Exodus 2021 CE: Israeli(te)s Flock to the Desert

Monday, April 05, 2021 2:00 PM

As crowds of Israelis flocked to nature sites on Passover, KKL-JNF provided a variety of instruction and activity stations for children and all the family at a variety of locations throughout the Negev.

KKL-JNF's Information Station at HaMalachim-Shahariya Forest. (Photo: Yoav Devir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)
“It’s fun to go on a trip with the family, see new places and learn about the country,” said eleven-year-old Lianne. Her nine-year-old sister Elissa added: “I like to visit all kinds of beautiful places.”

The girls arrived together with a group of visitors from Arad for activities at Beit Eshel, in Beersheba. Beit Eshel is a lookout post that was established in the Negev during the period of the British Mandate, and in Israel’s subsequent War of Independence its residents fought with outstanding courage. KKL-JNF has restored the site, which is adjacent to Beersheba River Park (Park Nahal Be'er Sheva), and has transformed it into a historical attraction that draws large numbers of visitors.

At Beit Eshel, KKL-JNF organized a variety of activity stations where visitors could take part in challenging games, quizzes, orienteering, nature handicrafts, music and guided tours. Activities were supervised by Hagit Ohana, Director of Education and Community in KKL-JNF’s Southern Region. “We are glad to host families here for enjoyable pursuits in a festive Passover atmosphere,” she said.

For three days, KKL-JNF hosted around two hundred people daily at Beit Eshel. Visitors included a large number of groups from MAOF, KKL-JNF's youth program, which educates youth on ecology, love of Israel and the land, and leadership training.
"When I’m outdoors, that’s where I really feel at home, because Israel is our home.” Mika Moskowitz, aged 9

Nissim Lahav arrived from Petah Tikva with his children Noya (3), Aviv (7) and Sagi (11). Their mother had stayed at home with baby Talya, who is just one month old. “We’ve left Imma to enjoy herself at home,” said Nissim with a broad smile. “On our way to go camping we decided to stop off to see the attractions. These really are very nice activities that combine fun in nature with study and learning about the country.”

As twelve-year-old Amitai Lifschitz of Beersheba is a regular participant in KKL-JNF scouting events, the scouting activities in the forest adjacent to Beit Eshel suited him like chocolate suits matza. An instructor in Biblical garb led the participants on a series of assignments and challenges, inspired by the Exodus from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea.

Before the astonished eyes of his parents, Amitai negotiated a route among rocks while blindfolded, lit a fire with the help of flint and displayed other impressive survival skills. “This is the best way to get to know the countryside and get in touch with the land,” he said when he reached the finishing line.
Family Activities at Beit Eshel Park. (Photo: Yoav Devir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)

Fun in the forest
Nor were these events confined to Beit Eshel: in Yatir Forest, Lahav Forest, Gerar River Park and the HaMalachim-Shahariya Forest, too, KKL-JNF instructors led guided tours and organized a variety of activities.

KKL-JNF began to plant Hamalachim (Angels) Forest, adjacent to Kiryat Gat, in the 1950s, and today it covers an area of some 7,000 dunam (approx. 1,750 acres). Over the Pesach holiday, thousands of visitors set out to explore and enjoy the forest, and many of them took part in KKL-JNF activities, which included orienteering, a woodland escape room and guided tours.

One of the groups the madrich (guide) Yishai led on a tour of the forest included four generations of the Tanami family: great-grandmother Hannah, grandfather Doron, grandmother Hanita, parents Roi and Sapir, and nine-month-old Dan, who was enjoying the first guided tour of his life.
Having Fun at Beit Eshel Park. (Photo: Yoav Devir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)

“Now at last we can get out and about again, instead of staying shut up at home because of Corona,” said Sapir Chen Tanami. “We’ve missed being outside so much and yearned for nature and the countryside. It’s good to go on a trip with a professional guide, learn new things and discover interesting places.”

The Neuhut family of Nes Ziona and the Moskowitz family of Rishon LeZion had set out together for a fun day in the forest, where they tried their hand at orienteering, quizzes and various other assignments.

“We love nature and enjoy getting out on trips over the holidays,” enthused eleven-year-old Ariel Neuhut. Twelve-year-old Noya Moskowitz testified that her family are true nature-lovers: “It’s fun to try all sorts of new things and perform assignments that are part of the trip,” she explained. Her sister Mika (9) provided the comment that best summed up the day: “It’s really fun to go on an excursion over the holiday. When I’m outdoors, that’s where I really feel at home, because Israel is our home.”