Farmers are great to have in the family. They’re hard-working people who know how to improvise and invent, and farms are fun places for weekend visits. However, for those who don’t have a farmer in the family, there are many of them who are happy to introduce visitors to the great outdoors and the pleasures of farming. And you don’t even have to drive too far.Start your visit on Moshav Beit Elazari, just south of Rehovot on Route 40, which has the largest cactus and bonsai collection in the country. At Regev Gardens, you can see a huge variety of cactus plants, some of which are quite rare. The compound also includes Japanese gardens, an aviary, and other plants and flowers that are available for purchase. This is definitely a pleasant way to spend at least a few hours.
Traveling southeast from there via Route 3, you’ll come to Be’er Tuviya, where you can visit the Shmueli farm. This is a small family farm that has developed expertise in making quality goat cheese. A fine goat herd on the farm produces the healthful milk that the family uses for making their tasty cheeses. Visitors can learn about the stages of the process, from fresh milk to soft cheese, hard cheese or yogurt, which are also available for sale.Two kilometers to the south, in Kfar Warburg, you can explore the beauty and benefits of the hibiscus flower. Visit Meshek Ziv and meet the owner, Ya’acov, who will guide you through the wonders of his hibiscus farm – including plenty of colorful stories, and special products that he makes from the giant flower, such as liqueur, wine and cosmetic oils.
If you want to have a small picnic or take a rest, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund has provided access to a natural winter pond near Ein Tzurim. It is filled with rainwater during the winter months, and a wooden ramp leads to an observatory where you can quietly watch the water birds. Eucalyptus trees planted during the British Mandate offer some shade on sunny days. From there, you can drive a few kilometers to the Tom and Tomer Hill memorial site, located at the entrance to Kibbutz Negba. Tom and Tomer, best friends since childhood, were two of the 73 soldiers killed in the tragic IDF helicopter disaster of 1997. Their parents established the memorial, which has a garden with local flora and includes information about the disaster. There is also a pole, erected by the Israel Electric Company, memorializing the fallen soldiers. It is decorated with 73 white doves.On the weekends, you mustn’t miss the fabulous food from Noam’s Artichokes at Moshav Nir Banim. You wouldn’t believe the variety and health benefits of these fine delicacies.A day or two visiting these off-the-beaten-track sites can teach you a lot about the heart of the country.For more info: www.touryoav.org.il