Leah Nahimov is a pioneer. She’s also something of a magician.Somehow, she and her husband Gadi have managed to create a little piece of France slap bang in the middle of the Negev Desert.
Who would have thought that in such an arid place as this you could produce Camembert cheeses of the utmost delicacy, but that’s exactly what they’ve done. Naot Farm in Ramat Hanegev, a 2 hour drive south from Tel Aviv, is the realisation of a dream for them both and a real throwback to Israel’s early pioneering days. Here is where you will find authentic french cheeses in the Negev.
From humble beginnings in 2003, Naot Farm is now firmly established as a producer of top quality yoghurts and cheeses. It’s also a place where you can spend a few nights at one with the desert, in custom built cabins that reflect the true rustic nature of the desert and at the same time providing some surprisingly luxurious accommodation and glorious views of the desert too.
it is perhaps ironic to think when you tuck into a legendary Israeli breakfast at one of those luxury hotels in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv the cheeses and yogurts on display are most probably these beautiful products made out here in the desert.
The farm’s 150 goats provide the 400 litres of milk per day that drives the business and this gets transformed into a variety of handmade hard and soft cheeses including middle eastern specialties such as Labaneh, Hagar, that comes either naturally or with chives, onion and sumach, sesame and zaatar, dried tomatoes, or garlic and black cumin. Nitzan a hard cheese, aged for three months, with wine, thyme or dried fruit and Kesem aged for two months in olive oil.
Then of course there’s the French style cheeses Camembert and 5 month aged Tom.
All these cheeses are delicious and best of all you get to have them all at breakfast with fresh crusty bread if you stay overnight. It was a very tempting thought I can tell you.
Naot Farm would be a worthwhile stopover on your way south to Eilat, or better still provide a first base to perhaps a week long Negev experience. After all, these days the desert has a lot to offer tourists who are looking for something a little different. There’s wineries, kibbutz orchards that offer fresh fruit and vegetables, natural spas, trekking and biking trails and the awesome Ramon Crater, millions of years old and the route of the ancient spice trail.