Just before the gorgeous kalaniyot (anemones) bloom and blanket the northern Negev with red, now is the time to visit nature sites and attractions in the Gaza border communities.
There’s something special about spending time in the quiet, open desert plains, hiking in the cool but sunny mornings and afternoons, tasting locally grown produce and meeting amazing people who’ve chosen to make their home in a place that comes with multiple challenges, but that also promises a meaningful life.
1. Katif-Li at Talmei Yosef
Now that the Omicron variant is forcing us to be more careful, enjoy the time outdoors.
Just next to the popular Salad Trail at Talmei Yosef, you’ll find Katif-Li, a farm where you can go with the whole family to harvest vegetables.
At, Katif-Li, which is open all week long (preregistration required), you can pick eight different types of cherry tomatoes, baby cucumbers, cabbage, fennel, radishes, eggplants, scallions, lettuce, four different colors of carrots, potatoes, spicy peppers, herbs, Swiss chard, celery, snow peas and spinach.
There are no guided tours or explanations at Katif-Li. Families are welcome to come in, pick up a basket, and wander around the site wherever you want.
Visitors can eat as much of the vegetables as they want while at the site. They can also pay for any vegetables they’d like to take home with them. An average visit to Katif-Li lasts about 90 minutes.
Price: NIS 40 per basket of root vegetables.
2. Derech Hazayit Nursery
If you have a green thumb, you’ll be very excited to become acquainted with Derech Hazayit Nursery, located in Moshav Zimrat.
The nursery is run by Tamir Cohen, whose expertise is in rejuvenating ancient olive trees.
Tamir leads guided tours of his olive grove, which includes a 3,000-year-old olive tree, as well as olive trees that were damaged by Grad rockets but are finally starting to show signs of rehabilitation.
Once you have completed the tour, you are welcome to relax on the porch swings with hot coffee, a cold shake or freshly squeezed juice.
Hours: Sundays-Thursdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fridays, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
3. Yoav’s Yard
Located in the pastoral Moshav Yated, Yoav’s Yard is a wonderful new tourist venture started by Yoav Sa’ad, who recently retired after working many years for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund.
Sa’ad is an ardent nature and people lover, and loves opening his home to hikers passing through.
He leads agricultural tours in the Eshkol region, and also offers nutritious meals to families and groups (breakfast, lunch or dinner). Reservations need to be made ahead, although he always leads tours and hosts meals on Wednesdays between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
He loves to regale guests with stories from his past, and tell them about what it was like to be caught under fire from rockets raining into Israel from the Gaza Strip, and what it’s like to live near the Gaza and Egyptian borders.
Among other things, he loves taking hikers to interesting sites with incredible views, such as the IDF Ugdat HaPlada (Steel Division) War Memorial, which was built in honor of the soldiers who lost their lives during the Six Day War near the Gaza Strip and in the northern Sinai.
The memorial, which was designed by Israel Meir Goodovitch, consists of a 25-meter-high tower, which symbolizes the pillar of fire from the Bible, and 400 concrete pillars of varying heights scattered around. Hikers can climb up to the top of the outlook, from which they can view the spot where Israel, Gaza and Egypt all meet.
Price: The guided 2.5-hour tour is NIS 600 (for a group of up to 30 people).
4.Shirat Ha’aretz Garden
An oasis in the middle of the desert spread over 2 hectares (5 acres), Shirat Ha’aretz Garden was created as an educational tourist attraction by Ergat and Amir Gat, who are both educators by profession.
The Gats moved to the region following the withdrawal from Gush Katif and planted a vineyard that is now full and beautifully green. They also planted all of the Seven Species and medicinal herbs that were native to the Land of Israel 2,000 years ago.
The idea behind the creation of Shirat Ha’aretz Garden was to educate visitors about fruits and grains that were grown in the Land of Israel in ancient times.
Ergat and Amir lead interactive guided tours, during which they discuss agriculture, Jewish heritage and Zionism.
The kids will love searching for the boxes that are hidden along the path, inside of which are riddles that the parents can help them solve.
At the end, everyone is invited to join an herbal tea workshop. Guests can relax afterward in the beautiful grounds of the garden.
Dates: Thursdays and Fridays (preregistration required).
Price: Adults, NIS 25; children, NIS 20. Spice box workshop is NIS 10.
5. Mid-Bar Burger Bar
Finding a great restaurant in the northern Negev near the Gaza Strip was not an easy feat, even before the pandemic hit. So you’ll be very happy to know that this past April a new culinary establishment – Mid-Bar Burger Bar – opened its doors at Avshalom Center near Moshav Avshalom.
This is one of the trendiest restaurants that’s ever existed in the entire region. Guests can enjoy their juicy burgers on the outdoor balcony as they watch the sunset.
In addition to burgers, guests can also order spicy chicken wings, schnitzelonim, fish-and-chips, as well as sandwiches and tortilla wraps and all the classic fried side dishes.
Hours: Sundays-Wednesdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturdays, from the end of Shabbat until 11 p.m.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.