February is the month of the anemones in Israel. Tens of thousands of anemones bloom in bright red colors and paint many parts of Israel in red, especially the north-western part of the Negev region. During whole February, there is a festival dedicated to those beautiful flowers, a festival called “Darom Adom” or in translation to English: “Red South”, because the Negev is the southern part of Israel and the flowers color it red. Thousands of people make their way to the north-western part of the Negev to awe in front of the red carpets, take part in many different activities and hike along the nature trails.
I’ve never been to the Darom Adom Festival, so this year I’ve decided to see what’s it all about. With two friends of mine, we headed south to the area of the festival, just around two hours’ drive away from Jerusalem.
We set off on Thursday evening, having no clue where we will sleep. We tried contacting one of the Bedouin camps around Be’er Sheva, but they didn’t answer the phone, so we searched on the web for another option and found Hadkalim Farm (in Hebrew: חוות הדקלים). They picked up the phone and said: “No problem, you can come in an hour.”
We drove down road number 25 towards Be’er Sheva and a few kilometers down the road turned right onto a dark dirt road, that led on and on into the darkness. Waze assured us that we were on the right track. Then the signs signaling towards Hadkalim Farm started showing up. The road went on and on until we finally crossed a small bridge over the railway and got to the turn that leads right to the farm. One of the workers, Dvir, greeted us at the entrance and showed us where we can open our tent. You can camp with your own tent on the grounds of the farm or stay in one of the accommodation options, one of the big tents or a lodge.
We enjoyed every minute of our stay in Hadkalim Camp and everything about it: the dark starry sky, the wonderful camp fire, the well-organized kitchen space and hot water in the showers. When the sun rose in the morning, the beautiful landscape of Gerar River appeared before us. We were in the Negev, which I personally know as a brown-yellow area, a desert, but this place was full of green, full of foliage! In the morning, dew covered our tent and the grass and almost everything. But, the best thing about this farm are its people – wonderful, kind and generous people, who were willing to help us will whatever we needed. You can contact them on Facebook if you want to get more info about staying at their place.
In the morning, we explored a bit of Gerar River that was just a few steps away from the farm. The river is more like a standing line of water, but its surroundings are amazing – green and empty of people. We even saw some silkworms working on a new piece of silk on the ground. To get there on your own, you can catch one of the Egged buses that go from Be’er Sheva to Tidhar (for example: 353 and 343) and then hike your way through the Gerar River Park, that starts on the other side of the road.
But we didn’t stay in that magical place for long and made our way by car to the places that all people went to – the area of the Darom Adom Festival. Our first stop was Shokeda Forest. It could be a magical place when there’s no festival or during the week, but when we got there the loud music ruined a bit of the experience. Though, the beautiful carpets of red anemones were very worth the drive here! There were thousands of them! We went on a short hiking trail through the small forest and mainly made photos of the flowers and of us with the flowers. Then, after a few minutes, we decided to go… It was too crowdy for us at that time.
Our second station was Be’eri Forest. Well, tbis is a wonderful place! And because it was a bit western from Shokeda, much less people were there. There was no loud music and much less stalls of different foods and merchandise. It was much more of the anemones. There were a lot of them here, too. It was also a much larger forest than Shokeda. We began the trail in the Rehim Parking Lot (in Hebrew: חניון רעים) and started walking on the blue-marked trail called The Water Faciilities Trail (in Hebrew: דרך מתקני המים). We saw a water-wheel well from the Ottoman Period, a deep well from the British Period and some more interesting water facilities. There are also signs in English along the trail, so if you want to enjoy a nice trail that is also informative – this is a good choice. But, we didn’t complete the whole blue-marked trail. Halfway we turned onto the red-marked trail called The Anemones Bicycle Trail (in Hebrew: סינגל כלניות). We didn’t ride with a bike on the trail, but it was nice hiking it, too. There are loads of anemones along this narrow trail and it’s a long way from the crowds – truly beautiful!
Sorry I didn’t write everything in detail. This post is just meant to give you an idea of the Darmon Adom Festival and what the anemones mean to the Israeli people. We make a lot of noise around them – and for a good reason! Hope to see you next time in the festival in Be’eri Forest and Shokeda Forest! If you need any help planning, feel free to contact me.
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