Israelis celebrate the Darom Adom Festival as the desert blooms

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Think of the Negev and the image that spring to mind will likely be a typical desert landscape: bare red rock and plenty of sand. But mid winter in the desert brings rain and cooler temperatures – and with them, an abundance of Israel’s national flower, the kalaniot, or scarlet anemones. The little red flowers carpeting the landscape for miles in Israel’s south near the Gaza border have given rise to the annual Darom Adom Festival, a four week celebration of the magnificent spectacle which last year attracted 60,000 visitors for the opening weekend alone. Around 350,000 nature lovers descend on the region annually to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the natural display. Festival-goers can enjoy organized events such as poetry readings, concerts and agricultural markets, but those who really want to soak in the seasonal abundance of wildlife are encouraged to participate in some of the organized walks, runs or bike rides, or simply head south and enjoy the splendor on their own. Last year the display was particularly striking thanks to widespread wild fires that scorched the region, set off by incendiary kites launched from Gaza. Around 3,200 acres of rolling hillside were burned, leaving a charred landscape in its wake. But the fire cleared the region of undergrowth, allowing the flowers to burst forth in the spring with renewed vigor, creating a particularly striking sight. This year the region has seen some of the heaviest rainfall in decades and anemones thrive in soggy conditions, so visitors can again expect to be greeted with a mesmerizing picture. The most popular place to see the kalaniot is the Shokeda Forest, to the south-west of Sderot, but the flowers bloom all around the Gaza periphery and north up toward Ashkelon.


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