Tour Is­rael

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • MEITAL SHARABI

Au­tumn is the per­fect sea­son to take a trip to the Arava. The pleas­ant weather makes hik­ing out in na­ture ex­tremely com­fort­able, with many trails, riverbeds and canyons to choose from. An­other rea­son to take a trip out to the Arava now is the Ta­mar Fes­ti­val, which in­cludes a num­ber of tours of agri­cul­tural fes­tiv­i­ties cel­e­brat­ing the date har­vest.

The fes­ti­val, from Novem­ber 8 to 10, will in­clude ac­tiv­i­ties for the whole fam­ily. Not many peo­ple hear about dates grown in the Arava and the fes­ti­val is a nice way to fa­mil­iar­ize one­self with this won­der­ful agri­cul­tural branch in Is­rael.

Many Is­raelis are fa­mil­iar with the long Arava High­way that runs all the way down south to Ei­lat and au­to­mat­i­cally as­so­ciate this road with va­ca­tion, with its gor­geous desert land­scape. There aren’t too many res­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ties in the area, and the few moshavim and kib­butzim lo­cated there have learned to take ad­van­tage of their unique nat­u­ral re­sources and now are suc­cess­fully grow­ing dates.

It turns out that the Arava’s dry cli­mate com­bined with high ground­wa­ter lev­els makes the land the per­fect lo­ca­tion to plant date trees. In fact, in the south­ern sec­tion of the Arava alone, there are nearly 900 hectares of land on which farmers grow a few types of dates. There are also re­mains of dates that prove that date palms grew in this area back in an­cient times.

Dates were one of the sta­ples grown in the Arava and other ar­eas of Is­rael and pits have been un­cov­ered that date back to an­cient times. If you haven’t yet had the op­por­tu­nity to visit Kib­butz Ke­tura in the Arava, I highly rec­om­mend you do. There you’ll see a date bush nick­named Methuse­lah, which sprouted from a date pit that was un­cov­ered in ex­ca­va­tions car­ried out in the Masada area.

On one hand, Methuse­lah sym­bol­izes the his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tion be­tween the Jewish peo­ple and the Land of Is­rael, while on the other hand, it glo­ri­fies the de­vel­op­ment and progress of set­tlers who chose to make the wilder­ness bloom. And if you’re al­ready at Ke­tura, you should take a tour of the kib­butz, in which you’ll learn all about the Is­raeli so­lar in­dus­try and the ad­vances Ke­tura is mak­ing in this field (Ke­tura is home to Is­rael’s first so­lar field).

At the end of next week, just days af­ter farmers fin­ish har­vest­ing the dates from the tree­tops of palms grow­ing on land be­long­ing to kib­butzim in the south­ern Arava, the fes­ti­val is set to be­gin. The three-day fi­esta will in­clude agri­cul­tural tours of or­chards, sun­set tours, de­lec­ta­ble din­ners out in na­ture and a va­ri­ety of work­shops. A high­light will be a hap­pen­ing out in the mid­dle of the date or­chard in Kib­butz Eli­faz. There will be a chal­leng­ing rope course, a paint­ing work­shop in the pomelo or­chard, cookie bak­ing us­ing so­lar en­ergy, lo­cal artists sell­ing their wares, arts and crafts work­shops and plenty of space to lounge around and re­lax.

IF YOU have time to make a real va­ca­tion out of this trip, I rec­om­mend driv­ing down on Thurs­day af­ter­noon be­fore

the fes­ti­val be­gins and stay­ing a few nights in one of the kib­butz guest houses. As soon as you get there, you can take part in kite-fly­ing ac­tiv­i­ties along the sand dunes and then join a night tour in which you’ll learn about the noc­tur­nal habits of an­i­mals that be­come ac­tive only af­ter the sun goes down. By the end of the day, you’ll surely have built up a ap­petite, which you can sat­isfy with a meal served out­side in the open air of the or­chard.

