool has served locals for many years and is a popular resting spot. It takes about three hours to reach Tzfira pool by foot from Hanokdim, if you follow the black and blue trail markers. The pool is filled with water that is anything but clean and I don’t suggest swimming there, but there are always a few people there who cannot resist the temptation and jump in. There is also a ladder to climb down into the pool.
Another trail passes through Camel Way. It begins at Mitzpor Omer, a 10-minute drive from Kfar Hanokdim.
Before you start your trek (follow the red trail markers) take a look around – from this spot you can see Arad, Mount Kana’im, Mitzpor Gorni and the Hebron Hills. As you’re walking along the trail that leads down to the Siman Reservoir, into which flows water from all the streams in the area, you can download the Kfar Hanokdim app, which includes a quiz about the surrounding area. The reservoir is partially tiled with stones so that not too much sediment flows into the reservoir. You can’t go inside the reservoir, but you can see the water inside of it.
Another way to enjoy nature without having to walk so much is by visiting Mitzpe Moav in Arad.
The walk up to the lookout point is only 600 meters, and at the top, in addition to a nice view, you get to look upon an incredible statue sculpted by Yigal Tumarkin.
The lookout is situated in what seems at first to be a very strange location – at the end of a street in Arad.
But when you cross the street, the most breathtaking view of the Dead Sea, Judean Desert and Edom and Moab mountains all come into view.
The monument Tumarkin created out of stone, referred to by locals as The Plane, sits right in the middle of the lookout, and yet it blends right into the landscape.
There is a level path that leads to the lookout, and if you’d like to continue toward a second lookout, just follow the green trail markers. On the way, you’ll pass by a table made out of stone (also by Tumarkin) where you can sit and have a nice picnic as you gaze out at the lovely valley below. 
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Note: Trip includes an overnight stay and a variety of options, including hiking, camel rides and bike rides
Prices for overnight stay: Tents (min. 15 people) NIS 90 for adults, NIS 80 for children. Family tents: NIS 540 per tent. Huts: NIS 150 per person Camping: NIS 80 for adults, NIS 70 for children Meals (breakfast and dinner): NIS 160 for adults, NIS 100 for children Guest houses: NIS 500 per couple, NIS 100 per child; guest houses including meals: NIS 820 per couple, NIS 100 per child