Red in the South

The next month will bring four weekends of music, food and, of course, anemones to the Negev.

Red South festival (photo credit: LIRON KEINAN)
Red South festival
(photo credit: LIRON KEINAN)
As we all know, the South of the country, especially to the west, has been through some hard times in recent months.
But Livnat Ginsburg would like Israelis from all over the country to move on and move South – at least for a weekend or two.
Ginsburg, the tourism director responsible for the northwest Negev, says the locals have put the last hostilities behind them, and now the rest of us should do the same. And the ideal opportunity to do just that is almost upon us, when the 10th annual Darom Adom (Red South) Festival kicks off on January 29.
The titular shade is, of course, the classic color of the anemones that abound at this time of year, with the region around Kibbutz Be’eri particularly noted for its natural floral displays.
That and much more will be offered to the general public for the four weekends that span the festival, up to February 21.
Ginsburg says she and her colleagues are delighted that they and the festival have made it this far. In this day and age, when culture and arts budgets are close to scraping the bottom of the barrel, the festivals that manage to keep going for a decade are few and far between. “When we started Darom Adom, right from the word ‘go’ we decided we were in it for the long run,” she says. “We planned for the long term, and now we are reaping the benefits.”
Ginsburg not only wants us to head South, she wants us to get a little down and dirty. “People drive down to see the flowers, but they really need to get out of their cars and walk out into nature. There is just so much to see right now, and Mother Nature is offering us all this beauty.”
The festival is also offering plenty of entertainment and activities to enhance the alfresco fare, and the organizers are looking to get visitors to extend their Negev time to the maximum. The Darom Adom Live item should help to further that particular cause, with a galaxy of pop and rock starts lined up for Thursday evening shows, in addition to Friday slots – including such local music industry titans as Ehud Banai, Idan Raichel, Dana Berger, Avraham Tal and Red Band. Raichel is billed as the top draw of the musical side of the festival program, and he will pump out the decibels and, no doubt, tug a few heartstrings at his concerts at the Eshkol Auditorium on February 19 and 20.
Ideally, Ginsburg would like the public to stay over a night – possibly two – at local bed and breakfast accommodations; whoever takes that option will get a discount on any concert tickets they purchase. “We started with the Friday activities and programs to enable religious people to also get something out of the festival,” Ginsburg explains, “but people are more than welcome to make a weekend of it.”
Every festival to date has had a theme, and this time around it is “Flowers, Fairies and Heroes” – so don’t be overly surprised if, as you wend your merry way between the seasonal and evergreen flora of the northwest Negev, you come across some familiar folklore figure. Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority will also provide seasoned professionals who will be only too happy to take you by the hand and lead you through the byways of the environs, and enrich your knowledge of the countryside in the process. All guided walks are free.
At the end of the day, Ginsburg and her colleagues want us to come on down, have a great time and leave with an abiding Negev experience, and also come away with a better handle on what the region has to offer.
Part of that should be achieved through the use of the Darom Adom application, which can be downloaded free to any smartphone. The software should prove handy for all festival-goers, and offer a plethora of information about the activities lined up over the month, enabling users to plan their daily Darom Adom agenda.
“Of course, the original reason for the festival was the flowers, but they have always been here and I hope they always will,” says the tourism director.
“What we offer is a rich program of activities and events built around the natural base. People can contact us via Facebook, for example, and say, tell us they have just left from Yeroham and want to know what they can do during the day in our region, and we’ll advise them accordingly.” Sounds eminently user-friendly.
And members of the public can take more than just pleasant memories back home with them. Over the course of the four weekends, there will be farmers’ markets where we can purchase locally made produce.
“It’s not just about the familiar agricultural produce we have here – don’t forget, this is primarily an agricultural region,” Ginsburg notes. “There won’t just be fruit and vegetables; there will also be locally made beers and olive oil, and all kinds of things.”
As Darom Adom is a definitively outdoor event, there will be plenty of guided walks laid on as well as an organized running race; naturally, mountain bikers will also be able to have a ball. The region around Kibbutz Be’eri is well-known for its bike trails and, all told, there are 100 km.
of signposted routes just waiting for cyclists to don helmets and protective clothing and speed betwixt the flowers and trees.
Each Darom Adom weekend will also have its own thematic base. First up is the culture weekend, with music shows including acts by Dana Berger, Geva Alon and Natan Goshen, as well as a tribute to late diva Shoshana Damari, best-known for her emotive rendition of Kalaniot (Anemones).
The second weekend (February 5-7) will focus on nature, in the lead up to Tu Bishvat, while the following weekend will have a familial theme, with this year’s Family Day taking place on February 19.
Valentine’s Day also features in the Darom Adom repertoire, and local restaurants will lay on live musical entertainment and do their utmost to infuse their enterprises with a romantic feel. Last up is the sporty weekend, with the Be’eri mountain bike trail marathon event, and the second Anemone running race.
In addition to the smartphone software, information centers will be dotted around the region, including at Yad Mordechai and Beit Kama junctions.
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