Festival Darom Adom is held annually in the Northern Negev. Immense fields of Anemones color the desert red. And thousands come to see various attractions.
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When does Festival Darom Adom take place?
Every year, following the rainy season, anemones start to bloom. Between January and March in the northern Negev, you can find significant fields full of Anemones. And most events take place during all of February’s weekends.
Interactive map of the area:
Here is an interactive map from israelhiking.osm.org.il where several of the most popular hiking trails are marked:
Note: there are many trails, and I will list the most popular ones. Also, there is a link to the official map of each park.
|#||Name||Description||Distance (km)||Link to Map||Notes|
|1||Shokeda Forest||There are several hiking and two cycling trails (7.5 and 11 km)||1 – 3||map||To reach it, turn to the right just before the entrance to moshav Shokeda.|
|2||Be’eri Forest||There are many hiking options and a long cycling trail that goes through the whole park.||1 – 5||map||There is a cycling center just before the entrance to the kibbutz Be’eri.|
|3||Devira Forest||Devira Forest offers a lovely medium-sized park with lots of flowers and several hiking options.||map||There is also some antiquities|
|4||Ruhama Badlands||Variety of hiking and cycling trails on both sides of Kibbutz Ruhama|
Note: most of the trails can be modified easily. You will see different paths once on site, and thus if you want to make a hike shorter or longer, you can easily do so.
Flower fields draw a lot of tourists. Thus in 2005, it was decided to expand this into a festival.
Over the years, we visited different places during Festival Darom Adom. And I want to start with one of my favorite places – Shokeda Forest.
Note: usually, all events take place during all February’s weekends. You can find various events in the Northern Negev. There were farmers’ markets, performances by artists and singers, and other attractions. This way, you could combine a hike or a ride with another event. You can find a list of all events at the official site.
You park the car and start hiking. You can use the maps I linked above.
After my first visit, I was impressed. I did not expect that many flowers. Also, keep in mind that these are wildflowers, and there is no human intervention.
I would recommend visiting Shokeda Forest during Festival Darom Adom. But there is one important tip. Come early. We arrived around 9 am, and there were few people. When we left at 11 am, there were extended traffic jams, full of people trying to get into the forest. Thus, arrive early if you do not want to spend several hours in traffic. Moreover, when visiting earlier in the day, you enjoy cooler weather.
According to a survey conducted by the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, the anemone is the most recognized and loved flower by Israelis. And in 2013, anemones were chosen as the national flower of Israel.
Another interesting fact is the name anemones in Hebrew is “Kalanit.” This name comes from the word “Kala,” which means a bride. It is said that this flower is as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day.
As you can see, there are other flowers as well, but primarily anemones.
During the festival, many families hike, cycle, but mostly take photos. One time I even saw a priest that came to take some photographs with his smartphone.
Till now, I have shown a lot of red colors, and I should better stop before I hurt your eyes 😉
Tip: keep an eye on the weather. A rain a day before your visit will make the trails muddy.
Eshkol National Park
Note: Eshkol National Park is also called HaBsor National Park.
Several years ago, we tried to visit Eshkol National Park. Why did I use the word tried? We started at Skokeda Forest, and around 11 am, we drove to Eshkol National Park. We got stuck in traffic, and according to Waze, we had to wait about 40 minutes. The traffic jam was at the entrance to this National Park. Thus, this year we drove straight to Eshkol National Park and were there before 9 am. Therefore my first tip would be: come early.
We left our car, and the first thing we saw was the HaBsor Spring.
HaBsor Spring is the name of a large concentration of springs producing a total of approximately 60 cu.m. of water per hour. The water is rather warm (about 21 degrees C) with a relatively high salinity of about 1,300 mg. per liter. Nature and Parks Authority collects the waters of the springs into a stream from which they flow into a long, attractive pond. Another stream creates a series of paddling pools for children. Some of the water is used to irrigate the decorative plants in the national park and the rest flows naturally into the Nahal HaBsor channel.
During the First World War, the British built a large reservoir at HaBsor Spring, which collected 2 million liters of water. The water reached the pool via a pipe which was laid down simultaneously with the advance of the forces from the Nile, and it was conveyed night and day from the reservoir to the units at their posts using camel caravans loaded with water containers. The British built concrete facilities over the springs to collect the water and a British concrete structure still stands today at the catchment point of the spring.
Note: unless stated otherwise, all quotes were taken from the official site.
