Last week we tasted a pinch of the natural and cultural treasures of the Southern Arava, one of the most beautiful areas in the country that always makes me admire the beauty of nature and the power of man. The desert space, which sometimes seems endless, has long given travelers a lot of adventure. But while we pop in for visits once in a while to get to know another route and attraction, there are those who have chosen to establish life here and make the wilderness bloom. This week we will focus on the unique places of the southern prairie, which have created something out of nothing and established a thriving agriculture that you can enjoy.
Kibbutz Neot Smadar
It may not be the Arava yet, but on Road 40, near the Shizafon junction, you can see up close who the brave ones were who decided to call the desert a home and established a kibbutz out of ideology and love of land. The kibbutz was established in 1989, in the name of Smadar Safra, one of the founders. The first to arrive and build the place were a group of friends who knew Jerusalem. What occupied them in those days was the role and future of man in space. Here they have actually established an oasis at the heart of which is organic farming, recycling, space-compatible construction and everything related to ecology.
Already at the entrance to the kibbutz, you can not ignore the peace and quiet that surrounds the place, the green areas and the pink tower that seems to call visitors to it. The Pink Tower, which is impossible not to wonder about its pitcher, is in fact the kibbutz’s art house built for about 15 years by the kibbutz members. The tower, which at first glance reminded me of the Taj Mahal, is actually a cooling tower that monitors the space by evaporating water and dropping cold air. Apart from cooling the place, at the top of the tower there is an observation deck with panoramic views.
The Arts House has galleries and workshops where glass and wood artists, potters, goldsmiths and painters work. They display their work in a shared gallery store located on the lower level of the tower. The building is also surrounded by beautiful gardens, where you can wander and enjoy the tranquility.
In addition, Neot Smadar has an excellent winery, which produces wine and cider. In fact, the kibbutz has the southernmost wine vineyard in Israel, and due to the ecological conditions, they harvest the grapes about two months before what is customary in the north of the country, for example. Since sun is not lacking here, their grapes are very sweet, so the wine produced contains a lot of alcohol. Their dessert wines are the winery’s flagship wines, and you can find classic muscat wine, sun nutmeg that spent half a year in a “forgotten” barrel in the sun and is rich in honey flavors, fort with 22 herbs, sparkling wine, white and red wines, and even alcoholic cider.
If you fell in love with the place and do not want to break up, the kibbutz has 18 guest rooms overlooking the open landscape and the agricultural fields. The rooms are built in ecological construction and blend well with the desert space. Each room has a private balcony with a seating area and a herb garden. The complex also has a shared and fully equipped kitchen and a shared dining room where meals are served by prior arrangement.
If you come to the place, you can go on an independent tour that includes a visit to the Arts House, observation, watching a movie about the kibbutz and a visit to its organic boutique winery, which includes wine tasting.
When: Sunday-Thursday 10: 00-14: 30, Friday – 9: 30-12: 30.
Price: NIS 30, for ages 12 and up.
Additional information: Neot Smadar website.
Not far from the kibbutz, also on Road 40, is the Neot Smadar Inn. The inn is a recommended stopping point for anyone passing by and wanting to taste a little of the local produce. The on-site menu includes vegetarian meals, desserts, coffee and organic juices, which you can enjoy in the inn’s enchanting courtyard. Also, at the entrance to the inn there is a shop that offers organic products made by Neot Smadar.
When: Sunday-Thursday 17:00 – 7:00, Friday until 15:00, Saturday 17:00 – 11:00.
The Sun Chef
In the heart of the orchards and orchards of Kibbutz Elifaz, you will find the “Chef of the Sun” in the “5 Senses Greenhouse”, a seasonal greenhouse open to the public between October and May. The place is run by Aviel Pipman, a man with a great passion for land and the prairie. Although the greenhouse is located in the agricultural area of Eliphaz, it operates mainly for tourist purposes and offers guided tours for travelers and overnight stays in the area.
The visit to the greenhouse lasts about an hour and offers a wonderful opportunity to learn a little about agriculture in general and desert agriculture in particular, and to understand where our vegetables come from. The tour offered to visitors includes an explanation of the greenhouse, the vegetables and plants that grow in the place, picking of herbs and a taste of the farm produce (cucumber, peppers, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, cauliflower, radishes, kohlrabi and broccoli). One of the attractions of the greenhouse is the “Sun Chef” – a kind of oven built on glass baking tubes. The pipes are heated by sunlight – and they can reach a temperature of 200 degrees. The produce that is harvested on the spot can be cut, seasoned and put into the pipes with a long tray. At the end you can enjoy your own antipasti.
Besides, the complex has shaded seating areas, a cool tractor that the kids will surely love, desert tea and a stall of local produce.
When: Every day 10:00 – 14:00, instruction every hour.
Price: NIS 38 per person from the age of two, with pre-registration on the Kibbutz Elifaz website.
Chef in the desert
The podtrack trend does not skip the prairie, and here too you will find the only mobile podtrack in the southern prairie, which is operated by a member of Kibbutz Elifaz, chef Robert Bitton. Robert travels with his podtrack among the southern prairie settlements and offers a meaty menu, which includes a hamburger, a hamburger-cut burger and chicken shawarma, as well as a beetroot burger for vegans. Bitton’s sandwiches are excellent, rich in flavors and served generously. He drew his talent for cooking from his mother’s kitchen as a child. He later joined the culinary field and worked with well-known chefs and successful restaurants, including Keren Restaurant and The Pink Throw.
Price: NIS 45-55.
Additional details: 053 – 7710006.
Danela – Home Hospitality
Another trend, from which you can find a little more, is the home hospitality experience. During the Corona period, the intimate hospitality experience began to flourish in the Arava region, when local chefs and cooks decided to open their home to travelers. Dana Turgeman from Beer Ora is one of them. Dana, who moved to the Southern Arava about two years ago with her husband and children, although she grew up on Russian cuisine, offers authentic Moroccan meals. She learned the Moroccan style of cooking from her mother-in-law, and today she offers meals with a Moroccan banquet menu and decor.
Price: NIS 100-120 for an adult, NIS 50 for a child, by prior arrangement.
Additional details: 054 – 9452060.
If you have not stopped at the Yotvata Inn since the annual trip, it is time to change the situation. The old inn has recently been rebranded, and it has even been renewed in an experiential visitor center where the story of Kibbutz Yotvata is presented in four experiential pavilions: a kibbutz and a dairy, the desert world, renewable energy and a barn experience.
After learning a little about the thriving kibbutz, which is known to us mainly thanks to the successful dairy product brand, you can go wild with a dish of Italian gelato, which is produced daily instead of milk that comes straight from the dairy. If you avoid dairy products, you can enjoy a “flavored soda” drink – a refreshing drink based on soda and perpetual water (fermented honey, ice cube from Sabers juice, fruit and herbs).
When: All week.
Source: Maariv.co.il – תיירות by www.maariv.co.il.
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