The white sands of the Negev sparkle on both sides of the road as you approach the Carmey Avdat farm and winery.
At Carmey Avdat, the quiet is palpable as you breathe in the cool air, past the guest cabins that Eyal Izrael and his wife, Hannah, began building in 2000. Eyal and Hannah left their home in the North in 1998, to follow in David Ben-Gurion’s footsteps and set up a new life in the desert, not far from the kibbutz of Sde Boker, Ben-Gurion’s last home. Here at Carmey Avdat—which has the distinction of being Israel’s first solar-powered winery—no television, no wifi interrupts the desert experience (but an espresso machine, a refrigerator, and a full breakfast are delivered every morning, bringing joy to the spirit). Guests who stay here can swim in white rock pools inspired by those in the mountain orchards of the Sinai. The surrounding hillsides are planted with native trees—carob, olive, fig, and pomegranate—among which visitors can wander and from which they can sample.
Eyal and Hannah studied the ancient Nabataean and Byzantine irrigation systems: their vineyards are planted in a wadi, or dry riverbed, on Nabataean remains, following the ancient terraces and water routes, making use of the annual floodwaters to help wash the salt from the desert soil. Carmey Avdat—which grows Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes—is part of the “Negev Wine Route”; other wineries on that itinerary are the Ramat Negev Winery, Rota, Ashba, Rujum, Derech Eretz, and Sde Boker.
What a surprise that the desert can be so fruitful, so generous—and that the wine from this region can be so fabulous! Eyal explains how he and Hannah have successfully adapted themselves to this land: “Our exploration of the desert served as the foundation for our vision and dream. We learned to listen to the voices of the desert and to respect it—but not to attempt to tame it.”