Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa … Arad? If this southern Israeli city doesn’t come to mind when you think about touring Israel, Anna Sandler is working hard to put it there. Sandler is the tourist coordinator for this 52-year-old city bordering the Negev and Judean deserts. Its proximity to the Dead Sea, 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) west, is at once its main attraction and its biggest problem, says Sandler. “Arad was Israel’s first planned city, and tourism was built into the plan, but once the Dead Sea hotels grew so rapidly, tourism in Arad almost died. So now we’re starting over,” she tells ISRAEL21c.
The ethnically diverse city of about 24,000 offers quite a few advantages to travelers looking to explore the nearby Dead Sea, Masada National Park and Ein Gedi – some of Israel’s most popular tourist sites – as well as lesser-known destinations in Arad itself. “Arad’s location gives it a number of distinct advantages,” Sandler says. “To the east lies the Dead Sea, with its array of attractions, just to the north is the Judean Desert and to the south lies the Eastern Negev with its moon-like craters, breathtaking ridges and timeless wadis.”
One of the most significant attractions in the area is Tel Arad National Park, just northwest of the modern city. It boasts the remains of a fortified Canaanite settlement from the Bronze Era whose walls, streets, shrines, castle and waterworks are still visible, along with a fortress from the period of the Judean kings. Arad Park, a Jewish National Fund grove, is perfect for picnics and nature recreation. Arad offers opportunities for rappelling, desert hikes, jeep and bike tours, and Sandler is planning some extreme sport festivals for the near future to showcase Arad as a destination for desert athletes. Like the Dead Sea, Arad enjoys a year-round temperate climate with dry, fresh air beneficial for people with respiratory conditions such as asthma. Nineteen new, marked hiking trails in different levels of difficulty wind around Arad, affording spectacular views of the landscape. Especially recommended is the Moav Observatory overlooking the Judean Desert, Dead Sea and mountains of biblical Moab. (via Israel21c)
[Photo: J Brew / Flickr ]