The Anemone coronaria is a flower native to the Mediterranean region which grows wild all over Israel during the winter months. They look like poppies but are actually related to buttercups. Mister Handmade in Israel and I were planning a weekend away with our boys and I quickly realised that it was the perfect time to see these anemones, or Kalaniyot as they are known in Hebrew, in bloom. We could stop and enjoy them on our way down south. Though we have visited "The Red South" before, none of us had been to the Shokeda Forest, the place to see Israel's national flower at its best.
The Shokeda Forest is a eucalyptus forest located east of Moshav Shokeda in the Western Negev region (the southern part of Israel, near the Gaza strip). Every year, during the winter months, it becomes completely covered with magnificent anemone blossom, creating an amazing and colourful bright red carpet, reminiscent of the tulip fields of Holland. Though Kalaniyot can be found across Israel, the flowers in the north are red and white, but in the South, the Kalaniyot are only red. This is thought to be because the southern Kalaniyot are "less spoilt" and can survive the harsher desert climate.
"The Red South" has not always been red. More than a decade ago, The Jewish National Fund realised that the introduction of sheep herds throughout the Western Negev could clear the grounds of underbrush, which dries out in the summer and becomes dangerous kindling for wildfires. The newly introduced grazing sheep had an unintended side effect: by removing the underbrush, the Kalaniyot bloomed with force, transforming the desert fields into a carpet of brilliant red, stretching as far as the eye can see. Sheep, apparently, don’t like Kalaniyot, leaving them alone to multiply with force.British Mandate period, British soldiers were nicknamed "Kalaniyot" due to the bright red colour of their berets. The Arabic name is "Shaqa'iq An-Nu'man", which translates literally as the wounds, or "pieces", of Nu'man. There is likely an ancient linguistic connection between the words "Nu'man" and "Nummo" (mythological ancestral spirits).
Darom Adom" ("Southern Red") festival. This special festival, which celebrates the beauty of the anemones and the changing Israeli seasons, will be held over 4 weekends, from 29th January to 21st February 2015. Visitors are invited to participate in tours of the flowering areas, as well as many other family-orientated activities. There are some really great things to see and do, especially if the weather holds out (it typically does, but it is February, so there is a reasonable chance of rain). It does get busy though! Having seen the crowds last year at Be'eri, I am rather glad that we got to see the stunning red anemones before the rush!