Central Arava

Green, purple, orange, red and chocolate-colored peppers, and even dreidel-shaped peppers, have become the trademark of the Arava, where the desert soil has given birth to an agricultural miracle.



Geographic location: Arava and Eilat highlands
Track type: 0
Target audience: All
Season: All

Tour information

This success story is celebrated each year at a visitors' day held at the Yair Research and Development Station in the Central Arava, just off the Arava highway, by the entrance to Moshav Hatzeva.  During the celebration, visitors see the hothouses, sample sweet cherry tomatoes and peppers, learn about the cultivation of dates and breeding of tropical fish, and hike trails in the breathtaking desert landscape.

 

Since 1997, research and development has been funded by KKL-JNF, thanks to the generosity of contributors throughout the world, and with help from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Plant Council, the Jewish Colonization Association, and other donors.

 

When the Yair R&D station was first established in 1991, the station had nine hothouses used for experiments related to different varieties of agricultural crops, irrigation, and fertilization.  Later, twelve additional hothouses were built for experiments related to climate, heating, and cooling.  The Arava's climate makes it especially attractive in winter, and the high solar irradiation allows farmers to plant tomatoes and peppers in the late summer and market them in the middle of the winter.

 

During visitors' day, guided tours will be conducted in the hothouses and orchards in the various Arava communities.  Yair Station is a complex for agricultural development, but looks like an agricultural settlement in every respect.  Vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs, and tropical fish are raised in technological hothouses.  The sparse rainfall, saline water, and harsh climatic conditions do not deter the farmers who chose to settle in the area.

 

Saline water increases the sweetness of peppers and tomatoes

 

How did this miracle occur?  This question will be answered on the guided tours that will take place during visitors' day.  Visitors will learn about sophisticated irrigation systems, biological pest control, the creation of controlled climatic conditions, production of hybrids, and the use of saline water to increase the sweetness of peppers and tomatoes.  Visitors enter the hothouses as if they were entering a sterile laboratory, dipping their shoes in disinfectant and opening the inner door only after closing the outer plastic sheeting. 

 

In front of each hothouse is a fly trap containing the male pheromone that attracts female flies. Inside the hothouses there are sophisticated facilities that extend the growing season.  Pipes with hot water running through them surround the roots of plants to raise the temperature.  Other hothouses have special air conditioners that create a uniform temperature and humidity level throughout the year.

 

Some of the plants in the hothouses are grown in raised containers with tuff to minimize damage from pests. The closed hothouse method is also used to grow vineyards.  In addition to traditional agriculture, organic farming is also developing in the Arava.

Environmental Awareness

 

High-tech agriculture, technological hothouses, computerized packing houses, experiments, grafts, innovative developments, climate control, and water desalination are the name of the game in the 21st century.  All the Arava farmers are meticulously monitored for cleanliness, ecology, garbage collection, and pest control during off season.  There is an increased level of environmental awareness within the communities themselves.  The regional council has distributed separate containers for the disposal of organic waste and paper.  All plastic products and cardboard cartons are recycled, and greenhouse gasses are converted into compost.

 

Yair Station will be dressing up in its holiday best for the visitors' day.  A grove of baobab trees will be on display for the public.  Hundreds of booths with agricultural products and tools will be on display, along with exhibits on organic agriculture, fish breeding, water preservation and recycling, climate control, quality control, biological control, water, and ecology.  There will also be exhibitions of local produce including all types of fruits and vegetables, peppers, colorful cherry tomatoes, melons, and organically-grown herbs.

 

In addition, visitors will see flowers and tropical fish unique to the Arava, including guppies, clown fish that look like Captain Nemo, and ornamental crabs for cleaning aquariums.  There will also be a farmers' market where visitors can purchase hiking and camping equipment, ceramics made by local artists, natural cosmetics, cheese from local dairies, artwork, jewelry, and organic food products.

 

Among the tours available are:

 

The Faran scenic lookout, on the southern slopes of the Negev Mountains, about 100 kilometers north of Eilat.  It is situated on a hilltop next to the Arava highway, just south of Moshav Faran, and can be reached by turning south off the road that leads to the moshav (Route 90 at the 108th kilometer mark).  On clear days you can see Jebel Aaron on the Jordanian side of the border, where Aaron is believed to be buried.

 

"Mlo-Hateneh", where visitors can pick their own produce in an organic hothouse.

 

A visit to the Jabal Hufira scenic lookout and the aloe vera house in Ein Yahav.

 

A tour of Kibbutz Elot, including the Mekorot water desalination facility, the border crossing, and the kibbutz fields.  Visitors can hear the story of how palm scions were brought to Israel from Iraq, and see the flamingos in the salt pools. 

 

A tour of Kibbutz Neot Smadar including the Artists House overlooking the orchards, fields, and mud houses, and a visit to the artists' galleries and roadside inn where kibbutz produce is sold. 

 

A tour of Kibbutz Elifaz where Dutch cows are raised.  Visitors can taste pomelos and dates and tour the green wetlands.

 

Visitors to Kibbutz Ketura can visit the botanical gardens and see chocolate fruits, merula, and other exotic fruits.  They can also visit the factory where algae are raised and see the energy park where solar energy is produced.  The "A'randal" Farm will be open to the public for the first time and tours will be offered that tell the story of the region's 2,000-year history, from the days of the Spice Route to the Ottoman Empire, the British Mandate, and the War of Independence.  The farm is now a tourist attraction and grows organic produce and olive oil.

 

A tour of Kibbutz Yahel, including the cowshed, sheep pens, fields, and orchards, and the pomelo grove where visitors can pick and taste the fruit.  Visitors will hear the story of the kibbutz's unique ties with its Jordanian neighbors. 

 

These tours will last from two to three and a half hours.  Some are free of charge, and those that cost NIS 50 for each vehicle are free of charge to guests of the local bed and breakfasts.