Fri­day morn­ing, you can join a guided tour of the South­ern Arava Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter, where you’ll be treated to tastes of a num­ber of del­i­ca­cies pre­pared with dates. While the kids en­joy date-fla­vored ice cream and silan balls, the adults can make a toast with beer or liqueur made from dates, in­clud­ing amarula, which is made from the fruits of the marula tree. Ap­par­ently these fruits are loved by ele­phants.

An­other tour you can join dur­ing the fes­ti­val is a visit to the Five Senses Green­house, sit­u­ated close to the pomelo or­chard. Vis­i­tors can learn all about the many in­ter­est­ing plants and pro­duce grown in­side this un­com­mon desert green­house. Dur­ing the Five Senses Tour, vis­i­tors will be in­vited to taste, hear, touch, smell and of course see ev­ery­thing, and at the end will en­joy a lovely cup of herbal tea made from desert herbs.

As the sun be­gins to set, you can join a guided sun­set tour of Timna Park, which com­mences at the new vis­i­tor cen­ter at the en­trance of the park. At the cen­ter, guests can gaze upon re­mains dis­cov­ered dur­ing re­cent ex­ca­va­tions, as well as take in a short film that dis­cusses the life of cop­per min­ers who lived there and deter­minedly cut out cop­per from the rock.

When you’ve fin­ished with vis­i­tor cen­ter fun, the tour con­tin­ues on to the arches. There, you can climb up to the large arch while hold­ing onto the pegs stuck into the stone of the moun­tain­side. From the top, you will en­joy an in­cred­i­ble view of the Edom moun­tains. As the af­ter­noon wanes, you’ll see the rays of sun color­ing the park in a va­ri­ety of beau­ti­ful shades. Af­ter you climb up to the out­look, you can climb through the tun­nels that lead to the mines, then re­turn to your car and drive as a car­a­van to the lake.

A Kab­balat Shab­bat cer­e­mony that will be ac­com­pa­nied by Elad The­ater ac­tors will take place next to the lake. The the­ater troupe is made up of ac­tors who used to per­form in well-known the­aters in Cen­tral Is­rael, but who de­cided to move to out­ly­ing ar­eas of the coun­try to join the Arava the­ater troupe. The show will in­clude im­pro­vi­sa­tion games in­cor­po­rat­ing mem­bers of the au­di­ence and after­ward, there will be a tasty din­ner with Solomon’s Pil­lars lit up in the back­ground.

The fes­ti­val will con­clude with a huge hap­pen­ing on Satur­day in the heart of the date grove in Kib­butz Eli­faz. Spread out over a huge area, the event will in­clude a chal­leng­ing rope course with a zip line, a rope bridge, a climb­ing wall, dart­boards and bows and ar­rows. Cre­ative chil­dren will en­joy arts and crafts work­shops in which they will pre­pare tasty date pas­tries and bake cook­ies in so­lar-pow­ered ovens. In the mean­time, par­ents can re­lax, pe­ruse lo­cal art­work or par­take in del­i­ca­cies pre­pared by lo­cal chefs.

Price of the all-in­clu­sive pack­age in­cludes overnight stay, meals and ac­tiv­i­ties: NIS 750 per per­son for dou­ble-oc­cu­pancy room with an ad­di­tional NIS 460 per child in par­ents’ room.

De­tails: (08) 661-6976, www.ar­avaway.co.il

(Photos: Nitzan Golan)

SCALE A climb­ing wall at the Kib­butz Eli­faz hap­pen­ing.

KIDS CAN flex their bak­ing mus­cles and pre­pare date pas­tries at the hap­pen­ing...... WHICH WILL be spread out over a huge area in the kib­butz’s date grove.

(Haim Yafim)

THURS­DAY AF­TER­NOON is a great time to fly kites among the sand dunes.

(Meital Sharabi)

HEAD TO Timna Park for Kab­balat Shab­bat ser­vices, a show and din­ner against the dra­matic back­drop of Solomon’s Pil­lars.

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