ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Nature's resurgence

Red anemones carpet south as annual festival, muted this year, celebrates them

Visitors are welcomed back to region devastated on October 7, for event including marathon, march for hostages and nature walks

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

  • Photographer Eyal Bribram's photos of anemones beginning to bloom in Israel's south, in January 2024 (Courtesy)
    Photographer Eyal Bribram's photos of anemones beginning to bloom in Israel's south, in January 2024 (Courtesy)
  • Photographer Eyal Bribram's photos of anemones beginning to bloom in Israel's south, in January 2024 (Courtesy)
    Photographer Eyal Bribram's photos of anemones beginning to bloom in Israel's south, in January 2024 (Courtesy)
  • Photographer Eyal Bribram's photos of anemones beginning to bloom in Israel's south, in January 2024 (Courtesy)
    Photographer Eyal Bribram's photos of anemones beginning to bloom in Israel's south, in January 2024 (Courtesy)
  • Photographer Eyal Bribram's photos of anemones beginning to bloom in Israel's south, in January 2024 (Courtesy)
    Photographer Eyal Bribram's photos of anemones beginning to bloom in Israel's south, in January 2024 (Courtesy)

Israel’s south was the target of the October 7 massacre when Hamas-led terrorists attacked the Gaza border communities, but it’s also the location of one of Israel’s most beloved nature spots, where iconic red winter-blooming anemones carpet the forests and fields.

This year’s Darom Adom (Red South) festival, which usually sees tens of thousands of Israelis flocking to the region over the weekends of February, is being organized once again, but in a more limited fashion.

There will be nature walks, activities and workshops scheduled for locations approved by the army.

The main events are the February 9 Anemones Race in support of the hostages and the February 16 Anemones March in memory of Ofir Libstein, the head of the Sha’ar Hanegev local council who was killed defending Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 7 and was one of the founders of Darom Adom, as well as organized nature walks in the flower-filled fields.

The festival needed to happen as dozens of small, local businesses in the region have to earn some money, said a spokesperson for the event.

Darom Adom is their opportunity, said the spokesperson. That said, there won’t be the usual roster of concerts, workshops held in natural surroundings, or children’s activities.

At the 2023 Darom Adom marathon in the south (Courtesy Tomer Feder)

Visitors should check with the Darom Adom website to see what locations are deemed safe to visit and what’s happening each weekend.

The Darom Adom festival organizers are selling anemone planters for those who want to support Israel’s south (Courtesy)

For anemone lovers who aren’t ready to travel to the region, the festival organizers put together a pop-up shop that’s traveling around the center of the country, with products made in the region available for purchase.

The locations of the pop-up shop is posted on the Darom Adom Facebook page.

The festival organizers also created anemone planters for purchase, with sponsorship from Bank Hapoalim, and proceeds going to the communities of the south, available to order online.

It’s both difficult and helpful to see the flowers bloom again, said photographer Eyal Bribram, a film teacher and photographer who lives in Moshav Ohad.

Photographer Eyal Bribram’s photos of anemones beginning to bloom in Israel’s south, in January 2024 (Courtesy)

“The contradiction between the beauty of the flowers and the disaster is very hard,” said Bribram. “There’s a feeling that nature is crying, that it’s screaming, but there’s also a sense of returning to sanity when you see the flowers, when you see that they’ve returned, just like every year.”

Bribram has been photographing his home region since October 7, capturing the resurgence of nature and life in the wake of the devastating assault.

Photographer Eyal Bribram’s photos of anemones beginning to bloom in Israel’s south, in January 2024 (Courtesy)

“I’ve been there since the day after, seeing what’s going on around us, going back and forth,” he said.

Bribram, currently evacuated from his home in the region like thousands of others, has been photographing the flowering fields for several weeks as the blooms began to emerge and posting his photos on Facebook and YouTube.

“It’s a little hard for people to see the flowers right now, to see the beauty in nature that exists right now,” he said. “Nature goes according to its own calendar. It does what it needs to do.”

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