For a while now I’ve been itching to get back out into the southern desert, despite the summer temperatures making the trip a little more challenging. The burning sun gets hot early in the morning and the dry air makes hiking difficult, but if you plan your foray so that you’re outside mostly when it’s dark out, you’re sure to have a lovely time.
In the southern Judean Desert, between Arad and Masada, lies an awesome oasis called Kfar Hanokdim. To get there, you pass Arad and take Road 3199, which is winding and narrow, towards Bikat Kanaim. The ride down passes by enchanting desert landscape that will make the drive extremely worthwhile.
You’ll know you’ve reached Kfar Hanokdim when you come upon the multiple palm trees and lush wild greenery after driving for a while through the arid landscape. Kfar Hanokdim was established in 1991 by Yehoram Roded after he’d already spent years in the desert and had fallen in love with the terrain, the climate and the Bedouin living there. His dream was to offer Israeli and foreign tourists an alternative to the hotels and B&Bs that were available at the Dead Sea and Arad. At first, all he had to offer was a tent or two, but over the years Kfar Hanokdim’s popularity has grown, and now the site sports dozens of guest rooms and tents.
Roded’s son Danny currently manages the tourist site, while Yehoram spends most of his time engaging in environmental sculpture. His works of art can be seen scattered all around the village. The Rodeds’ goal is for guests to get a taste of Bedouin lifestyle, while still enjoying the comforts of bountiful Israeli buffet breakfasts and rich dinners.
The main advantage to staying at Kfar Hanokdim is its fantastic location. It’s the perfect place to stay if you’re planning on visiting Masada, Tzfira Pool, Givat Gorni or Nahal Tze’elim. In fact, the Rodeds created an amazing app that helps you organize activities available in the area, as well as offering hiking trails, riddles and lots of stories. Kfar Hanokdim also has a petting zoo with goats, guinea pigs, rabbits and peacocks, as well as workshops that are suitable for the whole family.
Kfar Hanokdim is organizing two amazing star-studded weekends in August. Every year in July and August, the Perseid meteor shower takes place. On the weekends of August 10-11 and 17-18, visitors are invited to take part in an exciting meteor experience in the middle of the desert, where there is almost no light pollution.
Although the village is relatively dark, all the lights will be turned off during the viewing times so that visitors will have as clear a view of the sky as possible. There will be a special telescope, which guests can use to view the stars, and guides will offer explanations of the stars. For those of you who are true night owls, there will be a special star gazing event that starts at 2 a.m., which is the peak hour to see meteor showers.
Earlier in the evening, there will be a drumming circle, Star Trek workshops in which participants will hear descriptions about the night sky, and even a guided tour using ultraviolet flashlights, with which you can catch a glimpse of Israeli yellow scorpions – a.k.a. Deathstalkers – as they glow in the dark.
Details: (08) 995-0097, www.kfarhanokdim.co.il
Another treat guests will enjoy is a workshop led by Ronnie Waldmann Pelach, a dancer who specializes in Rajasthani folk gypsy dance. Waldmann Pelach tells participants about the origin of Rajasthani dance and illustrates a few basic moves while sensual music plays in the background. Rajasthani dance originates in India, and from there it made its way to gypsy communities around the world. Women of all ages perform these dances, while men accompany them on instruments and with singing.
Although this type of dancing is traditionally done by women only, men and children are also absolutely invited to partake in the dance workshop. Soon you will find yourselves moving to the rhythm of the music and connecting to the world around you.
Israeli tour guides have to be creative in order to come up with outings that are appropriate for the hot summer months. One such guide, Inbal Elisheva Arazi, takes clients to outlooks such as Mitzpe Omer, Givat Gorni and Masada. There is not too much walking involved at any of these sites, and they are extremely worthwhile because Arazi is a master story teller. And if you like swimming out in nature, don’t miss her trip to Tzfira Pool.
Tzfira Pool is an incredible place to spend time on a hot summer day, since it sits at the top of a 100-meter-high waterfall. It’s extremely easy to walk down to the pool. All you have to do is drive from Kfar Hanokdim (follow the black trail markers) and park your car in the Tzfira Pool parking lot. Then, follow the green trail markers by foot. When you come to the spot where the green trail meets the blue trail, follow the latter up the side of the mountain (there are pegs to hold on to) that leads to the pool.
Details: Inbal Elisheva Arazi, 054-495-5288.
Ronnie Waldmann Pelach shows off her Rajasthani dance moves.
Salads star at dinner at Kfar Hanokdim.
Take a desert load off.
Tzfira Pool, which sits at the top of a 100-meter-high waterfall, is a great place for a dip.
The treasures of the vast night sky await.
A view to Masada.