A magnificent red carpet

Go to the northwestern Negev, which is blanketed in red anemones throughout this month, and join in the ‘Darom Adom’ festivities.

Darom Adom Anemone Negev festival 311 (photo credit: Liron Keinan)
Darom Adom Anemone Negev festival 311
(photo credit: Liron Keinan)
From Tu Bishvat to Pessah Israel is in bloom with wildflowers from Dan to Beersheba, however nowhere is this celebration of spring more enchanting than on the desert fringe. The northwestern Negev is blanketed in red anemones throughout February, a phenomenon which has inspired the “Darom Adom” (Red South) Anemone Festival.
Organized by the Association for Tourism of Shikma-Besor for the past six years, the festival welcomes the entire country every weekend for the month to access the contrast of the extensive flowering of this desert region. Just as the season, the events of the festival inspire elements of fantasy, nostalgia and excitement.
Spring is a time to appreciate the enchantment of nature all but forgotten during the winter chill. Start your day under the rays of the sun among the wildflowers with a picnic under the sun in the Re’im picnic spot with an elegant basket of various cheeses, vegetables and breads from local dairies including the Be’eri Dairy. During the meal, one may find fanciful characters from the Bible and mythology emerging out of the woods.
An actor dressed as the Patriarch Abraham greets contemporary Israelis with an introduction of, “Shalom, I am your Father Abraham,” and he speaks of the water systems, particularly the construction of wells, in the Negev from his own time to ours. Peter Pan frolics about the park defending the anemones from the villainous Captain Hook while teaching children how to draw water from the local wells. On a sunny day with clear blue skies, green grass and endless red flowers, the setting certainly can feel like something out of Neverland.
If the above proves insufficient relaxation, tents stand in this idyllic setting offering holistic healing options including a variety of massages and palm readings to integrate the mind, body and spirit, a virtual portal to the Age of Aquarius.
The region is also filled with kibbutzim still living in the image of the original pioneer Israeli making the desert bloom.
At Kibbutz Kissufim there are tours of the agricultural fields to see the remarkable fertility the kibbutzim have yielded and the first fruits of the year. A local guide speaks about the difficulties of farming the region and its proximity to Gaza, at one point no further away than one kilometer from the border.
However, the real treat is that the tour stops in the fields to provide the tourists a pioneer experience to harvest fruits and vegetables for themselves.
You get to dig your hands deep in the earth to burrow out carrots or find sweet tangerines that have dropped from the tree. By the tangerine grove juicers have been prepared so you can make yourself a cool refreshing class of juice.
No Israeli pioneering experience could be complete without the nostalgia the kibbutz cafeteria brings. Once the heart and soul of the kibbutz movement the majority have fallen into disuse, but in the Kibbutz Or Haner cafeteria life remains as bustling as in the days of yore. The classic salad platter with the ever-present giant vat of humous is on display alongside the selection of meats; the major departure from the traditional Kibbutz is the staff so eager to please.
Along with the fantasy and the nostalgia, the festival also offers options for adventure to raise the adrenaline levels.
The Association, along with the Jewish National Fund and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, has been working in conjunction to maintain the region’s ever expanding bike trails for the public. Generally the trails offer many different circuit routes so as to ensure that rides of all levels and all durations remain lovely, leisure rides through the low hills of the western Negev.
True thrill seekers will jump at the opportunity to conclude a lovely day in a far too seldom explored corner of the country with an eagle eye view. Take the adventure to the skies with a hot-air balloon ride at dusk with the operators at Over Israel.
While for most boarding an airplane has become a rather mundane experience, or even a necessary evil for the sake of transportation; the hot air balloon tends to remind its riders of the miracle of human flight. Loud machines slowly fill the giant balloon with gas, slowly building the anticipation.
Once the balloon is filled to capacity, a mechanical fire-breathing dragon prepares the balloon for takeoff. The very mechanics of the process enhance the excitement of the experience.
The balloon rises slowly initially, almost levitating, until the weightlessness is complete and the balloon drifts off into the setting sun, refracting the light to melt the striking colors enjoyed all day into a surreal landscape.
Landing, however, is quite a different experience. The larger balloons, which can hold more people, must be landed by scraping along the surface of the earth. The friction slows the balloon down until the basket is tipped and everyone inside tumbles over onto their sides. Fortunately the pilots at the helm are skilled, giving very clear instructions to prepare for landing.
Riding over the region proves a lovely coda to a melodic day. Darom Adom is a fine way to follow up Tu Bishvat, enjoying a festival devoted to the blooming of wildflowers on the desert fringes.