In a perfectly romantic confluence of events, the Jewish “holiday of love” (Tu B’Av) coincides this year with a full lunar eclipse expected on the night of July 27.
The Moon in Love, an evening of six activities in and around Ramon Crater Nature Reserve (Makhtesh Ramon) in the southern Israeli city of Mitzpeh Ramon, is planned by astronomy tour guide Nadav Silbert of the Bateva (In Nature) guiding center.
Ramon Crater Nature Reserve, considered the best place in Israel to observe the stars and planets, was declared an International Dark Sky Park in September 2017, the first ever to receive that designation in the Middle East.
“Our celebrations will focus on the lunar eclipse, with experience-packed activities designed for couples and families,” says Silbert.
The nighttime sky spectacular will start at sunset – marking the end of Tu B’Av on Friday — and climax around half past midnight. “The moon will be completely eclipsed, which is very rare,” says Silber. “At the same time, Mars is now the closest it gets to Earth and you’ll also be able to see a comet and a meteor shower during the full eclipse.”
Silber tells ISRAEL21c that the guides in each of the six locations will give their stargazing talks in Hebrew but can answer questions and describe key sights through the telescope in English.
In addition, there will be an English-language station designated at the Pure Stargazing event to be held in the heart of Makhtesh Ramon, complete with laser pointers and telescopes. This activity costs ₪85 per adult, ₪65 for children ages 3 to 13.
Other activities planned by Bateva include an experiential tour with telescope observations in the Alpaca Farm in Mitzpeh Ramon (₪140 per person). An assortment of sky observation and overnight lodging packages are available too, incorporating additional experiences such as a “Kabbalat Shabbat of Stars and Love” service with live music.
Other overnight tours on offer feature wine-tasting or olive-oil tasting. Accommodations run from campsites to air-conditioned tents.
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The fun continues during the first four weekends of August, when the Mitzpeh Ramon Summer of Stars will offer nighttime activities for the whole family: an astronomy complex with telescopes, moon and star observations, movies about stars, sunset tours and more.
In the daytime you can visit the planetarium and the creative corner, swim in the pool and jump in the children’s inflatable compound in Mitzpeh Ramon, watch the sky through a special solar telescope, pet alpacas or take a theatrical tour of the ruins of the ancient city of Shivta.
Every Thursday of the month, the Shanti Desert Youth Village will open its doors to visitors for astronomical observations in the beautiful garden nurtured by dozens of at-risk youth who live there.