Spring is almost here in Israel – and a sure sign is the almond blossom on the trees. But what many people don’t know is that long before spring arrives, between January and February, a flower in the Negev is blooming abundantly, in parts of the Negev desert, resembling a huge red carpet. The flowers? Anemones or, as they’re fondly known in Hebrew, the ‘kalaniot.’
Kalaniot, for some reason, have a special place in the heart of Israelis, which is why so many people drive south to enjoy a day of “flower-watching” in the winter. Yes, it’s a national pastime – whether done by car, bike or foot. However they get there though, there’s always plenty for Israelis admire. No wonder the kalaniot were chosen as Israel’s national flower in 2013.
And down in the Western Negev (particularly around Kibbutzes Ruhama, Beeri and Shukeda) you can’t fail to spot them. Delicate and graceful, in contrast to the blue and purple kalaniot that grow in the north of Israel, these desert flowers are a vivid red and turn the ordinarily green landscape into a blanket of scarlet.
Actually, the kalaniot became so popular at a certain point that they were almost in danger of disappearing. In 2012, a law was passed forbidding the picking of them and in the last few years, the government has been running a media campaign, reinforcing the message that the best way to enjoy these beautiful wild flowers is by leaving them in their natural habitat.
Pic: courtesy of Sarah Mann
Furthermore, to celebrate this astonishing phenomenon, an l festival (now in its twelfth year) now takes place each year. Named “Darom Adam” (“Red South), it’s an opportunity for kids and adults alike to enjoy the kalaniot in the Negev desert in all their glory. All kinds of cultural events are held over five weekends including poetry readings, live concerts featuring Israeli musicians. Local wine and gourmet food tastings have become popular and for kids there’s nature painting and juggling workshops!
Out door activities in the form of bike tours and hiking trails are also on offer. Of course, if your taste of the Negev leaves you wanting more, then Gordon Tours is happy to oblige, as our “Active’ department offer a number of packages where you can bike by day (incorporating all the historical and cultural sites) and rest comfortably at night. For more information, check out this link:
Finally, here’s a video of Shoshana Damari (one of Israel’s most beloved singers), singing her first-ever recorded song in the first months after Israel’s birth as a state. Credit is due to Yael Ashkenazi (see link in Youtube)
With its haunting melody and lyrical longings, it rarely fails to capture hearts…