Avigail Hirshfeld, Eyal Hirshfeld, Ezuz, Israel, Israel vacation, Nitzana, Nitzana Hillocks, Zimmerbus

Get On the Bus And Set Yourself Free…

People have been telling me that I should really get away. That we need some time to regroup…to relax…and to decompress after a very stressful month. And we couldn’t have agreed more. Little did I know, however, as we set out on our Chanukah vacation on Tuesday JUST how “away” this place would be or just how off-the-beaten path.
In January of this year as I was trying to find a location for our Pesach camping trip, I stumbled upon a number of really funky and quirky guesthouses around Southern Israel. And one of them looked absolutely irresistible. It didn’t work for us for Pesach for some reason, but I couldn’t let it go, so I booked us almost a year in advance for Chanukah.
On the way down, we decided to stop at Kibbutz Revivim to show the kids where we had met and spent 3 months in ulpan and volunteering while on Project Otzma 20 years ago.  We showed the kids the original kibbutz location of the kibbutz, Mitzpe Revivim; we showed them the tiny kibbutz apartments that we each shared with 2 other roommates; and we wandered around a bit showing them our first ‘home’ in Israel.  After visiting Revivim, we headed (farther) South to our destination.

The whole fam in front of Josh’s cabin at Kibbutz
And as it got closer and closer, we got more excited. See, the Zimmerbus is exactly that – it’s a bus that a family has turned into a guesthouse. Now that we’ve met Eyal and Avigail Hirshfeld, we can tell you a tiny bit of their story. They arrived in Ezuz, Israel a number of years ago and lived in a tiny caravan with their six kids. When they wanted to have guests to come to stay with them in the middle of nowhere, they had nowhere to put them. So, I’m not sure most of us would have thought of this…but they converted an old bus into a guest house.

And a brilliant idea was born. People started telling them how unique and creative an idea it was, and that they should really make a guesthouse business out of it. And so they dragged in two more much larger buses. And today they have three guest houses in these buses. It’s hard to describe just how fantastically they have converted these buses into guestrooms. The bus we stayed in was a double. It had a master bedroom with a large bed, a beautiful comforter, antique looking light fixtures and lovely amenities. Then there was a cozy kitchen equipped with a sink, plenty of counter space and shelving. There was a bathroom with a gorgeous mosaic mirror and a large tub. And then the second half of the bus was for the kids, and included enough space for all six of them and their stuff! Outside of our bus was a large, private sitting area and hang out zone. In the front was a walled-in, private and spacious yard with a large covered dining area and a hammock. The rest of the space was open which allowed for football throwing, ping-pong, board game playing and more. And, in the front of the bus there was a separate area that was still set up as a bus so that the little guys could pretend to drive us around, and could play for hours.

Inside the kid part of the bus

“Driving” the bus

View outside of the bus

Hammock swinging

Game Playing

Now, as you set out to drive to the Zimmerbus, you have to be prepared for what you’re getting into. I had NO idea just how isolated this cool little town of 17 families is. It’s on the Western border of Israel, almost at the border fence between Israel and Egypt about 1/3 of the way down between Gaza and Eilat. To get there, you drive South from Beer Sheva until you start to see…..absolutely and completely nothing but expansive sand for miles and miles and miles. As we were driving there, Yehuda and I started laughing. We couldn’t believe that we could go so far away from civilization with any assumption that we were eventually going to come to something.
But something we did.
Eventually, after driving for miles without seeing anything, we came to Ezuz. Population: 17 families. The Hirshfelds clearly have a flair for decorating and building and have made a gorgeous complex. In addition to the Zimmerbus compound, there are many other interesting people in the village. There is a professional ceramicist who gives classes in her studio and sells her wares, a professional mask-maker who also has guest rooms and a restaurant, a scarf and clothing maker and a goat farm. We visited each of these places and spoke to the locals about their professional work, their passion and their desire to live in Ezuz. And as my family laughed, I evoked the “Stella” in me and set about purchasing something from every maker. How could you visit a place this out of the way and not try to help these artisans with their economy? So, we had goat cheese for breakfast both mornings and I have a gorgeous new coffee mug to enjoy. I wanted a mask, but unless I was going to put a six foot statue in my front lawn, the mask was not to be. Oh well….

At the goat cheese farm..their store is an old train, of course

And what did we do with our time in this totally and completely out-of-the-way location? This may have been the best part of it all. We spent a lot of time hanging out in and around the bus. We explored the village and the area near there. We also went sand dune surfing in a yishuv close to Ezuz, Beer Milkah. They had pristine, amazing sand dunes and we had a blast climbing up and sliding, surfing, jumping and running down.

Sand Dune Surfing with the Sussmans

We explored the ruins near Nitzana at Tel Nitzana, the neighboring town to Ezuz.

And, we hiked the Nitzana Hillocks which are amazing formations created by erosion of the area’s chalky rock.  The pictures here were almost as breathtaking as was the fun the kids had. They loved jumping from rock to rock, sliding down the rock formations and getting more dirty than you can possibly imagine.

The entire trip was an absolute blast. I love going somewhere new and showing the kids (and ourselves) another part of our tiny country that we’ve never seen before. We realize that we managed to entertain the kids for three days without a single entrance fee or cost other than the price of food. And we kept everyone entertained and engaged. Now that is virtually impossible to do – and truly priceless. Matan said at the end of the trip, “Mommy. We have to make a Snapfish album just of this trip. We have so many amazing pictures!”
If you’re interested in an amazing experience like few others in Israel, this is the place. Just make sure to have plenty of gas (the nearest gas station is 45 minutes away…yep…learned that the hard way), and plenty of groceries (the nearest large grocery store is an hour away!) and plenty of games for the bus.
I wouldn’t say this location is for everyone. But it sure worked for us.

After all, they’ve already got our Pesach reservation!

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