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Nature calls

As anemones bloom, south hopes visitors will pop up after lockdown

Israel’s annual wildflower season is set to begin; festival organizers are clinging to prospects of eased restrictions allowing nature walks

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

A field of anemones in Israel's northern Negev region, home to the annual Darom Adom festival, taking place February 2021 (Courtesy Darom Adom)
A field of anemones in Israel's northern Negev region, home to the annual Darom Adom festival, taking place February 2021 (Courtesy Darom Adom)

Israel’s anemone season waits for no pandemic.

This year is the 21st for Darom Adom, or Red South, the annual festival in Israel’s Negev region celebrating the fields of red anemones that flower in the early spring months.

The Darom Adom organizers have been working on their plans since October, including the usual Anemone Race and Anemone Walk, guided tours, hot air balloon rides, fruit picking and picnic baskets provided by local vendors. All they need now is for the lockdown to be eased.

“We work according to the law, and we won’t hold the event unless the lockdown is over,” said Livnat Ginzbourg, tourism coordinator for the Eshkol region in the Negev. “But nature waits for no one.”

Sheep grazing in the Be’eri Forest in the Negev (Courtesy Darom Adom)

The festival, slated to run February 4 though March 6, could be extended if the anemones hold out for a few extra weeks, said Ginzbourg. But it’s a gamble.

The spring season in Israel, February to April, carpets many fields with wildflowers, depending on rainfall and altitude. The protected crown anemones, named for their black center and rounded shape, cover the usually barren plains of the northern Negev in brilliant red.

While most Darom Adom activities usually take place on the Thursday-Saturday weekends, this year there will be activities during the week as well, encouraging social distancing by urging visitors to take advantage of their more flexible pandemic work and school schedules and visit the southern region mid-week.

Activity prices will be half off from Sunday through Wednesday during the weeks of Darom Adom for all events listed on the festival website.

Visitors can also work among the anemones at the Red Space workstations set up in the Shokeda Forest, with socially distanced work tables and WiFi. Anyone who wants to use a Red Space work station must reserve a two-hour slot.

The Red Space workstations set up in the Shokeda Forest in the Negev for the Darom Adom festival, during the month of February (Courtesy Darom Adom)

“Coronavirus has taught us that you can work from various places, including from the middle of a field of anemones,” said Ginzbourg, who was updating reporters about the festival from a Shokeda Forest Red Space workstation.

The organizers thought about doing some digital tours online but decided against it, as it doesn’t “really bring the message,” said Leora Sela-David, who heads the Shikma-Bsor tourism organization in the region. “We’re trying to fit ourselves to the current reality.”

Visitors who want to organize their own visits can use the Metronegev app (available on Google Play and Apple apps) for mapping out their walks, stops and activities.

Culinary workshops, restaurants and cafes are planning on opening their doors for the festival, and more than a dozen local eateries will offer picnic baskets for easier social-distancing dining.

This year’s Darom Adom anemones festival during February 2021 will include more than a dozen options for picnic baskets, to encourage outdoor dining and social distancing (Courtesy Darom Adom)

“Local chefs have gotten very good at putting together picnic baskets,” said Sela-David, “and there are so many good places to hang out in the forest and eat.”

With the recent rainfall that has brought out fields full of the red blooms, Darom Adom organizers are hoping for the end of the lockdown, allowing people to come and enjoy nature and the outdoors amid coronavirus regulations.

“We’re hoping,” said Ginzbourg.

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