Israeli National Parks Authority uses beautiful words in their ads. Like “market on water” and “attractions for kids.” When we arrived, there was nothing. We thought maybe it was still too early. Thus, we started with a short hike in the pond area.
One of the bridges at HaBsor National Park:
At the end of the pond, we saw a watchpoint and decided to climb to the top.
The view is pretty dull.
Then we returned towards the parking lot and on the way saw this hill.
HaBsor Spring Archaeological Site
When we climbed the top, we saw remains of the Royal Egyptian Way Station.
Some remains from an ancient building, containing a few layers of mud bricks, were uncovered at En HaBsor site, lying about 200 m. south-west of En HaBsor. Four settlement strata were found, the three earliest being from the Early Bronze Age (3300-2200 BC). At first there was a Canaanite village here, after that – an Egyptian way-station, and then a Canaanite village again. Eventually the place was abandoned, but was again re-settled in the Helenistic period (2nd century BC) and after that there was a way-station or a farm.
The site was excavated by a delegation of archaeologists from Tel Aviv University, headed by Ram Gufna and Dan Gazit. The reconstructed structure on the site exhibits the remains of the Egyptian way-station, and it testifies to Egypt’s permanent presence in Canaan already in the days of Na’armar, founder of the First Egyptian Dynasty.
It was already half-past ten, and still, there was no market, no attractions for kids, nothing. We decided not to wait and drive to our next point of interest in the park.
The Railroad Bridge
You can also reach this point on foot (about 1.5 km from the initial parking), but since it was our first visit to HaBsor National Park, we took the car.
At this point, you can find train rails and an old railcar.
Since antiquity, ancient roads have crisscrossed Nahal HaBsor in the springs area, which was also the case at the time of the British Mandate. At the end of the First World War, the British laid a railroad line from Rafah to Beer Sheva. The line crossed Nahal HaBsor on a wooden bridge at just this point. The line was inaugurated on May 8, 1918, and it was in operation until July 31, 1927. The wooden bridge and the reconstructed railroad carriage commemorate the historic railroad line.
At this point, I will also mention there are bicycle trails. And close to the railcar, you can find a map of the Wadi Besor bicycle trail.
The old railway bridge.
If you go down, then you will find the Besor stream.
At this point, we decided to make a short hike.
We did not see many flowers and Anemones in particular at HaBsor National Park. Not even close to the number of flowers at Shokeda Forest. But, there were some.
We saw many trees like this. There was probably fire several years ago. And maybe it affected the number of flowers.
After the hike, we had a small picnic on-premises, and since it was still early, we decided to visit another nearby attraction, the Ostrich Farm.
The Ostrich Farm is quite close to Eshkol National Park (less than a five-minute drive from the moment you exit the park). You can see it on the interactive map above.
Note: if you want to find additional info about animals and wildlife, check out Zoos and Aquariums in Israel.
The entrance price was not high. As far as I remember, it was 20 NIS per person. And for an additional 5 NIS, you can buy a small food bag for ostrich and feed them.
Besides ostriches, there are different farm animals (primarily chickens).
While we were there, I saw an informational sign with answers to two interesting questions. The first one: Do Ostriches bury their heads in the sand (when scared or threatened)? The short answer is no. It is an optical illusion. Ostriches are the biggest living birds, but their heads are small. When looking at them picking at the ground from a distance, you might think they bury the head, but it is hiding behind a small hill in reality.
The second question is whether ostriches are Kosher? The Book of Leviticus lists the ostrich as a bird that is forbidden to eat. Zoologists claim that the intention in The Book of Leviticus is to another bird that is already extinct. Nonetheless, ostrich is still considered as non-Kosher.
The Ostrich Farm is not significant. There are probably several dozens of ostrich, and you can cover the whole farm in an hour. But, our visit was longer. It was about an hour and a half long since, beyond the regular tour, we saw a magician performance (mainly for kids). Keep in mind that it was Saturday during Festival Darom Adom. Thus there were many people, and a show seemed obvious.
My daughter loved it. Thus, happy and tired, we called it a day and went home.
Joe Alon Center
We sought a new attraction during the 2018 Darom Adom celebrations, something we have not toured yet. Thus, we visited Joe Alon Center, located inside Lahav Forest.
Joe Alon Center for Regional Studies, named after the late Colonel Joe Alon and opened in 1974. The center lies in the heart of Lahav Forest.
Lying in the middle of Lahav Forest, Joe Alon is an educational visitors` center specializing in the geography of Israel, particularly that of the Negev.
The center includes a Bedouin hospitality tent where tea and coffee are brewed, a Museum of Bedouin Culture, an exhibit about the Bar Kochba revolt, a presentation on Jewish settlement in the Negev, a stunning panoramic view of the entire region, and much more besides.
Note: all quotes were taken from the official site.
Since we visited during the Darom Adom Festival, there were additional attractions for kids. My daughter wanted to start with Henna decorations. She selected one of the decoration forms from the available ones.
Then the selected form was laid on hand, and a special paste was used to paint. And this is the result:
Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, this is called Mehndi, and it is a form of ancient Indian art:
Mehndi or Mehendi is a form of body art from Ancient India, in which decorative designs are created on a person’s body, using a paste, created from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant. Ancient in origin, mehndi is still a popular form of body art among the women of the Indian Subcontinent, Africa, and the Middle East.
From there, we continued to Pita bread preparation.
Adding some Za’atar to the Pita.
We were told there was a museum tour every round hour when we entered. Since we still had some time, we continued to the traditional Bedouin for tea and coffee.
After a cup of coffee, we joined the 11 o’clock tour at the museum.
The Museum of Bedouin Culture
The Museum of Bedouin Culture, the only museum in Israel devoted entirely to the Bedouin culture. It was established in 1985 when it became apparent that the formerly nomadic Bedouin tribes of Sinai and the Negev were in the process of transition to a more settled way of life, moving to established towns and villages. The Bedouin have recently acquired a modern way of life, reflected in cultural, social, and economic changes as well as changes in housing, dress, etc. As a result, many of the former Bedouin ways of life are disappearing, and with them, the objects and traditions of Bedouin society, prompting a need to collect, preserve and record them before they completely disappear. The museum’s collection came from two main sources: Kibbutz Lahav, and a Bedouin museum established in the Sinai Mountains by Orna and Avner Goren.
The museum reflects the life of the Bedouin in the Negev and Sinai over the last century. The colorful display includes historical exhibits alongside modern objects, demonstrating both daily life and spiritual aspects of Bedouin tradition.
Our tour started with fifteen minutes of explanations about Bedouin culture. The word Bedouin literary means “desert men”. There are around 250,000 Bedouins in Israel.
Though I visited Bedouin tents previously, there were many new things that I did not know. For example, as it turns out, there are two types of shelters. Winter tents, which are heavier and made of black goat wool covered by a fat layer (so they will be waterproof). And summer tents are thinner (made of jute or cloth) and have lighter colors.
The museum itself is a small two levels building. Here is an interior photo.
After the explanations, we went to the lower floor. There we saw a fifteen minutes movie about modern Bedouin life. When the film ended, we continued to wander around the museum.
One exciting thing that we saw repeating itself is the unexpected use of everyday items. For example, significant cans of olive oil are used as parts of musical instruments. Or coins used as decorations.
And children’s toys made of anything that is found around.
And this camel model is decorated as an actual wedding camel would look.
One of the associations to the word Bedouin would be desert. But some Bedouins lived next to the sea and fished. At the bottom of the next photo, you can see three palm trunks tied together and serve as a floating platform.
The tour, plus our wanderings, took about an hour. Then, my daughter dragged us to the last activity we had not done yet – bead knotting.
Our visit to Joe Alon Center with all the additional activities took us about two and a half hours. When we finished, it was lunchtime. So we decided to make a picnic inside Lahav Forest. There were plenty of free tables and garbage cans, but I had not seen restrooms and water cranes.
After lunch, we decided to take a short walk in the forest. This was our hiking trail:
Though it was the flower blooming season, there were few flowers and no anemones.
Visiting Joe Alon Center And Lahav Forest was a different experience. Mainly because during all previous Darom Adom festivals we saw many flowers and especially anemones. Nonetheless, we learned new things, relaxed in nature and that was half a day nicely spent.
During the 2019 Darom Adom Festival, we headed to The Salad Trail. It is a farm with a variety of things to do. And if you love agrotourism, then definitely check it out.
Festival Darom Adom offers various attractions. From our experiences so far, I would recommend visiting Shokeda Forest early in the morning. You hike or cycle along one of the trails. Eshkol National Park is an ideal place for a picnic (especially if you have an annual subscription to National Parks), but I cannot recommend it due to the massive traffic jam at the entrance. And if you want to experience something different, you can hit the Joe Alon Center or The Salad Trail.
Have you ever visited Festival Darom Adom? What is your favorite attraction? Tell us in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.